Seven objectives for stronger UN treaty bodies

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In 2012, the High Commissioner for Human Rights published recommendations on strengthening of the human rights treaty bodies. Since then States have been working at the General Assembly in New York to consider whether and how the High Commissioners recommendations might be achieved. Yet after a year of negotiations, States continue to argue over how money can be saved and what the concrete gains to treaty bodies would be. Some States have even promoted measures which significantly weaken the treaty body system.

Comments made by the High Commissioner in 2012 left States in no doubt that the treaty body system is in trouble. As the number of States and workload has grown while the available resources have shrunk, treaty bodies are no longer able to deliver their important mandate. This shortfall in resources has already led to increased backlogs and reduced time to complete essential commitments. It is therefore critical that the intergovernmental process succeeds in guaranteeing the resources and the support needed for treaty bodies to continue to act as custodians of the human rights treaties.

As part of the ongoing negotiations, treaty body members, States and civil society, including the APT, have offered a number of achievable recommendations which aim at significantly increasing the efficiency of treaty body functioning with little or no additional resources. Some recommendations even seek to achieve cost savings.

Civil society organisations have promoted seven key objectives that risk being ignored by the current negotiations. Together with other NGOs, the APT urges States to ensure adequate time is given to promote:

  1. Universal ratification of the core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols;
  2. Compliance with reporting obligations;
  3. Implementation of recommendations and views;
  4. Strengthening the annual meetings of States Parties;
  5. Enhancing the membership of the treaty bodies;
  6. Providing adequate resources to the treaty body system; and
  7. Preventing and addressing reprisals.

The full statement is available here.