Impact of the work of Special Procedures: Human rights standard setting


Maldives implement changes in laws following visit by the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights

The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights visited Maldives in June 2019 and shared with the Government, at the end of her mission, a series of preliminary observations about elements she intended to raise in her report (see A/HRC/43/50/Add.2). Between that moment and the time of presenting her report in March 2020, the Government already took action on some of the points raised by the Special Rapporteur in her preliminary observations. According to their statement during the interactive dialogue, this include:

  • the adoption of the then draft Heritage Act to safeguard the documentation, preservation and protection of cultural heritage in the country, ratified by the President in September 2019. In some instances, development projects have been halted and diverted in favour of cultural preservation;
  • the withdrawal of its reservations on subsections (b)(e)(g) and (h) of Clause 1, and Clause 2 of Article 16 of the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW);
  • the development of a National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up. In December 2019, a national human rights recommendation tracking database was launched. This database is open for the public and includes all recommendations and concluding observations from international human rights instruments and mechanisms;
  • the adoption of a Strategic Action Plan 2019-2023, which includes an entire chapter on arts, culture and heritage, outlining key strategies for preserving and promoting the cultural identity of the Maldivian people.

Other impact: Contribution to governmental and/or judicial processes


Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presents report on harmful practice conversion therapy to Council

Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, presented his report on the practices of so-called “conversion therapy” to the UN Human Rights Council. “Conversion therapy” is a term used to describe a wide range of interventions, all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can and should be changed. These practices rely on the medically false idea that LGBT and other gender-diverse persons are sick, inflicting severe pain and suffering, and resulting in long-lasting psychological and physical damage. “Conversion therapy” practices currently happen in a multitude of countries, in all regions of the world. Mental health-care providers, faith-based organizations, traditional healers and State agents perpetrate them. The Independent Expert called for a global ban on “conversion therapy” practices. Subsequently he presented highlights from the report to the public through two global launch events in English/French and Spanish/Portuguese that were streamed live on social media. The events garnered the participation of about 430 persons and more than 26.000 views. At the request of UN, State or non-State actors, the Independent Expert was then invited to present key findings and recommendations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and Canada. He also disseminated key messages through an active social media campaign. Global momentum is growing to ban practices of “conversion therapy”. Only Ecuador and Malta were considering such practices criminal and were imposing a nationwide ban at the time of the drafting of the report. Since then Germany outlawed “conversion therapy” on minors and several other countries are currently discussing the possibility of banning such practices, including Canada, France, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK.

Other Impact: raising human rights awareness


Engagement with States and other stakeholders leads to successful development and adoption of Abidjan Principles on the obligations of States to provide public education

The Special Rapporteur on the right to education engaged with States, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, and other stakeholders during a three-year consultative process to develop the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education. The Abidjan Principles, which were successfully adopted on 13 February 2019 during the Adopting Conference held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, provide key guidance on fulfilling the right to education, particularly in the context of the growing privatization of education. Many stakeholders, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, have recognized the Abidjan Principles as a reference tool for implementing the right to education. The Human Rights Council also referred to the Principles in its resolution 41/16 on the right to education.

Other Impact: Facilitating Dialogue and/or Coalition Building and Human Rights Mainstreaming – United Nations and its Bodies and Agencies & Regional Mechanisms


Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls contributes to human rights standard setting by the UN Human Rights Committee

In October 2017, the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls submitted a written submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on its General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, warning that the current formulation with regard to termination of pregnancy could lead to a regressive interpretation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, setting back the considerable progress made by UN human rights mechanisms in recognizing women's human rights to dignity, autonomy, highest attainable standard of health and respect for private life on a basis of equality with men, without discrimination. This has contributed to the progressive outcome of the final general comment.

Other Impact: Human Rights Mainstreaming – United Nations and its Bodies and Agencies


Proposed definition on prolonged solitary confinement reflected in Mandela Rules on treatment of prisoners and leads to successful court outcomes in the United Kingdom and the United States of America

In 2011, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment presented an interim report on solitary confinement to the 66th session of UN General Assembly, which, among other things, defined prolonged solitary confinement as solitary confinement exceeding 15 days (A/66/268, para. 26). The Special Rapporteur's proposed definition was then adopted at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission) conference in May 2015 and reflected in the text of the "Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners", adopted as the "Mandela Rules" by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 (A/RES/70/175, Rules 43-45). The Special Rapporteur's 2011 interim report was also cited in a United Kingdom Supreme Court (Shahid v. Scotland, October 2015) in a unanimous decision finding that solitary confinement as applied to the defendant was illegal. The Special Rapporteur also acted as an expert witness in a United States District Court case in California on the international standards applicable to solitary confinement based on his 2011 interim report. The case settled in September 2015, resulting in 90 per cent of the inmates in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay and other California prisons being moved into the general prison population.

Other Impact: Contribution to Governmental and/or Judicial Processes, Human Rights Mainstreaming – United Nations and its Bodies and Agencies, Policy Reform, and Prevention and/or Cessation of Human Rights Violations