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More efficient and effective: UN Secretary General’s report on strengthened Treaty Body system

GENEVA (4 August 2016) – The UN treaty bodies have become more efficient and effective in the two years since the General Assembly adopted a resolution to strengthen the overall system, but more work by all stakeholders and eventually more resources are needed to elevate the treaty body system to the required level of efficiency and impact, a report by the UN Secretary General has concluded. 

The first biennial report by the Secretary General on the status of the treaty body system has just been published in the six UN languages. In it, the Secretary General notes that the state of implementation of General Assembly resolution 68/268 is “globally positive, reaffirming the importance and relevance of the treaty body system for the protection and promotion of human rights and demonstrating its dynamic and responsive nature.” However, more progress can be achieved “as the harmonization of working methods by the treaty bodies is progressing with varying results.”

The report, in an innovative way of progressive assessment by the UN of the functioning of one of its human rights mechanisms, covers the period from April 2014, when the resolution was adopted, until June 2016.

The resolution increased the treaty bodies’ meeting time, which the report notes, “had the desired effect of increasing the number of concluding observations, decisions and views adopted by the treaty bodies.” However, “it also placed great demands on treaty body members, who serve on an independent, pro bono basis, in terms of availability and workload.”

The report also notes that there has been a sharp rise in individual communications submitted to the committees, while the Committee on Enforced Disappearances has seen the number of urgent actions regarding disappeared persons registered per year increase from 5 in 2013 to 211 in 2015.

The Secretary General particularly welcomes the positive reaction by States to the capacity building programme set up and implemented by the UN Human Rights Office to support States in their engagement with the Treaty Bodies. 

In the same vein, the UN Human Rights Office is currently running a pilot project, funded by extra-budgetary resources from the European Union, to provide webcasting and video-archiving of the treaty body meetings until June 2017. The report requests the General Assembly to provide regular budget funding for webcasting, given its importance for capacity-building, and the visibility and accessibility of the treaty bodies’ work.

The General Assembly is due to consider in 2020 further action on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the treaty body system.

In this regard, the Secretary General encourages “all States and other stakeholders to contribute to that reflection based on the progressive assessment of which this report is the beginning.”
Report and annexes are available here:

More information:
Birgit Van Hout:  bvanhout@ohchr.org /41 22 917 9675

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