Introduction

This Guide is intended for UN staff – including non-experts in the human rights field. It aims to provide an overview on how UN Country Teams (UNCTs) can strengthen engagement with the international human rights machinery, specifically with UN Treaty Bodies, UN charter-based mechanisms including Special Procedures and the Human Rights Councils’ Universal Periodic Review process and the ILO supervisory mechanism.

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UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international human rights law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.

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UN Charter Based Mechanisms

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights and reports directly to the UN General Assembly. It is an inter-governmental body made up of 47 UN Member States, each Member being elected for a 3-year term. The Human Rights Council has a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights globally, to address situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.

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UN Special Procedures

The term ‘special procedures’ refers to the list of mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to report and advise on human rights from a thematic and country-specific perspective. Special procedures cover all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social as well as issues relating to specific groups.

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Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was created by the General Assembly in 2006 and is carried out by an inter-governmental working group of the Human Rights Council. Its objective is to review the status of all Member States’ human rights obligations. It also allows the sharing of best practices among States and other stakeholders and ultimately aims at the improvement of the human rights situation nationally. While experts make recommendations in the Treaty Body and Special Procedures mechanisms, the UPR is a state-driven process, whereby the State itself voluntarily endorses the recommendations provided by its peers.

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ILO supervisory machinery and bodies

Since 1919, representatives of governments, employers and workers have come together to adopt international labour standards – 189 Conventions, giving rise to international treaty obligations, as well as over 200 Recommendations. The ILO has a comprehensive and long-standing supervisory system, with a range of different and mutually reinforcing mechanisms. The main ILO supervisory mechanism linked to governments’ regular reporting obligation under ratified Conventions, and addressing all Conventions, is the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (Committee of Experts). The Committee of Experts considers annually over 2000 country reports.

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