The United Nations (UN) Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council are a unique mechanism of independent expert advice and monitoring in the UN human rights system. Mandated to report regularly to the Council and the UN General Assembly on thematic issues and country situations, they are less bound by governmental considerations or institutional constraints. As such, these UN experts are the most outspoken players in the system.
TACKLING CROSSCUTTING ISSUES
All Special Procedures face a number of challenges in the implementation of their mandates. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ensures coordination, but the mandate holders themselves are not staff of the UN and are not based in Geneva.
The Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) offers them additional opportunities to engage with each other and with other parts of the UN system via an annual meeting on a topic of common concern, as well as via institutional discussions on thematic issues, working methods, impact assessment and other methodological issues. These meetings support UN Special Procedures in tackling common challenges, improving their work and impact and elaborating joint positions or statements.
Evaluating their Impact
Via dedicated research, the GHRP supports UN Special Procedures in measuring the impact of their work to promote and protection of human rights – in a given country or in relation to a specific right – along with the effectiveness of their interventions and activities.
This evaluation assessment is vital to determining the efficacy of a mandate’s work and its outcomes will support decision-making and provide guidance for future undertakings, and resource allocation.
The research develops proposals contained within the publication ‘Towards Transversal Standards to Evaluate the Impact of UN Special Procedures’, which stemmed from an initial Expert Meeting convened to discuss enhancing the existing evaluation and measurement framework in place.
Following an initial mapping of existing evaluation practices, the GHRP elaborates – in consultation with UN Special Procedures – an overarching methodological framework that incorporates measurement tools and indicators that can deliver an objective, detailed overall analysis of impact.
The first step in this process is the development of a new working paper Assessment Tool for Special Procedures' Impact Evaluation – Developing an Initial Framework that examines how to further develop methodologies to appraise the impact of UN Special Procedures, and which resources might most effectively be deployed to further their work in promoting and protecting human rights.
SUPPORTING SPECIFIC MANDATES
The special relationship with a number of mandates and mandate holders results in reinforced support to these mandates via dedicated research projects, dissemination of research outputs, support to specific activities, structural support, joint initiatives and conferences.
The GHRP directly supports the UN SR on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – who is conducting a research project on promoting and protecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and civic space worldwide at the Geneva Academy – in dissemination, outreach and networking activities. Similar support is also provided to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights – via specific research hosted at the Geneva Academy.
In addition, the GHRP regularly collaborates with other UN SRs, including the UN SR on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the SR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
ADOPTING AN ‘ALL-MECHANISMS’ APPROACH
Enhancing the interactions and connection between UN Special Procedures mandate holders and members of UN treaty bodies (TBs), the online platform created in 2021 for exchanges between TBs is opening up to Un Special Procedures to offer a private space for substantive discussions among all human rights experts on UN mandates.