1 February 2014
The Chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies met informally in Washington D.C. from 31 January to 1 February 2014 to analyze the Intergovernmental process of the General Assembly on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system. They invited the Co-facilitators, Permanent Representatives Greta Gunnarsdottir and Mohamed Khaled Khiari of Iceland and Tunisia respectively, with whom they met on the first day of their informal consultation. The Chairpersons of the treaty bodies would like to express their recognition for the complete and thorough information provided by the Co-facilitators, as well as the constructive spirit in which they received the comments presented by the Chairpersons.
The Chairpersons value the role and commitment expressed by the Co-facilitators to contribute to the strengthening of the treaty body system.
Upon conclusion of deliberations on 1 February 2014, the Chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies adopted the following statement:
As the Member States of the United Nations General Assembly consider further the draft substantive resolution, and in the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, it is crucial to reiterate the major principles that should inspire and result from the treaty body strengthening process, essential for the effective functioning of the system.
- The outcome of the inter-governmental process must strengthen the human rights protection that the treaty body system offers and intensify the scrutiny of implementation of obligations as provided by the treaty body system;
- The independence of treaty body members must be considered as foundational to the credibility and integrity of the system and for guaranteeing the impartial treatment of States parties;
- The outcome of the inter-governmental process must address the challenges faced by the treaty body system in a comprehensive and sustainable manner;
- It is of utmost importance that all cost-saving and other measures to improve the efficiency of treaty bodies be reinvested in the treaty body system; and, through additional resources, treaty bodies should be equipped with the proper material and human resources from the regular budget to adequately carry out their responsibilities under the respective treaties; and,
- The work of the treaty bodies should be modernized by fully benefitting from the opportunities created by technological development, while at the same time making it universally accessible for persons with disabilities, and uphold the principle of reasonable accommodation.
In application of these principles, it is essential to take into account the following considerations.
I. Resources, additional meeting time, and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
The Chairpersons note that, under the treaties, the Secretary-General has a legal obligation to make proper provision for the effective performance of their functions by the treaty bodies.
The granting of additional meeting time, the purpose of which is to eliminate the backlog and cope with an increased level of reporting and communications, must be the central pillar of the outcome of the treaty body strengthening process. The Chairpersons believe that a net increase of at least twenty weeks per year in meeting time is required, not taking into account already approved ad hoc additional meeting time. The current provisions for additional time, financial and human resources, whilst encouraging, are inadequate, since anything less than an additional twenty weeks will mean that the aim of the strengthening process will not have been achieved. The Chairpersons wish to emphasize that additional meeting time needs to be accompanied by the necessary and corresponding strengthening of the support capacity of OHCHR.
The treaty body system cannot be strengthened only through cost-saving measures and it requires additional resources from the regular budget. Any assessment of the meeting time needed by the treaty bodies cannot only be formula-driven, but must also take into account the particularities of each treaty.
The Chairpersons note the importance of adequately providing for the meeting time of the Sub-committee on Prevention of Torture and of ensuring that its specific needs are met, including addressing its backlog of visits and facilitating its advisory functions.
The Chairpersons note the proposals regarding the length of its documentation and consider that these proposals should be applied flexibly in case of special circumstances as determined in advance by the treaty bodies. Limitations to the length or content of annual reports, inquiry and visit reports of treaty bodies should be subject to agreement by the treaty body concerned. Documentation submitted to treaty bodies by non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions should not be subject to limitation, since these are not reproduced or translated by the United Nations.
II. Independence and impartiality of treaty body members and their status
The independence and impartiality of treaty body members is of utmost importance. The Addis Ababa Guidelines on the independence and impartiality of members of the human rights treaty bodies were agreed upon and endorsed by all treaty body Chairpersons at the 24th Meeting of Chairpersons in 2012. All the treaty bodies apply the principles of the Addis Ababa Guidelines in their rules of procedure and/or practice. Observance of the principles of independence and impartiality are under the continual and effective scrutiny of the treaty bodies.
The treaty bodies have traditionally promoted the awareness of treaty body members of their compliance with appropriate norms and procedures to maintain the independence, impartiality and objectivity of their work, as determined by the individual treaty bodies or adopted collectively.
The status of the treaty body members has an essential impact on the work of the entire treaty body system. That status is inter alia reflected in the arrangements made for treaty body members on mission which are at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. The Chairpersons emphasize that these arrangements should be maintained. Reasonable accommodation for experts with disabilities must also be ensured in their travel arrangements as well as in the arrangements for their respective personal assistants.
