NGOs meet in Geneva to discuss strengthening of UN Treaty Bodies

Published on 08 Jul 2019, 10:11 AM

Civil Society Organizations brainstormed on ideas for a harmonized UN Treaty Body System

The meeting was held in Geneva, on 1-2 July 2019.

On 1-2 July 2019, representatives from national, regional and international NGOs from all over the world gathered in Geneva to discuss mechanisms to strengthen UN Treaty Bodies, looking towards the 2020 review of UN Treaty Bodies, as envisaged in Resolution 68-286.  The Centre for Civil and Political Rights was part of the organizers together with its partner offices of the Treaty Bodies' NGO Coalition TB-Net, Amnesty International, ISHR and Open Society Justice Initiative.

National NGOs part of the meeting were ADC Memorial (Russia), Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad (Central America), CIFDHA (Burkina Faso), MINBYUN- Lawyers for a Democratic Society (Korea), Together Scotland, Promolex (Moldova), Centro PRODH (Mexico), SOS-Torture (Burundi), ALEF (Lebanon) and Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)

Several international NGOs also attended the consultation, including Amnesty International, FIACAT, ILGA, MENA Rights and Plan International.  The Geneva Academy and the Jacob Blaustein Institute also participated from academia.

Objectives of the meeting

The meeting was summoned with the objective of preparing a common proposal from the civil society towards addressing the 2020 review of the UN Treaty Bodies, building a wider cohort of Civil Society Organization stakeholders in hopes of achieving a common position and a shared strategy for the 2020 review process.

The discussion was based on the Geneva Academy’s 2018 report on Optimizing the UN Treaty Body System, the submission made by the TB-Net coalition of NGOs to the Treaty Bodies, and the further discussions that TB-Net had with a wider group of NGOs (also known as TB-Net+).

Alongside those, the meeting addressed also the different proposals discussed for this Treaty Body Strengthening Process, as conclusions of the Oslo Conference and the Copenhagen Conference, and the most recent Treaty Bodies’ Chairs meeting on June 2019.

Discussion and Proposals

During the meeting, it was understood that the current situation of the Treaty Body System was not working adequately and could be considerably improved. 

The NGOs agreed on that the objective of “any review of the Treaty Body system, must be increased promotion and protection of human rights at the national level through increased compliance by States with their human rights obligations”. Thus, the organizations agreed that scheduled periodicity of State scrutiny was pivotal for the Treaty Body system, insofar it guaranteed a systematic engagement of the State Parties, regular reviews, predictability and visibility of the reviews. 

The harmonization of the Treaty Body methodologies was also a general proposal, ideally through the Simplified Reporting Procedure. The use of technology to approach the users to the Treaty Bodies was also promoted. Finally, strengthening civil society engagement was found to be cornerstone for the development of the Treaty Bodies.

Bearing in mind the aforementioned, the NGOs brainstormed on a harmonized Treaty Body system, articulated on two main ideas:

  1. There was general consent on the idea of a fixed and coordinated calendar, under which Treaty Bodies will review each State Party on a regular basis according to a calendar established in advance. In this case reviews before each Treaty Body should take place in a coordinated manner and ensuring that no more than one (or two) review per year is scheduled for each State.
  2. There was also a general conformity on the need to strengthen engagement with Civil Society Organizations, allowing for their participation at all stage of the reporting procedure, including via video-conference.

In addition, the NGOs at the meeting discussed the proposal made recently (June 2019) at the Meeting of Treaty Body Chairpersons. They considered the proposal as a first step in a right direction but not sufficient to address the current challenges. The participants welcomed the suggestions made to carry out State reviews outside of Geneva. However, they remained skeptical regarding the clustering of reviews from the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in one hand and the review of the other Committees in another hand. They considered that these two levels of review were problematic as they would not allow to have a fixed and coordinated calendar for each reporting State. At the same time, doubts were raised regarding the feasibility of such proposal as it would significantly raise the cost of the reporting procedure. 

The NGOs will remain seized on the matter, and future consultations will be held to make more precise recommendations and to further include more NGOs in the consultation process.

The final version of the proposal singed by 86 NGOs is available here

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