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

27 February 2018

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

Portrait of Hannah Milena Elias News

MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What our Students Say

8 February 2021

In this interview, Hannah-Milena Elias, currently enrolled in our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, tells about the programme and life in Geneva.

Read more

Members of Parliament from the Hirshabelle State of Somalia, following proceedings during a courtesy visit to the Machakos County Assembly, Kenya News

National Strategies for Human Rights Monitoring and Implementation

12 February 2021

Our new publication analyses institutional cooperation initiatives at the domestic level designed to strengthen human rights implementation.

Read more

Event

2021 Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

12 October 2021, 09:00-18:00

The 2021 Annual Conference will discuss the connectivity between national human rights actors and the Geneva-based international mechanisms.

Read more

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

8-12 November 2021

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.

Read more

Prison visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Haiti Short Course

The Implementation of International Human Rights Law

18 November - 14 January 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.

Read more

Project

HUMAN RIGHTS, BIG DATA AND TECHNOLOGY PROJECT

Started in May 2016

We are a partner of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, housed at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, which aims to map and analyse the human rights challenges and opportunities presented by the use of big data and associated technologies. It notably examines whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be updated and adapted to meet the new realities of the digital age.

Read more

 Chittagong (Bangladesh) ship breaking yard Project

A Practitioners' Guide on Human Rights and Countering Corruption

Started in January 2015

This research project, aims via the drafting of a practitioners’ guide on human rights and countering corruption, to clarify the conceptual relationship between human rights, good governance and anticorruption, demonstrate the negative impact of corruption on human rights and provide guidance and make practical recommendations for effectively using the UN human rights system in anti-corruption efforts.

Read more

Cover page of the book Publication

War

published on July 2021

Andrew Clapham

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

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

published on June 2021

Olivier de Frouville

Read more