Treaty Body Review 2020 and Beyond

Started in January 2018

The United Nations (UN) human rights (HR) treaty bodies (TBs) are a central pillar of the international HR protection system. Since the establishment of the first UN TB in 1970, both treaty ratifications and the treaty body system have expanded significantly. While this has enhanced HR protection worldwide, it has also created complex challenges that affect the system and those who interact with it: states, national HR institutions, UN entities, civil society organizations, individual complainants and rights-holders at large.

THE 2020 REVIEW

On 9 April 2014, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a landmark resolution (A/RES/68/268) on strengthening the TB system, which envisaged a review of the measures taken at the UNGA level in 2020. This review represented an opportunity to further reflect on the TB system’s future and develop innovative proposals and solutions without weakening the HR protection that the system currently affords.

Providing Expert Input

The Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) contributed to this review process by providing expert input via different avenues, facilitating dialogue on the review among various stakeholders, as well as by accompanying the development of a follow-up to the TB Review 2020 process, both in New York and Geneva.

This contribution was built upon the three-year global project of the Academic Platform, which developed models to optimize the reporting and dialogue processes of TBs.

The GHRP has since refined the proposals, adding a calendar system to schedule clustered TB reviews optimally, and identified measures to update the Communication procedure.

Piloting the 2020 Recommendations and the Implementation of Focused Reviews

In the report closing the 2020 Review process, the co-facilitators – Morocco and Switzerland – enumerate a number of avenues to implement recommendations that have surfaced in the review discussions.

These recommendations include:

  • Accelerating the digital shift
  • Setting up a digital case management system for individual communications and urgent actions
  • An open and transparent web-based electoral platform to evaluate the merits of treaty body candidates
  • Rationalized, harmonized and modern working methods
  • An aligned methodology for the constructive dialogue between States parties and treaty bodies, as well as for concluding observations and follow-up recommendations and for stakeholder interaction
  • Making the simplified reporting procedure the default procedure
  • Establishing predictable review cycles,
  • Enhanced engagement or reviews in the regions, supporting also the idea of ‘focused reviews, which may consist of an in situ visit’.

The GHRP contributed to many of these recommendations and will stimulate and pilot a number of them through 2022 and 2023, collaborating with interested states and stakeholders.

In particular, we have started fleshing out and piloting potential modalities for TB-focused reviews, a new procedure within the state reporting cycle recently renamed follow-up review.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

Flag alley at the UN in Geneva News

New Paper Delves into Reporting Practices under International Treaties

13 November 2023

This new working paper by our Geneva Human Rights Platform provides an overview of more than 30 reporting practices, their specificities and good practices in this ever-growing field.

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135 session of the Human Rights Committee, June 2022 News

The Geneva Human Rights Platform Welcomes Major Breakthrough for UN Treaty Bodies

28 June 2022

At their 34th Annual Meeting, Chairpersons of UN treaty bodies agreed on a predictable review schedule of eight years.

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Side event organized by the Geneva Human Rights Platform at the UN in New York News

From Geneva to New York to Discuss the Future of UN Treaty Bodies

10 June 2022

Our Geneva Human Rights Platform staff – Chloé Naret, Felix Kirchmeier and Domenico Zipoli – travelled to New York to discuss the future of UN treaty bodies.

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TEAM

Picture of Felix Kirchmeier

Felix Kirchmeier

Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

Felix Kirchmeier is the Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Picture of Domenico Zipoli

Domenico Zipoli

Project Coordinator

His research focuses on the question of connectivity among international human rights mechanisms and on national strategies for monitoring, implementation and follow-up of international human rights obligations and recommendations.

OUTPUT

 Regular Briefings in Geneva and New York

Regular briefings in Geneva and New York with and for various stakeholders – diplomats, civil society organizations, members of UN TB and experts – allow to discuss and finetune positions towards the 2020 review.

In Geneva, the Geneva Academy Fridays – monthly briefings for Geneva-based diplomats in charge of human rights –  allowed to discuss topical issues related to the 2020 Review and provided to the diplomatic community updates on academic findings on the functioning of the UN human rights mechanisms and bodies.

Guidance to Improve the UN Human Rights Individual Complaints Mechanism

The publication Treaty Bodies’ Individual Communication Procedures: Providing Redress and Reparation to Victims of Human Rights Violations addresses the handling of individual communications, tackles efficiency questions related to this procedure and outlines a series of key recommendations to improve the system, including the creation of a registry to provide substantive legal support to UN treaty bodies.

An Efficient Tool to Implement UN Treaty Bodies’ Recommendations

At an expert conference co-organized with the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights on 18–19 September 2019, UN TB experts, academics, national and international NGOs and governmental representatives discussed the implementation of a new mechanism aimed at improving the work of UN TBs, the TRIP: Technical Review of Implementation Progress.

