This paper is presented by 20 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who contribute directly to many aspects of the work of the treaty bodies, including by encouraging national partners in their use of the system. We share a common goal in wanting to enable individuals to better enjoy their rights under the international human rights treaties, and we are therefore keen for the treaty bodies to develop into a system that can effectively support this aim.
Since its adoption in November 2009, the Dublin Statement has been a catalyst for stake-holders to reflect on how the current treaty body system could be further enhanced. We welcome the Dublin Statement initiative and endorse many of the principles contained therein. We welcome also the commitments contained in the Marrakech Statement of national human rights institutions of June 2010, and the new proposals developed by treaty body experts as reflected in the Poznan Statement of October 2010. We believe that the reform discussions will be greatly enriched by input from national NGOs and we therefore encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including its regional offices, to ensure that national NGOs are consulted in this process, and we urge national partners to submit their recommendations to the OHCHR and to the treaty bodies.
On the first anniversary of the adoption of the Dublin Statement, we present our initial comments on the parameters, methods and objectives of reform as contained in that document, and offer some proposals for strengthening the treaty bodies. Some of these build on the recommendations to enhance the relationship between NGOs and the treaty bodies that were presented to the 9th Inter-Committee Meeting in June 2009, in a document entitled “United Nations: 9th Inter-Committee Meeting of the treaty bodies – contribution of non-governmental organizations” (AI Index: IOR 40/006/2009).
Reform of the treaty bodies is an on-going process to ensure effectiveness of a system which is continually growing in size and complexity. Yet changes in structure and working methods will only ever go so far towards enhanced human rights protection on the ground. Governments also have to meet their primary obligation to ensure the effective realization of rights.
We call on States which have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the international human rights treaties and their protocols and to do so without entering reservations that limit their obligations. We urge States to accept the treaty bodies’ communications procedures and confidential inquiries procedures. Furthermore, we encourage all States to fulfil their obligations as parties to the international human rights treaties in good faith – by implementing, and keeping under review, laws, policies and practices which are in accordance with the treaties, by providing effective remedies when rights are violated, preparing timely and relevant reports for the treaty bodies after a process of thorough national consultations, and reflecting recommendations from treaty bodies in national implementation plans and other national human rights frameworks.
This paper contains 30 recommendations to the treaty bodies, the OHCHR and States. These are summarized at the end of the document. It also contains a list of signatory NGOs and the commitment of our organizations to engagement with the treaty bodies. We look forward to participating in and contributing to continued discussions of treaty body reform.