An Insider’s View on UN Treaty Bodies in 2020

In our new Working Paper published with the Paris Human Rights Center, Professor Olivier de Frouville shares his own views on the work of United Nations (UN) treaty bodies (TBs) during the period running from March to December 2020.

In the 20 pages of The United Nations Treaty Bodies in a Transition Period – Progress Review, he analyses the work of UN TBs at a critical moment: during this pivotal year, UN TBs had to adapt their work to the COVID-19 pandemic and start implementing at the same time the recommendations emanating from the 2020 review process.

‘Professor de Frouville has worked for more than twenty years as an expert in the UN human right system and knows this environment extremely well. As a current member of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, he was at the forefront of UN TBs work during 2020’ explains Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

‘This working paper will therefore be an important source of information and inspiration for those – inside and outside the TB system – who are implementing the recommendations of the 2020 TB review process’ he adds.

Learning from the Measures Taken to Adapt to the COVID-19 Crisis

De Frouville shows in this paper how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the functioning of the TB system and how UN TBs adapted both procedurally and substantially to the situation.

‘The coincidence of the 2020 review and the pressure to move TB sessions online due to the COVID-19 created real-life examples of what the 2020 review outcome calls the digital shift in TB work. It therefore allowed to draw lessons on the opportunities but also limitations of online meetings. This experience is therefore of crucial importance to assess some of the recommendations formulated in the review’ says Felix Kirchmeier.

Detailing the Steps to Implement the 2020 Review Recommendations

The 2020 Review is the most recent effort to strengthen the UN human rights TB system, building upon efforts underway for over 30 years.

This working paper details steps undertaken by different stakeholders – states, TB members, NGOs, academia and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – during this decisive year to implement the recommendations emanating from the review. The paper also includes a detailed account of the Geneva Human Rights Platform’s initiative on the review.

‘In relation to our initiative, it was particularly interesting to see how TBs and OHCHR shifted official dialogues with states and other TB activities online, and how they coordinated internally. The example of the inter-committee working group on COVID-19 is a positive development in terms of inter-committee coordination, which could also tackle further areas of general harmonization.

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