Human Rights High Commissioner issues report on strengthening of treaty body system;

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has recently issued a report entitled entitled Strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body system. The Commissioner has previously called for strengthening of the treaty body system and submissions from treaty body members, National Human Rights Institutions, non-governmental organisations, academics and State parties as part of this process.

The official Treaty Body Strengthening Process is described as “open, multi-channelled and flexible” and is comprised of formal meetings; consultation within the treaty bodies; informal meetings and consultations and stakeholders’ written submissions. More information about the process can be found here

The report says that the process “sought to heighten awareness among all stakeholders of the challenges facing the system and to stimulate the formulation of concrete suggestions on how to address these challenges.” Some of the key proposals from the report are:

  • Establishing a comprehensive reporting calendar ensuring strict compliance with human rights treaties and equal treatment of all States parties;
  • Enhancing independence and impartiality of members, and strengthening the election process;
  • Establishing a structured and sustained approach to capacity building for States parties for their reporting duties;
  • Ensuring continued consistency of treaty body jurisprudence in individual communications;
  • Increasing coordination among the treaty bodies on their work on individual communications and their adoption of common guidelines on procedural questions;
  • Increasing accessibility and visibility of the treaty body system, through webcasting of public meetings and use of other new technologies;
  • A simplified focused reporting procedure to assist States parties to meet their reporting obligations with cost savings for them and the UN while maintaining the quality of the process;
  • Alignment of other working methods to the maximum extent without contradicting the normative specificities of the treaties;
  • Limitation of the length of documentation.

Click here to see the full report.

Meanwhile, Nils Muiznieks, the new Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, has stated that strong national human rights structures (NHRS) are especially necessary to protect vulnerable groups of people in times of austerity - a very topical message as discussions continue on the merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority.

In the report, Nils Muiznieks notes how some NHRS have taken a proactive approach to dealing with the current deterioration of the human rights situation caused by the economic crisis and gives examples of how some NHRSs have responded to the consequences of the crisis in a positive way. For example, the Spanish Ombudsman recently published a study on the situation of people who cannot pay their mortgages. Some of the recommendations set out in the study helped the authorities adopt measures to increase the protection of these people from the risk of exclusion and poverty. He expresses his regret however that the staff and budget of many NHRS (including those in Ireland) have been cut. He furthermore recommends that governments involve NHRS at all stages of the national budget process, as they can advise on the groups most in need of protection and the human rights issues attached to budgetary cutbacks.

Click here to read Commisioner Muiznieks’ statement.



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