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Enhancing equality and countering discrimination

Gender equality:  the status of women in the region, where discrimination is often enshrined in law and justified by traditional values and customs, is challenging from a human rights perspective. Sectarianism and social divisions increasingly divide societies, which makes work to address discrimination even more important. Rights of people belonging to minorities, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups remain subject to acute discrimination in the region. The rights of non-citizens, including refugees, stateless persons and migrant workers are a matter of serious concern in several countries across the region.

On the institutional and legal level, women in the region face challenges in admission to security institutions and developing career within the organization, emanating from discriminatory legal and social norms that dictate women roles and responsibilities.

While this is a priority across the MENA region, special efforts should be concentrated on countries where apparent discrimination of women is often inscribed in law and perpetuated through socially entrenched practices. One of the major challenges is lack of genuine participation in public affairs and equal representation in decision-making processes. Other issues relating to women rights include protection from violence, particularly domestic violence, sexual harassment, child marriage and crimes committed in the name of honour.

Over the period 2019-2022, the Regional Office will develop good practices to combat discrimination and engage with policy makers to implement them, study –in cooperation with UN Women, ESCWA and other relevant United Nations entities, underlying social norms and lead strategic advocacy to combat discriminatory legislation, practices and policies, and oppose racial profiling and segregationist and stigmatizing practices. The Regional Office will strengthen or build partnerships for positive change and advocate for the inclusion of those left behind in the implementation and monitoring of SDGs progress, in particular in relation discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Regional Office will continue providing technical support and capacity building particularly in the area of using the digital space for communication and advocacy for international human rights instruments.

Justice systems and related institutions increasingly monitor and investigate discrimination and provide redress to victims. The Regional Office will assist formal and informal justice systems to apply a victim-centred, human rights-based approach, through legal advice and technical assistance; encourage and assist States to address factors that contribute to disparities in the administration of justice and assist national independent accountability mechanisms and State institutions or NHRIs to monitor and investigate cases of discrimination.

Migration: The MENA region is an important region of origin, destination and transit for migrants. National laws in MENA countries criminalize the crossing of borders irregularly. The practice of arbitrary detention of irregular migrants without recourse to a lawyer is widespread, and conditions of detention are scarce.

Migrant women, men, boys and girls face particular risks of discrimination, marginalization, trafficking, exploitation and violence, and suffer a range of human rights violations during transit, upon arrival in the country of destination and again during or upon return. Migrants, including children are held along with persons convicted of criminal offences and allegations of physical and sexual abuse are reported. In the last few years, collective expulsion without due process has been practiced in several countries in the region, mainly those receiving large groups of migrants attempting to cross into, or through their territories. Commonly, migrants are not expelled or deported to their country of origin, but a third country in which they have no guarantee of receiving protection. Entry and stay of migrant workers in the Middle East is governed by the Kafala (sponsorship) system which binds them to their employer. Migrant workers employed in low-income jobs, in particular construction and domestic work, are placed in a situation of vulnerability to abuse and exploitation within this system.  In all countries of the Middle East, except one, migrant domestic workers are explicitly excluded from national labour laws. In several countries in the region foreigners do not enjoy fundamental rights such as equality before the law, the right to liberty, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, these rights are by law explicitly granted only to citizens.

The promotion and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, in particular of those in vulnerable situations is a key human rights issue that has been prioritized by the Regional Office. Since February 2018, the Office has been implementing the project entitled protection and promotion of the rights of ‘people on the move’, which has enabled OHCHR to embark on a work programme to address the most urgent human rights’ violations against migrants in the MENA region. The main challenge in reaching these objective is managing substantive long-term engagement with government agencies to ensure adoption of human rights-based approaches to migration issues. To meet this challenge, cooperation with, and capacity building of civil society actors in the region is seen as a vital vehicle for change.

The Regional Office will thus set a strong focus on cooperation with civil society and as a starting point will bring civil society and human rights organizations together to strategize on monitoring the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration[1] based on a human rights-based approach. To achieve sustainable change at the national level in each country of the MENA region, the Regional Office will: 1) engage with various actors such as government representatives, NHRIs, civil society organizations and international organizations working in the region, 2) offer technical support and capacity building on international human rights standards, and 3) conduct monitoring on human rights migrant related issues for the purpose of issuing public OHCHR reports and recommending redress actions.




تعزيز وحماية حقوق الإنسان للجميع

Promoting and protecting Human Rights for all

Contact Us

UN House

P.O. Box 11-8575

Riad El Solh 1107-2812, Beirut, Lebanon

Tel: 00971-1-978505

Fax: 00961-1-981510


اتصل بنا

مبنى الأمم المتحدة، رياض الصلح، بيروت، لبنان

ص.ب: 11-8575

هاتف: 978505-1-971-00

الفاكس: 981510-1-961-00

بريد إلكتروني:

يولد جميع النّاس أحرارا ومتساوين في الكرامة والحقوق

We are all equal in dignity and rights