|“To strengthen the UN system’s ability to prevent and respond to serious human rights violations, recommendations from the human rights mechanisms, including the Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), will be more fully integrated in the work of the Organization at country, regional and headquarters level. (Action: All UN entities)”
Secretary-General’s Decision No. 2014/5, “UN support to the Implementation of Universal Periodic Review and other Human Rights Mechanisms’ Recommendations”, August 2014
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.
The original web-based Guide was developed by UNDP in 2007 following a virtual knowledge exchange facilitated by the UN Human Rights Policy network – HuriTALK. Drawing on this initiative, and on subsequent developments and years of experience supporting UNCT engagement with the international human rights machinery, as well as recent coordination efforts established through the UNDG Human Rights Working Group, this updated web-based Guide is an attempt at bringing the previous resource up to date whilst documenting and distilling some good practices on engagement with the international human rights machinery.
This updated version therefore, includes new information on the human rights machinery including the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and a new section on the ILO’s supervisory machinery. Updated case studies and lessons learned have also been distilled and an additional section on useful resources and links has been included.
It has been prepared by UNDP in close coordination with the UNDG Human Rights Working Group and its member agencies, funds and programmes. One of the objectives of the UNDG Human Rights Working Group is promoting a coordinated and coherent UN system-wide approach towards the integration of human rights principles and international standards into UN operational activities for development.
In the 2005 World Summit, UN Member States reaffirmed their commitment to ‘actively protecting and promoting all human rights’ and to supporting ‘the further mainstreaming of human rights throughout the United Nations system, as well as closer cooperation between the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and all relevant United Nations bodies’. This commitment requires increasing interaction and strengthened engagement with the international human rights machinery. Concurrently, one of the three integrated programming principles of the 2017 UNDAF Guidance that provide the normative foundation for the UNDAF is “human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment,” further cementing the importance of human rights at country level and further highlighting the interconnections between human rights and development.
The term human rights machinery in this Guide is used to refer to the UN Treaty Bodies and the UN Charter-based mechanisms, which include the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), as well as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) supervisory bodies. OHCHR serves as a secretariat to the UN mechanisms, while the International Labour Office services the ILO mechanisms.
The mechanisms, albeit different in nature, feed into each other and are mutually reinforcing. Taken as a whole, their recommendations are critical in translating legal obligations and State’s commitments into a practical roadmap to improve the human rights situation in any country and further sustainable development
Strengthening engagement means ensuring that UN Country Teams (UNCTs) understand the role they can play in supporting human rights mechanisms, and vice versa, to understand the relevance of these mechanisms to their own work, and to use these mechanisms to further human rights and development goals at the national level.
Contributions from the UNCT, individually or collectively, to the UN human rights mechanisms are invaluable to identifying human rights challenges and priorities at country level and assessing the progress made by the State towards the implementation of previous recommendations. In turn, the recommendations made by the UN human rights mechanisms, when benefitting from engagement with the Resident Coordinator (RC) and the UNCT, become more focused, implementable, and therefore more relevant to the work of the UN system at country level. Above all, UNCTs can assist States in developing frameworks to integrate the recommendations emanating from these mechanisms into a coherent whole and can make a difference in supporting the implementation of all recommendations and effectively ‘bringing rights home’.
This Guide aims to provide practical ways to interact with all the human rights mechanisms and is organized in 3 parts:
- Part One: UN Treaty Bodies are committees of independent experts nominated and elected to monitor implementation of the international human rights treaties. Each committee provides oversight of the implementation of the human rights treaty to which it is related (for example, the Committee on the Rights of the Child was created by the Convention on the Rights of the Child).
- Part Two: UN Charter-based bodies including Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Charter-based bodies, which are now associated to the Human Rights Council (HRC), monitor adherence to human rights standards across all UN member states. They include Special Procedures, which are mandated to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special Procedures can be either individuals (called ‘Special Rapporteurs’ or ‘Independent Experts’) or a working group of five experts. Special Procedures mandate holders are appointed by the Human Rights Council and serve in their personal capacity. They are independent, are not UN staff and do not represent any particular country or region. In contrast, the UPR is a State-driven human rights peer-review process. The objective of the UPR is to regularly review the actions Member States have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.
- Part Three: The ILO supervisory bodies include a range of mutually reinforcing mechanisms, including notably the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which is responsible for examining on a regular basis the implementation in law and practice of ratified international labour conventions. There are also a number of grievance mechanisms, including the representation and complaints procedures, as well as specific procedures dealing with freedom of association.
Each part provides a summary of the mandate and activities of the different mechanisms and signals how UNCTs can best engage directly in that work, with case studies to illustrate examples of engagement. A UNCT checklist is provided at the end of each section and there are useful resources and web links.
The finalization of this updated web-based Guide on Strengthening Engagement with the International Human Rights Machinery has been completed by UNDP through support from the Global Human Rights Strengthening Programme (GHRSP) and the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund (DGTTF). Thanks are also due to the UNDG Human Rights Working Group for funding the web-version of the Guide.
The authors of the updated web-based Guide are Sarah Rattray, UNDP and Louise Nylin and Eric Anderson, Consultants. This updated web-based Guide has benefited from the contributions of colleagues working on mainstreaming human rights across the UN system coordinated through the UNDG Human Rights Working Group. Valuable contributions from the following colleagues are gratefully acknowledged with thanks: Asako Nozawa, Catherine de Preux, Rio Hada, Jeroen Klok, Christina Meinecke, Luis Rodriguez-Piñero, Nathalie Rondeux, Birgit Van Hout, OHCHR; Ida Krogh Mikkelsen, UNFPA; Katerine Landuyt, Shauna Olney, ILO; Janette Amer, UN Women; Nicola Brandt, Mitra Motlagh, UNICEF; Eric Anderson, Antonio Cisneros de Alencar, Emilie Filmer-Wilson, DOCO; Laurence Klein, Jagoda Walorek, Marta Vallejo, UNDP.
Useful links and resources
UN Web TV http://webtv.un.org/
Universal Human Rights Index – a web-based, searchable database containing all recommendations of the international human rights mechanisms which can also be a useful tool to cluster recommendations: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en
Webcasting as a training tool: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org
Country specific information about the Treaty and Charter-based bodies including information on the timeline for UPR reporting and recommendations from the first cycle, which treaties a specific country has signed and ratified, its reporting status, as well as the most recent Treaty Body and Special Procedures visits, reports and observations/recommendations to governments: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/Pages/HumanRightsintheWorld.aspx
I know Gender: An introduction to Gender for UN staff: https://trainingcentre.unwomen.org/course/description.php?id=2
UN Support to the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review and other Human Rights Mechanisms Recommendations (Policy Committee Decision 2014/5 To access this document, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Case Studies 2013: https://undg.org/main/undg_document/human-rights-mainstreaming-case-studies-english/
 Except CESCR, which was created through an ECOSOC resolution