The Australian Human Rights Commission recently hosted a visit from Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, during her visit to Australia as the guest of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association to deliver the Edward Said Memorial Lecture.
Special Rapporteurs are independent human rights experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate, report on and make recommendations about thematic human rights issues or provide country-specific investigations and reports. These roles are unpaid and Special Rapporteurs are appointed for a period of three years with the option of renewal.
The Australian Human Rights Commission engages with the UN Special Rapporteurs as part of its responsibilities as an ‘A-status’ National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) established under the Paris Principles. The Commission has a role to assist Special Rapporteurs with their country visits and to provide information on the Australian context to Special Rapporteurs on the human rights issues relevant to their mandates.
Ms Albanese reflected on the importance of ‘recognising the trauma and pain of the other’, and shared with the Commission her perspective on the role that State Parties (including Australia) could play in advocating for the respect of human rights. She also shared her perspective on the role of the Commission in urging Australia to meet its obligations under international law, and the Commission’s role in influencing and supporting other NHRIs through the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).
The Commission is increasing its work in tackling racism in its institutional, systemic, and interpersonal forms under the National Anti-Racism Strategy (NARS). The meeting with Ms Albanese came at an opportune time in relation to understanding the complex and rapidly evolving domestic human rights issues impacted by the events unfolding in the Palestinian Territories and Israel – questions such as what is antisemitism and what is anti-Palestinian racism.