Strengthen and assist the efforts of civil society in the protection of civil and political rights
Increase ratification and enhance implementation of the ICCPR, and
Contribute to the strengthening of the Human Rights Committee’s work.
The core mandate of the Centre is to enable Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), as advocates for civil and political rights at the national level, to effectively engage with the Human Rights Committee. Improving this engagement increases the likelihood that human rights violations can be raised with State authorities and also that appropriate remedies are included in the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations.
To fulfil this mandate, the Centre engages with HRDs at the earliest possible stage of the country review cycle through extensive national consultations and capacity building sessions, and encourages civil society organisations to work in coalition and to develop joint reports. In 2021, the Centre organised national consultations in 14 countries and supported the submissions of 7 alternative reports. These joint submissions documented the concerns of civil society before, during and after the review process and were extremely well received by the Human Rights Committee as an important source of first-hand information.
To keep up with the influx of online training developed as a result of COVID-19, the Centre also updated its Civil Society Advocacy Guide. The guide is a tool which outlines the essential elements of the Committee's review process and the steps of an effective civil society engagement. The new edition is available in three languages, English, French and Spanish, and includes an interactive web version as well as video storytelling modules which can be used during online training sessions.
The digital transformation driven by COVID-19 also reinforced one of the core values of our work: acting as a link between national, regional, and global communities, and encouraging the exchange of knowledge and experience on the promotion of civil and political rights. As an example, during the civil society consultation in Zambia ahead of its Committee review, the Centre invited a representative from Kenyan civil society to share their recent experience of engagement with the Human Rights Committee. This innovative approach was well received by Zambian civil society who found the peer-to-peer briefing highly effective, as it introduced practical solutions to challenges faced by civil society in reporting to the Human Rights Committee.
In 2021, the Centre also continued to facilitate direct interaction between HRDs and Committee members through formal and informal virtual briefings. By extending briefings to all countries ahead of the adoption of the List of Issues and by conducting briefings virtually, we were able to significantly increase the number of civil society actors who engaged with the Committee. In an environment where physical interactions are limited, this proved extremely beneficial for both civil society and for the Committee, as it is easier for civil society to advocate for a subject to be included in the List of Issues before its adoption, and the Committee is provided with valuable, first-hand information which assists in the preparation of the List of Issues.
The Centre also continued its efforts to foster a more systematic and holistic utilisation of the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee in the other UN Human Rights Mechanisms. To this end, the Centre provided online courses to CSOs on how to effectively use the existing UN Human Rights Mechanisms as advocacy tools. We also organised workshops designed to assist civil society in the follow-up of recommendations related to civil and political rights issued by other Treaty Bodies (CEDAW, CAT and UPR). The Kenya/Zambia peer-to-peer exchange was also scaled by interlinking the experiences of two geographically distant countries, Togo and Haiti, ahead of the UPR review to enable the sharing of experiences, and to distil best practice in the fight against corruption. The Centre’s advocacy work at both the national and international level was also reinforced through increased engagement during Human Rights Council sessions, the organisation of briefings to diplomatic missions and the publication of Op-eds and joint statements on areas of focus.
Interview with Làzarie Eeckeloo, Human Rights Officer at the CCPR Centre and Masuzyo Mvula Chakwe, representative of Zambian civil society
During a preparatory mission to Zambia, civil society connected with their Kenyan colleagues to share their experiences. Kenya was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in March 2021, and Zambia will undergo the same process in one of the upcoming sessions of the Committee. Our consultation with civil society was the ideal opportunity for both groups to come together and for Kevin Mwangi - a representative of Kenyan civil society and national coordinator for the CCPR Centre in Kenya - to share his take on the review and the preparatory process.
Zambian civil society asked several questions: what was Kenyan civil society’s strategy in order to be coordinated ahead of the review, how did the government respond to their reports, how does civil society deal with the fact that government contests civil society’s reports, what are key elements for a successful engagement, and how can we create space within the political process for the protection of civil and political rights. Mr. Mwangi was able to provide useful advice: it is important that several stakeholders are represented within civil society, and that they concentrate on a broad range of issues in their work. It is also crucial that reports contain statistics, in particular from the NHRI, and that lived realities are included as well, to substantiate allegations. Engagement from civil society, as well as political will are essential to create a successful engagement and can be created by using all international mechanisms at their disposal, as well as all reporting opportunities, so that all concerns are repeatedly addressed in the international community. Lastly, it is important for civil society to be well organized and to have a clear work plan.
This Q&A session served to create links between civil societies from different countries. The representative of Kenyan civil society was able to share how they experienced experienced the process before and during the review, which was helpful for Zambian colleagues, who are undergoing the same process now. These bridges are important, as it allows the participants to learn from each other.
My main take away from the Kenyan presentation is the unity and solidarity that CSOs exhibit when preparing for their report to the Human Rights Committee. It was evident that CSOs in Kenya have been more influential and united in holding the government accountable to the Committee. The Kenyan experience also proves that there will always be differences between the reports by CSOs and the government as presented at the UN.
The training is important for journalists because it brings out particularly important human rights commitments that the government has endorsed to follow. Therefore, as a journalist I can confidently expose any human rights violations that the State has perpetrated, especially where contrary to international conventions it has ratified. With the knowledge I acquired I can competently help by holding the government accountable to its international obligations the government accountable to its international obligations. I can now also measure how CSOs are doing in holding the government accountable. This training was therefore a big revelation in as far as covering human rights is concerned.
Interview with Prof. Dr. Vasilka Sancin - Member and Vice-Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee
The COVID-19 pandemic also seriously disrupted the work of the human rights Treaty-Bodies. Although the Human Rights Committee was able to temporarily and on an exceptional basis continue its work online, no online meeting can be as effective as in-person sessions. Nevertheless, maintaining direct contact with civil society even during these on-line sessions was of paramount importance and assisted the Committee members in obtaining additional information relevant for the fulfilment of its diligent preparation and periodic reviewing of the States parties.
Although the Committee adopted an 8-year review cycle, the process of working on each review is a continuous one, and it is important that the members of the Committee are informed about important developments in a particular State Party at different stages of this process. It is particularly important before adoption of the LOIPR (or LOI for those States parties that have opted-out from the simplified reporting procedure), in the process of the Follow-up to Concluding Observations, as well as prior to the 8hrs constructive dialogue with a State party. These briefings provide Committee members with an additional insight that can shed light on important aspects, latest developments or statistics in relation to a particular concern, which is all relevant for the constructive exchanges with a State party and for the ensuing adequate recommendations.
I would say that briefings are most useful for the Committee members if civil society organisations are presenting their views on as wide an array of topics of relevance under the ICCPR. It is also extremely useful if representatives of the CSOs are aware of the mandate, methods of work and documents to be adopted by the Committee, and take that into account when preparing for such briefings.