On 1 January 2022, a long-overdue body for human rights promotion and protection in Sweden, the Swedish National Institute for Human Rights, became operational. Like the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, this new National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) is based in Lund.
Here you can find information about this new NHRI, the implications for human rights in Sweden, the journey so far and the next steps to be taken.
What is a National Human Rights Institution?
An NHRI is an independent and specialised institution promoting, protecting and monitoring human rights domestically, ensuring that laws and regulations are human rights compliant and applied in an effective way.
To become a recognised NHRI, an institute must apply for accreditation based on the UN Paris Principles, which focus on independence, mandate and resources. Only A-status institutes are fully recognised members that qualify for independent participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council and other UN entities (for more information about the role, functions and accreditation of NHRIs, see here).
Sweden is behind the game when it comes to membership of the international NHRI club: since the first such institutions were accredited in 1999, there are now already 86 A-status bodies around the world.
How has this come about?
The idea of a Swedish NHRI has long been discussed. In 2011 the Swedish Equality Ombudsman applied for accreditation as an NHRI but only received B-status as it was only considered to be partly compliant with the Paris Principles. In 2015, numerous countries recommended Sweden to establish a fully compliant NHRI during the Universal Period Review process. The government accepted these recommendations and announced that it would initiate the work of establishing such an institution.
This work has continued until the present day, and in March 2021, the government put forward a bill to the Parliament to establish the new NHRI. A wide range of state and non-state actors had been consulted on the proposition, with a network of civil society actors including RWI providing input (here, in Swedish). In April 2021 the government decided to appoint an Inquiry Chair to prepare for the formation of the new institution, including making proposals in relation to organisation, staffing, rules of procedure and funding. For more information on the work of the Inquiry Chair, see here (Swedish). On 9 June 2021, the Swedish Parliament voted to approve the establishment bill, and the institution became operational on 1 January 2022.
How is The Raoul Wallenberg Institute working to support the process?
Having worked extensively to develop NHRIs and their capacity internationally, RWI has also been a long-standing member of the civil society network on the new Swedish NHRI, including hosting a key roundtable in 2016 on its future role and institutional set-up. We have also been active in the discussions surrounding the location of the new institution, and are delighted to welcome it to Lund, where we look forward to close cooperation.
As part of our continued support, RWI is organising a series of webinars to raise awareness of, and stimulate debate around, the new NHRI. The first of these was held on 10 June 2021, in the aftermath of the Parliament vote, and addressed critical issues including the implications for human rights in Sweden; the role of the new institution; and its quest for international legitimacy. A recording is available here. On 6 October 2021 a second webinar was held that focused on the issue of how the NHRI will work with other Swedish authorities; information is available here.