Friday, June 3, 2016

Treaty body chairs meeting -- final day (June 3)

This post concludes my daily commentary on the agenda items of the Treaty Body Chairs meeting taking place in New York this week. Today I will comment on the final day’s agenda (June 3).

Friday Agenda (June 3)

The Committee is scheduled to discuss the following topics:
  • Any other business including next year’s agenda (item 11(c))
  • Adoption of the final report of this session (item 12)
I don't have any comments on the final topic (adoption  of report), but will split my comments on the first item into two parts -- (1) any other business and (2) next year's agenda

(1) Any other business (item 11(c))

Other than next year's agenda, which I will comment on in the next section, here is the open space on the Committee's agenda to consider new ideas. What else can be done to improve the effectiveness of the treaty body system? 

Some of the topics I would like to see more focus on include the following: 

  • disability access -- are the meetings and information of the treaty body system as accessible as possible to persons with disabilities? This is not just a topic for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All Committees should be attentive to this issue and all meetings should be adequately equipped to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities to participate. Is there a fire evacuation plan in place for all public meetings of the treaty body system that includes how to evacuate a large number of disabled persons if they were in attendance?
  • new technologies -- how can the treaty body system make better use of new technologies? Is the system preparing adequately for potential cyber attacks or cyber surveillance of confidential information in the system? Should the High Commissioner consider creating a post for a CTO -- chief technology officer, who could advise the High Commissioner and treaty bodies on strengthening and improving technology systems?
  • size of committees -- do the current treaty bodies have the right number of members? I'm thinking in particular about the Committee Against Torture with just 10 members, yet a workload heavier than most other Committees. 
  • CMW -- how can the entire system work to improve the ratification numbers for the Convention on Migrant Workers which is in danger of being left behind as the system grows
  • implementation -- how can implementation be strengthened across the board?
  • current events -- how can the treaty bodies be as relevant as possible to current events that involve human rights? What role should treaty bodies play when major events like the Arab Spring, earthquakes or other humanitarian disasters, or migration flows occur?
  • civil society -- are there new ways to engage civil society more effectively?
  • improve reporting compliance -- how to develop better state compliance to reporting and follow up obligations? 
  • master calendar idea -- should a UPR style master calendar be adopted, with evaluations going forward on non-reporting states in the absence of a report

(2) Next year's agenda (item 11(c))

Here is a compilation of suggestions I have made in my other posts for agenda items next year, plus a few more:
  • Implementation should be a standing item on each year’s meeting agenda
  • Improve the jurisprudence database, including how to harmonize it with other such databases of other regional institutions
  • How to improve NGO participation in the annual treaty body chairs meeting and in the treaty body system as a whole
  • Broaden the scope of reporting compliance by adding to next year’s report information on state reports, inquiries, follow up procedures, interim measures, and OPCAT responses.  Compare the current year to past years on each of these classifications
  • Ideally a system like the treaty body system should be effectively managed and good management requires good data. Some more thought should be given to what types of data would be most useful for the treaty body chairs, each individual treaty body and the OHCHR office, to better manage their parts of the system
  • Perhaps take a broader look at complaint mechanisms on next year’s agenda, to explore effectiveness, backlog, staff resources, workload planning, data compilation, and other management related issues; complaints for these purposes should also include inquiries, early warnings, urgent actions, reprisals, etc. All of the different types of complaint mechanisms should be measured, published, explained, and be part of annual summaries


There are many valuable topics to discuss and only a limited amount of time available, but I hope the treaty body chairs are able to reflect on these suggestions and others made during the meeting, in order to continually improve the effectiveness of the treaty system.

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