Strengthening treaty bodies, protecting human rights

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.



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

January 14, 2020
By: Raymond A. Smith

How can international human rights law be creatively deployed to expand protections to other characteristics ...

Inequality a prominent concern for UN human rights monitors

December 4, 2019
By: Steven L. B. Jensen
Español | Français

UN human rights bodies are highlighting inequality when making recommendations to states – showing that ...

Small states face big challenges in engaging UN treaty bodies

December 4, 2019
By: Malene Alleyne & Felix Kirchmeier
Español | Français

Small states often lack the capacity to engage effectively with the treaty body system as currently ...

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

November 27, 2019
By: Armel Niyongere
Español | Français

Treaty bodies showed their ability to take the right measures in situations of crisis like in Burundi. ...

The Committee System: 2020 and Beyond

November 21, 2019
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

November 13, 2019
By: Marcia V. J. Kran

UN treaty bodies need to monitor and follow-up on the recommendations they make to states. Some have ...

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

November 7, 2019
By: Alexandre Sommer-Schaechtele

The indigenous peoples of French Guiana used an urgent procedure of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination ...

UN inefficiencies undermine effective handling of individual petitions

October 29, 2019
By: Kamelia Kemileva

The UN treaty bodies receive thousands of individual complaints, but the secretariat that deals with ...

Venezuela: UN human rights system needs more coherence and coordination

October 25, 2019
By: Marianna A. Romero

Venezuela’s election to the Human Rights Council despite UN scrutiny—including by Treaty Bodies—of human ...

UN treaty bodies advance LGBTI rights

October 22, 2019
By: Kseniya Kirichenko
Español | Русский

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

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

October 15, 2019
By: Navi Pillay
Español | Français

The human rights treaty bodies are central to human rights reform efforts, but are burdened by inefficiencies. ...

UN human rights mechanisms proving effective SDGs monitor

July 4, 2019
By: Steven L. B. Jensen
Español | Français | العربية

The SDGs are mostly aligned with human rights objectives—to emphasize this, the UN human rights mechanisms ...

UN Human Rights Committee brings new vitality to the right to life

February 13, 2019
By: Lucy McKernan & Bret Thiele

Through its expanding jurisprudence on the right to life, the UN Human Rights Committee has given advocates ...

UN standard-setting continues apace

January 29, 2019
By: Gordon DiGiacomo

Work at the UN is progressing on several fronts to agree new human rights standards – the topics reflecting ...

Taking stock—the Universal Periodic Review's achievements and opportunities

August 11, 2016
By: Aoife Hegarty & Hans Fridlund

After 10 years, the UN’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism for scrutinizing Member States’ human rights ...

A treaty to protect the rights of older people is long overdue!

May 30, 2016
By: Gordon Digiacomo & Martine Lagacé

As the world’s population ages, now is the time to begin work on a treaty to give explicit protection ...