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23 April 2024  

NUI launches ‘Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct


NUI launches ‘Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions’

The National University of Ireland rejected the assertion made by Professor Tom Collins that it has been silent on issues arising from its relationships with non-democratic countries (The Irish Times, 11 June). The NUI Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning drew attention to the work it has been doing in the context of transnational partnerships and which has culminated in the recent publication of the document Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions. Prepared with expert advice from the Irish Human Rights Commission, the document is the outcome of the work of an Expert Group on Human Rights chaired by the Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning and with representatives from each of the NUI constituent universities and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The full document is available here
The Code of Conduct and Principles were prepared as a support for the NUI institutions in facing the human rights challenges associated with increasing internationalisation. The NUI constituent universities and recognised colleges all have transnational partnerships with countries both within and outside the EU.
The document sets out the following five human rights principles:
(i)  The National University of Ireland and its members institutions are committed to the promotion of and respect for universal, inherent, inalienable, and indivisible human rights, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (collectively, the International Bill of Rights), as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, the Revised European Social Charter, and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other international conventions on human rights to which Ireland is a party. This commitment is consistent with the Charter of the National University of Ireland, the objects of Irish universities as set out in the Universities Act 1997, the principles of academic freedom enshrined in that Act, and the legal obligations of the Irish State.
(ii)   The National University of Ireland and its member institutions consider promotion of the understanding of human rights and respect for human rights as integral to all their activities, including teaching, research and service to the broader community. They recognise the particular role played by universities in the development of human rights and the influence universities can have in promoting respect for human rights. With the support of the Irish Human Rights Commission, and its successor, they will take steps to raise awareness of human rights principles among staff, students, and others associated with their institutions, and to ensure that any threats to the enjoyment of human rights are considered in relevant decision-making.
(iii)  The National University of Ireland and its member institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that as far as lies within their capacity the human rights of their students, staff and associates are fully respected, regardless of the country where they are located. This includes but is not limited to freedoms that are necessary for the good functioning of a university, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination. Restrictions on the right to access education should be a particular concern.
(iv)  While the presence of an NUI institution in a country does not, in the view of the University, signal support for institutions or government actions in that host country, the National University of Ireland and its member institutions must ensure that none of their activities, including partnerships they undertake with institutions in different countries, are seen as providing support for the violation of human rights. This is particularly urgent in situations where there are credible reports of gross violations of human rights, including killings, arbitrary detention, disappearances, unlawful arrest and/or unfair trial, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment including gender-based violence. Special attention should also be given to the treatment of women, human rights defenders and ethnic, religious and other minorities as well as the existence of State-supported or sanctioned discrimination.
(v)  These commitments and the legal obligations of Irish universities in relation to human rights apply equally to all the domestic and foreign operations of the National University of Ireland and its member institutions. They may be considered to have particular application in the context of internationalisation.
The code of conduct is based on the UN Framework and Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It calls on the NUI institutions to have in place policies and processes, to include the following three elements:
(a)    A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights;
(b)    A human rights due-diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights;
(c)    Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse impacts they cause, or to which they contribute, on human rights.
The NUI institutions are called on to include human rights considerations as part of normal due diligence before entering into a partnership agreement or establishing a campus abroad.  For countries where there is already an agreement, NUI institutions are called on to monitor the human rights situation, as it relates to their university, and to report on this annually.
Two areas are highlighted as being of particular concern:
- Gross violations of human rights
- Repressions of Academic Freedoms.
NUI universities and colleges are called on to have a clear policy for action in situations where such concerns arise. In particular, institutions are urged to provide all appropriate support for their students and staff.
The Chancellor was speaking from Bahrain where he conferred NUI degrees on over 200 students at RCSI Bahrain. Dr Manning was visiting Bahrain for the first time to see conditions at first hand. He met the Irish Ambassador Mr Niall Holohan and held extensive discussions with staff at RCSI Bahrain to see how best NUI could help the university in the current situation.
In his keynote address at the graduation, in the presence of the Bahraini Minister for Education, Dr Majid bin Ali Al-Nuaimi, the Chancellor stressed the centrality of human rights in the work of medical graduates and in the life of the university. He also commended the RCSI for the way it is addressing the challenges it faces in Bahrain, noting that similar challenges faced other NUI universities in their transnational partnerships. It was precisely to provide support for the NUI universities and colleges that the human rights document had been prepared.
Congratulating the graduating students, the Chancellor welcomed them as members of the National University of Ireland. 'I am confident that those graduating will be worthy ambassadors for NUI degrees in the future.'



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