New Paper Examines the Diversity in Membership of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

Session of the UN Committee against Racial Discrimination Session of the UN Committee against Racial Discrimination

Our new paper ‘Diversity in Membership of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies’ examines the composition of UN human rights treaty bodies (TBs) notably in relation to gender balance, geographical representation, as well as TBs members’ subject-matter expertise and professional background.

Having as a point of reference our In-Brief No. 1 on the ‘Independence of the Treaty Body Members’ that examined the treaty body composition as of 2012, this paper goes further and analyses how TB’s composition has modified following the election cycles taking place from 2013-2016.

The present study has been conducted in the context of our Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020.

Key Findings

The paper is divided in four parts. The first part discusses the treaty provisions regarding TBs composition. The second part underscores the recommendations issued within the intergovernmental TBs strengthening process. The third part describes the methodology and limitations. The last part analyses the composition of TBs and its evolution from 2012-2016 along several axes.

‘The analysis of the evolution of TBs membership since 2012 outlines which and where the persistent shortcomings are. Aside of the lack of transparence in the nomination of candidates, gender imbalance, unequal geographic representation and presence of a high number of members coming from state executive branches remain key problems in TBs membership’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier, Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy.

Gender Balance

The paper highlights that some progress has been achieved towards gender balance within the treaty body membership. Although this is not reflected in the composition of all of the treaty bodies, the two last election cycles seem to indicate a trend towards decreasing the number of male members. Two Committees are exception, namely the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women comprising only one man member, and the Committee on Enforced Disappearance including one woman member have achieved no progress in closing the gender gap despite two recent elections. On the other hand, the Human Rights Committee and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture have moved closer to gender parity.

Geographic Representation

With regard to geographic representation, the paper highlights that members from states in the Western Europe and Others Group have occupied the majority of TBs seats throughout the period of enquiry. They are closely followed by members from states in the African Group. Members from states in Asia-Pacific and Latin-America and the Caribbean Groups are close to a par. Members from Eastern European states are overall the least represented in the composition of the treaty bodies.

Professional Background

The paper underlines that the election of members with a professional background in the executive branch of their respective state remains a concern. The analysis found that, on average, 44% of the TBs membership is composed of experts with such professional experience. The highest number of experts fulfilling simultaneously an executive function is elected to the Committee on Migrant Workers. More than 80% of this Committee’s members are Government representatives. The CERD and the CESCR Committees are also treaty bodies with high number of members coming from the executive branch.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

News

A Successful Consultation on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association in the Digital Space

29 October 2018

In the framework of the Geneva Human Rights Platform, the Geneva Academy co-hosted with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights a consultation between the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Voule, and delegates from civil society organizations and NGOs.

Read more

Wall with PKK tags News

Kurdish Military Formations in Middle Eastern Battlefields

23 November 2017

Our new publication Kurdish Military Formations in Middle Eastern Battlefields provides an overview of Kurdish history, of current dynamics of the Kurdish question, as well as of Kurdish forces and armed groups in the Middle East. It also analyses how recent developments in the region, including the emergence and fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), are impacting on Kurdish armed groups and alliances.

Read more

Versova Beach, Mumbai, India Training

The Protection of Human Rights and the Environment

1-5 July 2019

This training course provides participants with a deep understanding of the international legal framework for the protection of human rights and the environment as well as in-depth knowledge of how to promote environmental protection through existing human rights mechanisms. The 2019 edition will dedicate special attention to plastic pollution.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

25 January - 22 February 2019

This short course focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

A participant to a Geneva Academy event takes note on a computer Project

The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

Completed in January 2014

The digital age offers unique opportunities to strengthen human rights implementation and monitoring and has transformed the means through which human rights are exercised. Equally, the digital age poses unique challenges in ensuring that states and businesses respect and protect our rights in the digital forum. The full extent of the human rights implications of the digital age remain unknown.

Read more

A woman worker at a construction site in India Project

Human Rights and Gender Equality in the Context of Business Activities

Started in June 2018

This project aims to support the UN working group’s consultation process and thus contribute the promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality in relation to the business sector via research on international human rights law and policy related to gender equality guarantees and their application to business activities, and the organization of a global conference in Geneva.

Read more