Name: Ricardo Neves
Title: Human Rights Officer and Coordinator of the Civic Space Unit, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Training: UNITAR Fellowship Programme in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy
“The Fellowship Programme was an amazing experience and truly the best training programme of my entire life. The effort and excellence of facilitators and experts ensured a high quality, cheerful and engaging course, and the careful selection of participants ensured a unique learning experience. My work includes a great deal of preventive diplomacy, and the course allowed me to pick up a number of useful tools on how to successfully engage in difficult bilateral or multilateral dialogues, as well as to receive feedback on my approaches to negotiation and mediation.”
Ricardo Neves, a human rights lawyer who specializes in the protection of civic space, currently serves as a Human Rights Officer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras, where he coordinates the Civic Space Unit that focuses on the protection of public participation, especially that of human rights defenders, journalists and demonstrators.
In his work with UN field presences first in Mexico, then Honduras, and prior to that with a number of NGOs, Ricardo carefully weighs the use of his time. He applied to the UNITAR Fellowship Programme in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy as he saw it as a unique opportunity to strengthen key competences in contexts of human rights advocacy and conflict prevention. "I wanted to enhance my ability to engage in potential conflicts with a preventive approach, especially with the needed skills to thoroughly analyze all parties and their interests. Through our monitoring work, OHCHR contributes to defusing situations that could lead to conflicts related to a number of issues. The ability to successfully develop conflict analysis and interest-based negotiation and mediation approaches is a key aspect of our work."
The annual Fellowship Programme in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy, which has to date trained 1,050 female and male Fellows, invites the nomination of mid and senior level staff from key departments and Offices of the United Nations and its peace missions and field presences, representatives from regional organizations, and diplomats from around the world who work together during the intensive two week programme engaging with senior resource persons to deepen knowledge and strengthen skills in conflict analysis, negotiation and mediation. The importance of addressing root causes, rather than symptoms of conflict, and of deep listening to understand the concerns, needs, fears and aspirations of all of the parties is also emphasized.
The programme really strengthened my awareness of the need to try to listen and understand motivations behind the positions of different parties, and actually analyze their interests before labeling situations or proposing solutions.
Fellows engage in interest-based, problem-solving negotiation and mediation processes with the purpose of creating space for understanding, practicing constructive dialogue skills, and developing mutually beneficial options.
“Often my work entails facilitating decision-making processes that include simultaneously authorities from different institutions, human rights defenders, and direct victims. These processes can include decisions regarding specific protection measures, legislative proposals, public policy or joint initiatives. The Fellowship Programme allowed me to learn from other professionals and how they have developed the required sensitivity to approach similar situations.” Ricardo shared some of the challenges in this work as well as how the methodology of the programme may help address them:
When working on human rights issues it is often not easy to find mutually beneficial solutions, especially when violators may be sitting at the negotiation table. However, the ability to carry out an interest-based approach allows me to analyze situations more comprehensively and to come up with options that were not being initially considered.
The Secretary-General in his Call to Action for Human Rights has stressed the importance of the protection of civic space and promotion of the participation in democratic processes of those who can traditionally experience marginalization including women, minorities, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and journalists. Promotion of meaningful participation contributes to the realization of rights and to building more peaceful and resilient societies. “According to the Secretary General’s Guidance Note on Civic Space, meaningful participation requires security for those who speak up and exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. In Honduras we are currently conducting a comprehensive diagnosis of the functioning of the Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists, which will be the basis for a Strategic Strengthening Plan of the country’s public policy to protect human rights defenders and journalists. This process entails a great deal of engagement with a wide array of stakeholders in order to build political space to strengthen capacities in terms of institutional prevention.”
Forty-six Fellows from around the world, including 4 ambassadors, took part in the 2021 Fellowship Programme with 44% participation of female diplomats, regional organization and peace mission staff. Senior female leaders and practitioners including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights shared their experience and insights on the prevention of violent conflict and promotion of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Excellent feedback has been received and the Institute is most grateful to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Norway for their support which made possible the holding of this much-requested programme addressing the top priorities of the UN Secretary-General – prevention and the “primacy of political solutions.”