III. Capacity building
The Chairpersons welcome the comprehensive consideration of capacity building, the goal of which is to support increased compliance by States parties with and effective implementation of their obligations. Capacity building for States parties on their obligations under the human rights treaties is crucial, as is equivalent support for OHCHR’s capacity to assist in this process. Member States should provide additional resources for capacity building from the regular budget.
Since State party reporting to treaty bodies is a means to advance the protection of human rights at the national level, the Chairpersons would urge increased collaboration among OHCHR, UNCTs and UN Agencies to develop the capacity of States parties to report to treaty bodies and to implement treaty body recommendations, in particular with respect to the follow-up procedures of the treaty bodies, where applicable. In this regard, the treaty bodies have called for the establishment of national coordination mechanisms mandated with reporting to treaty bodies and facilitating the implementation of their recommendations. The involvement of national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and the wider civil society is essential for successful capacity building.
IV. Accessibility & visibility
The Chairpersons welcome the call in the text on the Secretary-General to ensure the progressive fulfilment of accessibility standards and reasonable accommodation which are essential components of the inclusive nature of the treaty bodies.
The Chairpersons further look forward to the generalization, as of 2015, of UN live webcasts and video archives of public meetings of the human rights treaty bodies to enhance the full accessibility and visibility of treaty bodies.
Some committees have facilitated the interactive dialogue with State parties through video-conferencing. While face-to-face dialogue with States parties at treaty body meetings should remain the primary format, treaty bodies may allow for the dialogue to be supported by videoconferencing on a case-by-case basis, in particular as regards States parties with severe resource constraints.
V. Working methods, harmonization & State party review
The Chairpersons are aware of the continuing need to make enhancements in their working methods. The General Assembly also has an important role to play in financing the treaty body system. Under their respective treaties, however, the treaty bodies remain alone obliged to determine the nature of the functions assigned to them, for example, with regard to the content of concluding observations and general comments.
The harmonization and improvement of working methods by treaty bodies, both individually and collectively, has long been the practice of the treaty bodies and will remain an ongoing endeavour. In recent times, progress has been made by various committees with respect to the efficient preparation of draft lists of issues, for example through inter-sessional consultations and task forces with a view to accelerate their adoption, the use of paperless procedures, the holding of stakeholder meetings outside official meeting time, and the shortening of concluding observations.
Should the treaty bodies decide to use dual chambers, the resulting resource implications must be met, including the particular needs for reasonable accommodation for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Several treaty bodies have already adopted the simplified reporting procedure (“list of issues prior to reporting”) and the possibility of implementing this is already being considered by other treaty bodies.
Human rights treaty bodies have appreciated opportunities to engage in direct discussions with States parties. Treaty bodies remain committed to formulating their concluding observations on the basis of dialogue with States and other stakeholders.
The Chairpersons welcome the invitation for an open and formal interactive dialogue with States during the annual meeting of Chairpersons where issues of concern can be raised by States parties in a constructive manner, whenever such meetings are held in Geneva or New York.
The Chairpersons consider that respect for the jurisdictional responsibility of the treaty bodies should be respected in the final resolution of the inter-governmental treaty body strengthening process.
Finally, the Chairpersons welcome the strong statement included in the draft resolution, condemning acts of intimidation and reprisals towards those who contribute to the work of the human rights treaty bodies, urging States to take appropriate actions to prevent and eliminate such violations of human rights.
The strengthening process will be effective to the extent that concrete change is brought to the lives of women, men, and children so that their human rights are protected and their human dignity upheld.
The treaty bodies, which are at the heart of the human rights protection system, are at a critical juncture. The treaty bodies stand ready to move forward with the General Assembly on undertaking and implementing the urgent action needed and look forward to the progress that can and must be achieved.
Mr. Claudio Grossman, Chairperson of human rights treaty bodies and Committee against Torture
Mr. Malcolm Evans, Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson of human rights treaty bodies and Chairperson, Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
Mr. Alexey Avtonomov, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Mr. Zdzislaw Kedzia, Chairperson, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Sir Nigel Rodley, Chairperson, Human Rights Committee
Ms. Nicole Ameline, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Ms. Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chairperson, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Mr. Emmanuel Decaux, Chairperson, Committee on Enforced Disappearances
Mr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Vice-Chairperson, Committee on the Rights of the Child