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A new report on the Special Procedures system reveals a set of challenges for the HRC

Last updated: 26.03.2014 // The Permanent Missions of Norway and Turkey and the Universal Rights Group hosted a lunchtime reception on Wednesday March 19 at Palais des Nations in Geneva to create a venue to discuss how strengthen the output of the Human Rights Council’.

The Human Rights Council has contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. Two of the main ways in which the Council seeks to strengthen the enjoyment of human rights and to have impact on-the-ground, is through resolutions expressing the political will of the international community and through the establishment of mechanisms, such as Special Procedure mandates.

At the reception a set of challenges that The Human Rights Council is facing was discussed. A new publication by the Brookings Institution and the Universal Rights Group on the future of the Special Procedures system was also launched. The report evaluates the effectiveness of the United Nation’s Special Procedures and makes recommendations on how to strengthen the system.

One of the key findings in the report was based on their in-depth analysis of the Special Procedures communication system, which shows that only a small proportion of all submissions by victims are actively taken up by mandate-holders. Of those that are taken up, governments respond to only around half, and of those, just 8% result in and/ or reflect substantive steps to address the alleged violation. The reports demonstrates that there should be more focused attention on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Special Procedures mechanism, and that careful targeted steps can and should be taken to better support the system.

The authors of the report states in their report that “ It is clear from this and earlier analyses that the Special Procedures are a remarkably strong and flexible mechanism that has had, and continues to have, a significant positive impact on the enjoyment of human rights around the world. However, there is a clear risk of it becoming a victim of its own success unless its rapid horizontal expansion is matched by changes in how it operates, how it interacts with states, how it is managed, resourced and overseen. In short, for the mechanism to remain sustainable, relevant and effective, it should be modernized to face the challenges of the 21st Century.”

The report puts forth a series of recommendations to strengthen the effectiveness of the special procedures, including:

  • Establish a group of friends of the special procedures to help support the mechanism through cross-regional statements and resolutions and leading cooperation by example;
  • Maintain and strengthen self-regulating features of the Special Procedures Coordinating Committee, including updating the manual to reflect social media trends and addressing complaints around the code of conduct;
  • Develop new tools to respond to human rights situations, like rapid deployment mechanisms with a standing roster of experts to make site visits;
  • Provide objective information on state cooperation with special procedures and develop regular reporting on follow-up and implementation of special procedure recommendations, along with resources for technical assistance and agenda time for debate and presentation of best practices;
  • Expand regular U.N. budget support to special procedures, reduce earmarking of voluntary contributions and improve transparency of both U.N. and non-U.N. financing in direct support of a mandate;
  • Deploy new technology to make the special procedure communications system relevant, credible and user-friendly to human rights defenders and states.

Read the whole report here.

The Permanent Missions of Norway and Turkey initiated  a Cross-regional statement during item 3 on 14 March with the support of 63 States, on improving working methods in the human rights council. The statement can be read here.

Around 120 representatives of States, NGOs and the OHCHR participated at the reception. The reception included short interventions by H.E. Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Representative of Turkey; H.E. Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, Permanent Representative of Gabon and President of the Human Rights Council; Harriet Berg, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Norway; Ted Piccone from the Brookings Institution; and Marc Limon from the Universal Rights Group.

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Did You Know?

The United Nations’ (UN) independent human rights experts, otherwise known as ‘Special Procedures’ - are considered by many to be, in the words of then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the ‘crown jewel’ of the international human rights system. Since their establishment in 1967, they have grown into one of the international community's most important tools for promoting and protecting human rights. Today, there are almost fifty separate special procedure mandates covering a wide-range of thematic and country-specific issues.