Special procedures of the Human Rights Council and their impact

The Special Procedures system, which is now composed of 56 mandates that cover all international human rights, has made important achievements in the last 50 years since the appointment of the first mandate holder. Special Procedures are viewed as the most accessible UN human rights mechanism, and the system is often characterized as the eyes and ears of the Human Rights Council as it receives information daily from people from all around the world. Thematic special procedures are able to positively impact human rights relevant to their respective mandate in all countries, while country mandates can create positive impact on all human rights issues in the countries they are established to address. Most importantly, both thematic and country mandates closely cooperate with States to provide them with expert advice and recommendations on implementing their international human rights obligations. Special Procedures are also often the first human rights mechanism to draw attention to emerging issues or situations.

Yet the question of the impact of the work of Special Procedures and how to document it has been a longstanding issue. A non-exhaustive compilation of examples of impact of the work of special procedures will soon be provided below to illustrate the various ways in which special procedures contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights at all levels.

This impact can take many forms. It could for example be a revision of a law, the adoption of a new policy decision, the change in the mind-set of a country toward a specific issue, a positive outcome for specific individuals, the documentation and the end of a specific human rights violation or the prevention of it, a successful contribution to UN processes such as migration or climate change, the development of new standards or, more generally, raising awareness about a human rights issues and facilitating dialogue and advocacy on these issues. The main forms of impact could be classified as follows, without making any hierarchy among them:

  • Legislative reform
  • Policy reform
  • Contribution to governmental and/ or judicial processes
  • Raising human rights awareness
  • Prevention and/ or cessation of human rights violations
  • Mechanisms of redress
    • Accountability
    • Victim support
    • Access to reparation mechanisms
  • Human rights mainstreaming
    • United Nations and all its Bodies and Agencies
    • Regional mechanisms
  • Human rights standard setting
  • Facilitating dialogue and/ or coalition building