The Treaty Body Members Platform in 2023

18 January 2024

The Treaty Body Members Platform (TBMP), an initiative of the Geneva Human Rights Platform, connects experts in United Nations (UN) treaty bodies (TBs) as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.

In recent years, the TBMP also increasingly linked members of UN TBs with UN Special Procedures mandate holders to share expertise, approaches and exchange around specific thematic issues, following the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) ‘all-mechanism’ approach.

In 2023, the TBMP continued to accompany members of UN treaty bodies to address crucial issues related to their work, along with contemporary human rights challenges. It held nine informal meetings for UN human rights experts, with the participation of relevant OHCHR staff. These took place in-person at Villa Moynier, online and – for enhanced accessibility standards – at the Palais des Nations. In addition, the TBMP offered a private space for OHCHR’s treaty body secretariat staff for internal meetings.

Two additional meetings, linked to the TBMP took the form of bigger conferences: a one-day inter-committee retreat on individual communications, and a full week of meetings for the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to work on their General Comment on Disappearances in Migration.

‘The TBMP formed the very beginning of the Geneva Human Rights Platform’s activities’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform. ‘We are convinced that all the research input and piloting of new procedures will only be taken up by the TB system, if genuine dialogue exists between the members of those UN bodies, allowing them to be in the driving seat implementing changes to maintain and reinforce the importance of independent human rights monitoring.’

From sexual and reproductive rights to human rights in conflict situations

The meetings allowed TB members to exchange their approaches to various thematic issues with their peers, including sexual and reproductive rights, economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in conflicts, and approaches to enforced disappearances

Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child met with their colleagues of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to discuss jurisprudence and observations on sexual and reproductive health and rights and exchanged in another meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls.

A Working Group of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities met with experts on climate-induced disasters to gather inputs for their upcoming General Comment on Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that deals with the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

Members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights used the TBMP to discuss plans towards a General Comment on ESCR in conflict situations, as well as to meet with representatives of regional human rights bodies dealing with ESCR, notably of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the Inter-American Commission and Court.

Another meeting allowed for an informal conversation between the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which is part of the system of the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures.

Facilitating the Development of a General Comment on Disappearances in Migration

To facilitate the drafting of the first General Comment by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the GHRP organized an informal one-week session for the Committee members, including background research and conference facilitation. This week-long session helped the Committee to prepare the draft of its first-ever General Comment, launched later in 2023.

The background research provided in this project allowed the GHRP to publish a Research Brief on this specific General Comment that also addresses the role and importance of General Comments and their potential impact.

Addressing the Impact of Climate Change on Human Rights

In 2023, the TBMP continued to hold a specific series of online meetings, open to all TB members, on the impact of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights.

During these meetings, TB members exchanged with the authors of the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), linking in that way climate science and human rights expertise and policy.

‘While climate change affects a cross-cutting range of rights, it has no explicit mention in human rights treaties that were drafted decades ago. In such a context, we set as a priority to update Committee members with regular scientific input and allow them to have yearly exchanges with the scientific community’ explains Felix Kirchmeier.

Reflecting on TBs’ Working Methods on Individual Communications

A full day of inter-committee expert discussions – co-organized with OHCHR and the Paris Human Rights Center – allowed to reflect on TBs’ working methods concerning individual communications. The meeting aimed at harmonizing the various Committees’ practices to handle petitions and was already the second in a series of joint meetings dedicated to enhancing the capacity of the system to deal with communications and reduce the ever-growing backlog of cases.

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