Treaty Body Reform

What challenges and solutions for improving the work of UN treaty bodies?

In 2020, the United Nations (UN) will review the functioning of the ten human rights treaty bodies. While the issue has received some attention from the academic community, there has been only limited interest from states and international NGOs, and no engagement or consultation of national and local actors. The treaty bodies are far from perfect, but they have contributed to far-reaching changes and improvements in human rights protection. For many victims of human rights violations, they continue to constitute a last hope for justice. Their improvement and effective functioning is critical to the global human rights movement.

In advance of the UN review, OpenGlobalRights and the International Service for Human Rights want to stimulate more discussion on ways to improve the work of the treaty bodies. What are the main challenges facing the treaty bodies? What innovations have been tried to meet these challenges? What more can be done? What examples are there of the impact of the treaty bodies, and what lessons emerge from such cases? This series address these and related questions.

Strengthening treaty bodies, protecting human rights has been produced in collaboration with the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), and was launched in 2019.

   

 

Putting people at the heart of the human rights treaty body system

By: Ashley Bowe & Joshua Cooper
Français

Samoa held a ground-breaking treaty body session on child rights, evidencing the benefits of extending these sessions beyond Geneva.

Human rights victims’ complaints to UN not treated effectively

By: Alexandre Skander Galand & Başak Çalı
Español | Français

UN human rights treaties allow individuals to launch complaints when their rights are violated—but the system for dealing with them needs urgent reform.

Improving domestic compliance with UN treaty body decisions

By: Irina Criveț
Español | Türkçe

Many victims are denied access to international justice because states do not act in a timely manner, but reforming the treaty body follow-up process could help.

What difference does the UN human rights treaty system make, and why?

By: Christof Heyns & Frans Viljoen
Español | Français

A new, global academic study to answer this question is launched in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Can international human rights law be creatively deployed to expand its protections?

By: Raymond A. Smith
Español

How can international human rights law be creatively deployed to expand protections to other characteristics related to severe and systematic rights violations?

Small states face big challenges in engaging UN treaty bodies

By: Malene Alleyne & Felix Kirchmeier
Español | Français

Small states often lack the capacity to engage effectively with the treaty body system as currently structured—it must become more streamlined and present locally ...

How do treaty bodies respond to situations of crisis such as Burundi?

By: Armel Niyongere
Español | Français

Treaty bodies showed their ability to take the right measures in situations of crisis like in Burundi. A coordination with the high-level bodies of the United Nations, ...

The Committee System: 2020 and Beyond

By: Olivier de Frouville
Español | Français

The treaty body system has been in crisis for at least thirty years. Will the year 2020 bring change?

Following up—the key to seeing states act on treaty body recommendations

By: Marcia V. J. Kran
Español

UN treaty bodies need to monitor and follow-up on the recommendations they make to states. Some have begun doing so in innovative ways, and more could be done.

How a UN Committee Contributed to End a Controversial Mining Project in French Guiana

By: Alexandre Sommer-Schaechtele
Français

The indigenous peoples of French Guiana used an urgent procedure of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to help stop a mining development—more ...

UN inefficiencies undermine effective handling of individual petitions

By: Kamelia Kemileva
Français

The UN treaty bodies receive thousands of individual complaints, but the secretariat that deals with them is ill-equipped to do so effectively.

Venezuela: UN human rights system needs more coherence and coordination

By: Marianna A. Romero
Español

Venezuela’s election to the Human Rights Council despite UN scrutiny—including by Treaty Bodies—of human rights abuses shows need for greater coherence in the international ...

UN treaty bodies advance LGBTI rights

By: Kseniya Kirichenko
Español | Русский

The UN treaty bodies are increasingly scrutinizing states’ treatment of LGBTI persons, and this is having positive local impact.

No more tinkering—real reform needed to UN human rights treaty monitoring

By: Navi Pillay
Español | Français

The human rights treaty bodies are central to human rights reform efforts, but are burdened by inefficiencies. The upcoming UN review offers a chance to make them ...

 
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