In 2018, National Human Rights Institutions were present in 120 countries. They are state bodies with a constitutional or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights. Although they are technically state bodies and are funded by the state, NHRIs operate independently from governments. This makes NHRIs useful institutional mechanisms that are able to hold governments accountable and to play a facilitator role between governments and civil society.
Given their unique mandate and role, National Human Rights Institutions can play a key role in the implementation and follow-up of the Agenda, and are at the core of the SDG ‘web of accountability’. Their monitoring mandates give them a unique position to act as both watchdog and advisor, to uphold the human rights embedded in the SDGs. In 2015, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights adopted a Declaration in Merida, Mexico, (Merida Declaration) which outlines activities that NHRIs can undertake to make human rights the foundation for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, e.g. monitoring progress, assisting in the developing national indicators and data collection systems, and promoting transparent and inclusive processes for participation when governments develop national strategies to achieve the SDGs.
This illustrates how NHRIs can play an important role in implementing and monitoring SDG 16 in at least two ways: Firstly, ongoing NHRI monitoring of civil and political rights provides data to measure progress on Goal 16 targets on violence, child protection, access to justice and information, fundamental freedoms, accountable and responsive institutions, representative decision-making etc. Secondly, NHRIs can facilitate the involvement of civil society in government efforts to implement and monitor the SDGs.
The relevance of NHRIs for peaceful, just and inclusive societies is illustrated by the fact that member states decided to make the existence of an independent NHRI in a country has the global indicator to measure SDG target 16.a on Strengthening National Institutions to Prevent Violence and Combat Terrorism and Crime.