Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Treaty body chairs meeting, item 4(d)

The chairpersons of the UN human rights treaty bodies continue to meet this week in Costa Rica. Here are my comments to item 4(d) of their agenda.

 Item 4(d) Reporting compliance by states

·      More transparent statistics. It is hoped that the treaty bodies can produce more transparent statistics on state reporting compliance. See the suggested measurements I listed as examples to my comments earlier, under agenda item 4(a), posted yesterday

·      Index to prior concluding observations in the next state report. To be able to better track whether state parties respond completely to the prior concluding observations of the Committee, the state party in its next periodic report should be asked to provide an index or listing in the table of contents, indicating where the response to each recommendation can be found in the report. 

·       LOIPR. When a state party has opted for the LOIPR process, it should be made clear that they are still responsible for responding to each of the prior concluding observations of the Committee. Or if some of the recommendations have become obsolete or duplicates, this should be clearly identified by the Committee when it is issuing its list of issues to the state party. 

·      Follow up. The follow up process could also be reported more transparently – how many state parties respond on time, how adequate are the responses, what if any comments were received by NGOs to the state party’s responses. Presently most of the treaty bodies report this data either annually in their annual reports, or per session, but no summary statistics are given – a 40 page spreadsheet containing such data is not easy to analyze. Also, please make it more clear to NGOs as to when they can respond to the follow up actions of a state party, including subsequent follow up requests made to the state party after the first submission.  The NGO submissions should be posted on the Committee website, or a summary of it included in the follow up report (which is the current practice of the Human Rights Committee).

·      Press releases. Treaty bodies should consider issuing press releases or reports to the press on a country by country basis, of the follow up process and the status with respect to that particular state party.

·      Data on list of issues. would also be helpful if there were reporting data provided on responses to the list of issues by states, and the follow up requested at the end of the session if some questions were not answered during the session due to lack of time.

·      End to end reporting. In other words, reporting compliance should be measured from end to end at each step of the reporting cycle, not just on the periodic or initial report itself

·      Common core reports. Common core reports should also be monitored for latest updates and page limits.

·      Government websites. States should be encouraged to establish official government websites on their human rights treaty obligations, updated with latest information, linked to each Committee website, & cross-linked from the Committee website back to the official government website

·      NGO wish list of harmonized best practices. While the General Assembly has indicated its list of practices that it would like to see harmonized in each of the treaty bodies, nothing is mentioned about practices that would improve NGO accessibility and involvement in the treaty body system. Here is an NGO wish list of such items, focusing on best practices of particular treaty bodies where available:

Desired practice or procedure
1. Reprisals
Each committee should have a focal point and a clear procedure for responding to reprisals.
2. Follow up process for concluding observations
The follow up process for concluding observations should be made more transparent to civil society.
·       Does each Committee accept submissions from NGOs in the follow up process?
·       When should an NGO submit a report on a particular state party’s followup, if the NGO wants its report to be considered by the Committee at the same time as the state report?
·       If the state party fails to respond on time but NGO submissions are timely submitted, the Committee should consider publicly posting such NGO reports on its website and in its reports on follow up.
·       Follow up statistics should be reported each session, and should be kept timely (some Committees are letting 2 or 3 sessions pass after the 12-month due date, before beginning to list the state  party in its follow up reporting). 
·       Also the follow up reporting by the Committee should include a list of state parties who have not yet responded (and are overdue); it should not just focus on those responses that have been received.
NGOs should be given adequate notice of state parties scheduled for an LOIPR report so that the NGO can provide timely feedback into the various steps in the process.
4. Review of non-reporting states
Each treaty body should have a procedure for reviewing non-reporting states and should invite NGOs to submit reports for such reviews.
5. Table of pending cases
CESCR’s practice of posting a table of pending individual communications is very helpful.  Other treaty bodies are encouraged to follow this practice.
6. NGO briefings
Scheduling NGO briefings as close as possible to the actual state party review facilitates travel and rooming expense of the NGOs, especially ones that have come long distances. Private briefings should also be available for those who request it.
7. Videoconferencing
The availability of videoconferencing for NGOs who are long distances from Geneva and without practical means of travel, should be encouraged. Currently a few treaty bodies are experimenting with videoconferencing in a few cases. We would encourage all of the treaty bodies to have such a procedure and to clearly notify on its website how it can be invoked.
8. Webcasting
Full,  end-to-end UN quality webcasting should be provided of all public treaty body sessions, and of the public sessions of this Committee of Treaty Body Chairs.  The webcasting should be indexed and archived, readily accessible to civil society.
9. Subscribe to updates in particular webpage content
A website user should be able to subscribe to updates of specific Committee webpages so that he or she can be notified anytime new content is uploaded to the site.
10. Availability of documentation
Documentation from each treaty body session often lags 1-3 months or more after the session. This makes it very difficult for NGOs to follow up on and make use of such materials in their advocacy efforts. Better on-time availability should be sought and measured.  From my reviews CEDAW seems to be the best at providing documentation quickly in the present system, including soon after a session has concluded.
11. NGO submissions to individual complaint process
Amicus-type submissions in individual complaints. Third party input into pending individual complaints before the Committee is currently being considered in at least one Committee (CESCR), which would be a welcome addition to the procedures permitting NGO input. No Committee has yet adopted procedures of this nature, but it is hoped that this process is coming soon.
12. Implementation.
Each Committee should have a standing agenda item on implementation, considered at least in part in public session, and should regularly invite NGO comment on how to improve implementation. Also, each Committee should list on its website any documents it regularly refers to in its concluding observations that are of the nature of “implementation guidance” documents. More on this topic will be discussed under my item 6(d) comments, to be posted tomorrow.

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