UN human rights treaty body system in urgent need of help, says new report

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. UN/Jean-Marc Ferré

22 June 2012 – The United Nations human rights treaty body system is in crisis and in need of urgent help, according to a new UN report, which offers a set of proposals to strengthen and improve the system and enhance its accessibility to those who need it the most.

Released today, Strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body was produced by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

In a news release, the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, stated that the establishment of the treaty bodies and the evolution of the treaty body system is one of the greatest achievements in the efforts of the international community to promote and protect human rights – but requires better resourcing, as well as a more streamlined and efficient approach.

The 10 human rights treaty bodies which make up the system are committees of independent experts that periodically examine the implementation of all treaties that State parties have ratified under international law.

The High Commissioner’s report focuses on strengthening the system – which has doubled in size since 2000 – rather than reforming it, and Ms. Pillay provides recommendations to enhance its visibility and its accessibility to individuals and communities who need it the most.

“The ultimate objective of this process was to take stock of the challenges and improve the impact of treaty bodies on States parties and individuals or groups of individuals at the national level by strengthening their work while fully respecting their independence,” she said.

The report, which has been almost three years in the making, noted that the increase in the number of international human rights treaties, and of the number of States that have ratified each treaty, has not been matched by an increase in resources to allow the committees monitoring implementation of the treaties to keep pace.

“In doubling the size of the human rights treaty body system under these new instruments, there has been chronically insufficient attention given to properly resource this fundamental human rights mechanism,” said Ms. Pillay.

To create a more efficient and streamlined approach to the treaty body system, the High Commissioner proposed the use of a reporting calendar, so that every report is reviewed on time, with the hope that this will result in equal treatment of all States.

She also recommends the utilization of new technologies, including webcasting and videoconferencing to increase visibility and accessibility to these treaty bodies.

In the introduction to the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the treaty body system “provides authoritative guidance on human rights standards, advises on how treaties apply in specific cases, and informs States parties on what they must do to ensure that all people enjoy their human rights.”


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