Report Highlights the Potentials of UN Treaty Bodies Follow-Up Review at Regional Level

5 February 2024

Our Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) just released the latest report of its third and final follow-up review pilot conducted in Nadi, Fiji, in collaboration with the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The report sheds light on the significant benefits and challenges derived from this initiative and explores the role of regional UN hubs in facilitating potential regional follow-up reviews. This final review pilot allowed stakeholders to discuss the latest recommendations issued to three Pacific Small Island Developing States – Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu – by three United Nations (UN) treaty bodies (TBs): the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

‘Distinct from the previous two pilots in Sierra Leone and Grenada, which tested the viability of holding these follow-up reviews at the national level, this third pilot conducted the same exercise but at the regional level. This milestone serves as a valuable case study for other governments, TBs and the UN, especially in the context of the ongoing TB reform process, the transition to an eight-year calendar, and the newly established ‘follow-up reviews in between’’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Improved Engagement in TB reporting procedure

Among all the stakeholders engaged in the reporting, implementation and follow-up processes, only a small number of governments, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and civil society organizations can travel and address the Committees during the Geneva-based sessions. Furthermore, the use of virtual modalities introduced as exceptional measures during COVID for TB sessions often resulted in a decline in the quality of oral submissions and interactions with the committees.

The report shows that regional follow-up reviews can serve as a valuable and more inclusive tool for assisting national stakeholders in monitoring and implementing TB recommendations and linking them with overlapping recommendations issued by other UN human rights mechanisms and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Enhanced access to TBs in the region creates opportunities for direct engagement by individuals and organizations who typically find themselves excluded from the standard TB proceedings held in Geneva. The regional component, which conducts follow-up reviews for multiple countries in a centralized regional UN hub, facilitates replicating these outcomes across participating countries and their respective stakeholders.

Cross-country mutual learning

By convening various member states within the framework of a multi-day event held in a UN regional hub, the potential for mutual learning regarding shared challenges in effective reporting and implementation, as well as the exchange of best practices, becomes significantly enhanced. These regional reviews also serve a broader purpose by fostering partnerships for human rights monitoring and implementation that extend beyond national borders.
‘This collaborative approach bolsters the collective capability to tackle human rights concerns and promotes the sharing of valuable insights among participating member states’ underlines Dr Domenico Zipoli, Project Coordinator at the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Heightened consideration for the regional context

Another outcome highlighted in the report is the opportunity to engage in discussions that specifically address the context-sensitive challenges faced by countries of the same region during the implementation of TB recommendations. This approach offers a much more comprehensive and valuable complement to the traditional preparation for the full TB review, which primarily relies on desk research, email correspondence, and limited involvement of selected national human rights actors. It also serves the purpose of removing the protection gap now that the cycle of TB reviews has been extended to eight years. The focused discussions on selected recommendations ensure that national stakeholders can direct their efforts towards the most crucial and practical aspects of full implementation. At the same time, the experience of being located within any one region facilitates a deeper understanding of the real-life situation on the ground for TB members, immersing themselves in the regional context during the review period, including conducting on-site visits to significant locations.

Amplifying the visibility of the TB system across the region

The presence of TB members in the region offers a valuable opportunity for increased TBs’ visibility across the participating countries via media coverage, the organization of public events, consultations and public interaction, including through on-site visits.

Steps forward

The successful conclusion of the TB follow-up review pilot series provides the international community with a comprehensive understanding of the format which these follow-up reviews could take place at both national and regional levels.

‘The Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat is committed to supporting small states to engage effectively with Geneva-based human rights mechanisms and to strengthen their capacity, including with TBs. Potential regional TB follow-up reviews, such as this pilot initiative, not only increase visibility and deepen treaty bodies' understanding of the situation on the ground but also strengthen the engagement of States, national institutions and CSOs in the UN human rights framework’ recalls Yashasvi Nain, Human Rights Advisor, Commonwealth Secretariat.

‘We anticipate that our assessment will provide TBs, OHCHR, and member States with valuable insights into the substantial benefits that meaningful follow-up reviews can bring to the system, ultimately enhancing the effective implementation of human rights at the national level’ stresses Felix Kirchmeier.

The GHRP is preparing a final report – to be released in the first quarter of 2024 – that encapsulates the key findings from the three pilots. This report will offer a comprehensive overview of the lessons learned and will present recommendations concerning the structure, advantages, and challenges of conducting follow-up reviews

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