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1. Understanding the Special Procedures

1.9 Follow-up – What do the Special Procedures do?

In this section you will examine the ways that Special Procedures follow-up on their own actions to push for change.

Technically there is nothing to prevent Special Procedures from conducting follow-up visits, or monitoring cases over the longer term, however in practice there are a number of obstacles.


There is very limited capacity for Special Procedures to follow up on communications in a systematic way and to closely monitor a case over time. However, if they receive updated information on a situation, they may send a ‘follow-up’ communication to the government, which will also seek a reply to the previous communication(s) if none has been received.

Statements and press releases

There is no system in place for Special Procedures to follow up on statements they have made. Where a press release is connected to a communication, see above.

Country visits

Although an ‘official’ follow-up visit is most desirable because it leads to a new report and recommendations on a country situation, it requires an invitation from the State, which can be very difficult to obtain – especially if the first report was very critical!

Thematic Special Procedures have a ‘universal’ mandate (they cover the whole globe) and it is difficult to justify visiting one country twice when others have not yet received a single visit (and Special Procedures can only conduct 2-3 visits per year). Resources are limited.

Special Procedures have found ways of working around these challenges, for example, by making unofficial or academic visits, even if they cannot publish a report with recommendations, or using an individual case to build up an issue that was the subject of a previous report.


  • A former Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights undertook a follow-up analysis on the implementation of recommendations in her country visit reports

  • The Special Rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation has done similar work

Thematic reports

The focus of Special Procedures is usually to explore new areas, rather than to revisit a topic that they or a predecessor has already examined in depth. However, where there have been major developments (usually over a period of at least five years), Special Procedures will sometimes dedicate a second thematic report to follow up on the first.


  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – under a former mandate holder – published a report on women human rights defenders in 2011, and a subsequent mandate holder published a follow up to that report in 2019.

In the next section, you'll find out more about the crucial role that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the work of the Special Procedures.

Learn more

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