You can engage with Treaty Bodies in all areas of their work – periodic reviews, individual communications, general comments, inquiries, early warnings and urgent actions, and by following up on Treaty Body actions.
This section focuses on:
Following up with Treaty Bodies
There are a number of ways you can follow up on the activities and outputs of Treaty Bodies. Examine them below, and then use the reflection questions to think about how you could follow up on action already taken.
One way of following up is to disseminate widely and get news coverage of action taken by Treaty Bodies. This can help bring attention to the issue in your country and put pressure on the government to respond in some way, including implementing the recommendations.
Venezuela was reviewed by five Treaty Bodies (CCPR, CESCR, CEDAW, CAT, CRC) between 2014 and 2015. Over 30 national and international NGOs, including NGO networks, worked in coalitions to submit comprehensive and focused reports to the Treaty Bodies, in both English and Spanish, which covered a wide range of rights covered by the treaties. The NGOs created a dedicated twitter account @VE_ONU and website through which they disseminated information related to the treaties, the reviews and NGO requests.
The NGOs designed pictograms to illustrate their reports to the Treaty Bodies and the Treaty Body recommendations, which they widely disseminated through social media. They covered the review of Venezuela through live tweeting – despite the time difference – and they disseminated public statements and media releases.
When national authorities resorted to verbal intimidation and public slander against the HRDs who participated in the review, the NGO group immediately took action which notably led to the adoption of a formal communication to Venezuela by three UN Special Rapporteurs.
When the Treaty Bodies’ recommendations were made public, the NGOs disseminated them widely to the national media and through social media. They provided information on the follow up procedures, the Treaty Bodie’s grading system in simple and accessible format. They also submitted follow up reports to the Treaty Bodies to suggest grades reflecting the level of state compliance, or lack thereof, of the Treaty Bodies’ recommendations.
You can monitor the efforts of the government to implement the concluding observations and recommendations of the Treaty Bodies, and report this information back to the Committees either through formal submissions or informally. See ISHR Academy: Engaging prior to the Treaty Body review and ISHR Academy Participating in the Treaty Body review and post-review follow up.
Producing a follow-up report for the periodic review process is a key means by which you can help a Treaty Body assess the level of implementation of the concluding observations by the State party.
You can also push for governments to implement the concluding observations made by Treaty Bodies. This may include holding meetings or conferences with government officials and NGOs, meeting members of parliament individually, or relevant parliamentary committees (for example, on human rights or foreign affairs) and discussing the Treaty Body recommendations with State delegates. Parliamentarians in particular have a key role to play in the implementation of human rights treaties and recommendations of Treaty Bodies.
During your discussion, you should particularly emphasise those recommendations that have been prioritised and specifically identified for follow-up within six months or a year (depending on the practice of the relevant Treaty Body). The shorter time limit coupled with prioritisation of those particular recommendations can help place additional pressure on the State to implement them, and also help the State to identify long-term and short-term goals.
Finally, you can work with your government to implement Treaty Body concluding observations and recommendations, and to promote legislative or policy reforms. You can also use the concluding observations and recommendations to guide your own work at the regional, national or local levels.
A number of countries have adopted national implementation plans for international human rights recommendations, including from Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures and the UPR, often with international support (primarily from OHCHR). Recommendations from regional human rights mechanisms may also be included in such plans.
For example, the Committee against Torture adopted a follow-up policy (section 4) under which States are asked to adopt implementation plans on the Committee’s recommendations. Such plans can contribute to significant coordination between relevant stakeholders and progress towards compliance and implementation of recommendations at national level. International NGOs, the diplomatic community, and UN agencies, notably the OHCHR and UNDP, can often support the development and delivery of such plans.
In Tunisia, the government developed a national plan to implement the recommendations of the Committee Against Torture (CAT), with the participation of civil society. This represents a good example of positive State and civil society cooperation on follow up to CAT concluding observations.
In Samoa, the government authorities developed an implementation plan which encompasses all recommendations from UN Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures, Universal Periodic Review and the National Human Rights Institution using an open source software. NGOs were consulted in the drafting of this implementation plan. The platform is a permanent public portal where civil society can:
track progress to hold duty bearers accountable
access implementation data and recommendations to inform their own work and advocacy, and identify implementation gaps
contribute their own data relating to any of the indicators, which raises the profile of their work and organisation, helps to avoid duplication, and contributes to the coordinated approach which National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow up (NMRFs) should be seeking to achieve
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow up (NMRFs) are important allies in the national follow up process. In countries where NHRIs are independent and can be considered as partners, NGOs can and should coordinate and cooperate with NHRIs on strategies and tactics related to follow up to views and recommendations. In many countries, NGOs can cooperate with NHRIs on the preparation of country reviews.
For more information on NHRI interaction with the Treaty Bodies, see the Role of NHRIs in the UN Treaty Body Process (German Institute for Human Rights).
In countries which have NMRFs, NGOs may be able to engage with these state coordination bodies on the preparation of country reviews, and follow up to recommendations. In some countries, NMRFs, which are State coordination committees, have NGOs integrated in their structure.
In countries without NMRFs or where NMRFs have a weak or no cooperation with civil society, NGOs can lobby for the establishment of an NMRF, enhanced cooperation with civil society.
For more information on NMRFs, see:
See also ISHR Academy: NGO coalitions and coordination with other actors
In addition to engaging with NHRIs and NMRFs during follow-up, you may wish to involve a range of other relevant actors, such as parliamentary committees, trade unions, and UN agencies. You may wish to start with a comprehensive mapping of actors that will be concerned with the implementation of the recommendations.
For efficiency, you may wish to consolidate your efforts on follow up, by bringing together the recommendations from various human rights mechanisms. There are numerous examples of national follow up processes which review not only recommendations of Treaty Bodies, but also those from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, as well as recommendations from Special Procedures and regional human rights mechanisms.
For more information on the involvement of other actors in follow up:
The Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project supports the establishment and functioning of NMRFs in the Pacific region, and the engagement of various actors in the preparation and follow up of Treaty Body and UPR reviews.
Centre for Civil and Political Rights has published Implementation of Human Rights Committee recommendations: What role for States, NHRIs, and civil society? (2015) Regional consultation report - Eastern and Southern Africa
Inquiry reports are powerful assessments of serious human rights violations in a particular State. Once an inquiry report (or a report summary) is released by a Treaty Body, you can:
You can encourage Treaty Body members to share the information gathered from their country visit during the Treaty Body session (periodic review) of the concerned State.
In the case of SPT official visits, you can lobby relevant decision makers to make sure that the State will allow for the SPT country visit report to be made public.
See examples in ISHR Academy: Country visits
If you have made a third-party intervention, you may decide to make your submission public to promote the issue or stimulate public debated. However, in some cases the OHCHR may request you not to disclose the contents of your submission while the communication is pending before the Treaty Body.
You can meet (or discuss) with individual Treaty Body members to keep them up to date on how their decisions (views and recommendations) on individual communications have been implemented. In addition, keeping in touch with and maintaining a relationship with the relevant TB Net member is useful for monitoring and if you wish to engage further with Treaty Bodies.
It's not always possible to come to Geneva to advocate, so in the next section we will explore the different ways you can engage without travelling.