Learning from the Universal Periodic Review

The UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has brought new life into the measures taken at the international and national levels to hold states accountable to their international human rights law obligations. The UPR has also generated a number of new initiatives at national levels to implement recommendations emanating from the UPR process. The Research Brief The Universal Periodic Review Mid-Term Reporting Process: Lessons for the Treaty Bodies attempts to draw lessons from the UPR mid-term reporting process that can assist TBs in improving the impact of their work at the national level.

A New Tool to Optimize the Planning of Treaty Bodies Sessions

 The ‘Treaty Body Scheduler’ is a new tool that allows planning, in the context of a consolidated report and clustered dialogue, the best schedules for TBs sessions. While the duration of TBs sessions would remain approximately the same, the schedules developed by this tool would allow delegations to reduce their travels to Geneva. This type of organization would also promote greater interactions between Committees’ members as they would be in session simultaneously.

The Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020

The Geneva Academy coordinated a major project aiming at providing academic input to the 2020 review of UN treaty bodies by the UN General Assembly. This project, which ran from 2015 to 2018 and involved more than 300 academic partners and experts, developed key recommendations to improve the work of UN TBs, many of which have been supported by states. Several states across all continents and regional groups, as well as NGOs, experts and members of UN TBs have endorsed a number of these recommendations.

Publications

Cover Page of Reporting Practices Working Paper

International Treaty-Based Reporting Practices Review Report

November 2023

Felix Kirchmeier, Claire Callejon, Domenico Zipoli

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover of the publication

Implementing the Treaty Body Review 2020 – Where do we stand

August 2022

Felix Kirchmeier, Domenico Zipoli

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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cover of the publication

Promoting Quality Independent and Diverse Treaty Body Membership

November 2021

Claire Callejon

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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cover of the publication

The United Nations Treaty Bodies in a Transition Period – Progress Review March-December 2020 Chronicle

June 2021

Olivier de Frouville

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights; Paris Human Rights Center

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Cover page of the Research Brief

The Universal Periodic Review Mid-Term Reporting Process: Lessons for the Treaty Bodies

November 2019

Miloon Kothari

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover page of the publication

Treaty Bodies’ Individual Communication Procedures: Providing Redress and Reparation to Victims of Human Rights Violations

May 2019

Claire Callejon, Kamelia Kemileva, Felix Kirchmeier

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Cover page of the publication

Optimizing the UN Treaty Body System

May 2018

Domenico Zipoli, Felix Kirchmeier, Kamelia Kemileva, Claire Callejon

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Past Events

Transparency in nominations and elections to UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies: Towards a New Vetting System?

13 December 2023, 17:00-18:15

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Side-Event at the Annual Meeting of Chairpersons of Human Rights Treaty Bodies: Implementing the Treaty Body Review 2020 – Where Do We Stand

1 June 2022, 13:15-14:45

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

View of workshop News

Experts Address Human Rights Challenges Arising from the Use of New and Emerging Technologies in Law Enforcement

20 November 2023

During a workshop on the application and potential misuse of new and emerging digital technologies, including in law enforcement and the management of peaceful assemblies, academics, law enforcement professionals, human rights lawyers and representatives from international organizations and civil society focused on how best human rights can be protected.

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A GHRP training course News

Geneva Human Rights Platform’s Training Hub: Expanding Offerings and Partnerships for 2024

16 February 2024

2023 has been a busy and fruitful year for our Geneva Human Rights Platform’s Training Hub which starts 2024 with an enhanced offer.

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Cells in a jail Event

Toward An International Human Right to Claim Innocence

8 March 2024, 13:15-14:45

This event will discuss and analyze the innocence gap in international law and discuss different strategies for achieving greater recognition of an international right to assert claims of factual innocence.

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UNRWA school in Gaza Event

Gaza and the Battle for Humanity: How International Law Provides Meaning to Violence

6 March 2024, 18:00-20:00

At this event co-hosted by our Geneva Human Rights Platform, several UN experts will provide their perspective on what is at stake when framing the ongoing spectacular and slow violence against Palestinians in Gaza. 

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A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

11-15 November 2024

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

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Session of a UN Treaty Body Project

Treaty Bodies Individual Communications Procedures

Started in January 2019

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First annual conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform Project

The Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

Started in June 2019

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Cover Page of Research Brief Publication

Environmental Human Rights as a Tool in Early Warning and Conflict Prevention The Role of the Human Rights Council

published on January 2024

Erica Harper, Baïna Ubushieva

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Cover page of the Research Brief Publication

The Evolving Neurotechnology Landscape: Examining the Role and Importance of Human Rights in Regulation

published on December 2023

Erica Harper

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