In Highlight: IMPACT OSS Monitoring Tool

18 September 2023

Stakeholders at both national and international levels have introduced a growing number of digital human rights tracking tools and databases (DHRTTDs) designed to facilitate a more holistic approach to human rights monitoring and implementation.

Via its DHRTTDs Directory, the Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) provides a comprehensive list and description of such key tools and databases. But how to navigate them? Which tool should be used for what, and by whom?

In this interview, Dr Domenico Zipoli, Project Coordinator at the Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) helps us understand better the specificities of these tools and tells us about the September highlight of the directory: IMPACT OSS.

What is special about this tool? What differentiates IMPACT OSS from other tracking tools and databases?

IMPACT OSS stands for Integrated Management and Planning of ACTions (IMPACT) Open Source Software (OSS). This means that it is an open source tool and that the software code is made available under a permissive open source licence. It can thus be freely used, modified, and installed by any person, organization or country wishing to develop its own version of the tool. Governments, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other interested entities can therefore tailor it to develop their own versions, with their own separate installation, database and server infrastructure. It is also an open access tool: its data and content are not limited to government experts but also made accessible to the public, thus promoting transparency, accountability and collaboration.

IMPACT OSS focuses on actions rather than recommendations. As such, it features an integrated implementation plan where these actions are the central pieces of information. They can be linked across multiple recommendations and frameworks, such as the SDGs and national development strategies, reducing the burden on data collection and monitoring. For example, if a state has received six recommendations to establish an NHRI across its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and most recent reviews by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, then any uploaded data on government action towards NHRI establishment will be tracked against each recommendation, entirely eliminating any duplication.

Furthermore, in addition to tracking government and/or NHRI actions linked to international human rights recommendations, IMPACT OSS also integrates objectives from other related frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and national development strategies.

How many national versions of IMPACT OSS exist? Who runs them?

There is currently one active national version of IMPACT OSS specific to human rights – Sadata –, administered by Samoa's inter-ministerial National Mechanism for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-Up (NMIRF).

New Zealand’s version set up by its National Human Rights Commission is no longer active but will likely be revived shortly. In the future, two Governments in the Pacific region have formally requested their own national versions of IMPACT OSS and are about to start development, with several others having expressed interest

Are there other tools relying on IMPACT OSS?

IMPACT OSS was used as the technical foundation for the creation of two tracking tools outside the domain of human rights and sustainable development.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (‘ GIZ ’, Germany’s main development agency) adopted IMPACT OSS to develop a Marine Litter Action Mapping Tool that allows tracking actions and commitments of states and other actors to reduce marine litter across multiple knowledge categories such as donor activities and international frameworks.

WWF Norway further adopted the Marine Litter Action Mapping Tool to develop its Global Plastic Advocacy Tracker that allows tracking country positions on different aspects of the global treaty to end plastic pollution that is currently being negotiated.

Can you give a concrete example of how it can be used to monitor national implementation of international human rights obligations?

As mentioned, Samoa developed its version of IMPACT OSS, called Sadata – which is also listed in our directory – to monitor the implementation of its international human rights obligations and the related recommendations issued by various UN human rights mechanisms, linking these to SDGs implementation as well as to Samoa’s national development strategy.

Sadata currently includes 55 actions, grouped into 10 thematic clusters, that address more than 500 obligations or recommendations including:

  • Those under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • The Concluding Observations issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child as well as to Samoa
  • Recommendations from the latest UPR cycles of Samoa.

Of these 55 actions, ten have been marked as ‘complete’ (i.e. fully implemented) and 41 as ‘ongoing’ (i.e. partially implemented).

Sadata also enables Samoa to instantly conduct a gap analysis to identify which recommendations still require implementing actions – a process which normally would take months. Sadata’s link to the SDGs and the National Development Plan lends further value in this regard. Once Samoa had uploaded its Voluntary National Review data, Sadata was able to map this against all human rights recommendations. In other words, a simple filter can be applied to identify all relevant implementing actions and data against Samoa’s UPR and UN human rights treaty body recommendations for its forthcoming reviews.

Who are its main users?

IMPACT OSS can be used by a variety of stakeholders. The primary users of this tool are governments – including NMIRFs – and independent NHRIs. As mentioned above, these actors can develop their own version of the tool to track their country’s human rights implementation record, in other words, to coordinate, track and report on human rights obligations, the SDGs and national development plans. They can also use IMPACT OSS as a resource for policy formulation.

Secondary users – i.e. the ones who can use this tool for monitoring or advocacy purposes – include international human rights monitoring mechanisms, international organizations and civil society organizations. For instance, UN human rights treaty bodies, special procedures mandate holders and Human Rights Council member states can all use national versions of IMPACT OSS as a resource for reviewing country progress against recommendations as well as prior to country visits or reviews. Development partners can also use IMPACT OSS to identify implementation gaps and potential areas of support. Finally, the general public can also refer to it as an accountability resource for rights holders and a resource for a range of stakeholders including civil society organizations, academics and students.

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