New Report Confirms the Potential of UN Treaty Bodies’ Focused Review for Human Rights Implementation

The report of the second focused review pilot – conducted in St. George’s, Grenada, by our Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) with the Commonwealth Secretariat – has just been published. It shows the benefits that this exercise brings to both the work of United Nations (UN) treaty bodies (TBs) and the implementation of human rights in countries.

The report is based on feedback from the participants of the pilot, including representatives of relevant ministries, members of the National Coordinating Committee on Human Rights (NMIRF), representatives of statutory bodies with a human rights mandate, representatives of national civil society organizations (CSOs), TB members who participated in their personal capacity and the representative from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for Central America and Dominican Republic (RO-CADR), who participated as an observer.

‘It shows – as did the report of the Sierra Leone pilot – the benefits of focused reviews for the entire TB system and for national implementation. This second exercise also allows us to better identify a specific set of benefits and a more defined format for a possible TB focused review procedure’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Additional Positive Outcomes

The Grenada report is based on two sets of evaluation forms (pre and post-activity) given to participants. It demonstrates similar benefits to the first pilot in Sierra Leone: strengthened national capacity to engage with the TB system; increased access for national stakeholders; fostered cooperation among national actors; greater specificity to the national context; and strengthened visibility of UN TBs at the national level.

Besides these findings, the Grenada pilot allowed highlighting additional positive outcomes.

‘In order to strengthen treaty bodies effectively, national mechanisms and national actors also need to effectively engage with them – in-country reviews offer this opportunity’ underlines Dr Shavana Haythornthwaite, Head of the Human Rights Unit at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Novelty: In-Situ Visits

Prior to the focused review sessions, Grenada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development organized a full day of visits for the TB delegation to institutions relevant to core themes covered by the recommendations under focused review: the national machinery for the advancement of women, violence against women, juvenile justice, the harmonization of legislation on child rights, as well as corporal punishment and discrimination.

‘These in-situ visits facilitated a deeper understanding of the situation on the ground by TB members and the challenges faced by Grenada in implementing their recommendations. It allowed TB members to ask more targeted and contextual questions during their discussion with the government’ underlines Domenico Zipoli, Project Coordinator at the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

A More Constructive Environment

The Grenada pilot highlighted that exchanges between TB members and national human rights actors ‘in-country’ provide a space for more informal discussions than dialogues in Geneva.

According to the participants, the dialogue with TBs appears more ‘intimate’ and allows implementation challenges to be discussed with TB members, providing answers and clarifications to real, contextualized human rights issues

‘Overall, participants felt that this exercise improves the confidence of national stakeholders to engage meaningfully with TB members and leads to more open and less formal discussions between TB members and government representatives’ explains Felix Kirchmeier.

Next Steps

The GHRP and the Commonwealth Secretariat are currently discussing the possibility of conducting additional pilots in Europe and the Asia-Pacific throughout 2022.

‘With processes like the focused review that aim to bring the Geneva process closer to reality, the national institutions and states' engagement with UN mechanisms will be strengthened even further’ says Yashasvi Nain, Human Rights Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat.

At the end of the process, a report covering the outcomes of all pilots will inform the current discussions among TB Chairs and member states on the most effective format for a future focused/follow up review, in line with the trends emerging from the informal conversations held by OHCHR with Chairs and TB experts throughout March and April 2022.

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