15 July 2013
The Human Rights Committee this morning discussed its methods of work, hearing a briefing about the treaty body strengthening process and discussing the draft statement of the chairpersons of the treaty bodies on the post-2015 development agenda, as well as the creation of a mandate of Special Rapporteur on new communications.
Opening the discussion, Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, informed the Committee members about the meeting of the treaty bodies’ chairpersons that took place in New York in May, in the context of the treaty body strengthening process initiated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A resolution of the General Assembly initiated by a cross-regional group of States launched a process of enhancement of the treaty body system. The co-facilitators, Iceland and Indonesia, invited the chairpersons of all the treaty bodies, as well as other stakeholders, to provide them with inputs. Many States parties to treaty bodies had participated and several meetings were held with regional groups and the co-facilitators. The co-facilitators had prepared a draft that was under discussion. The consultations were still on-going and a draft resolution would be submitted to the plenary of the General Assembly in the coming weeks. If the Committee had new ideas, the co-facilitators would take them on board.
Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the meeting was an eye opener for delegations in New York after realizing the importance of the participation of the chairs in the process. The chairpersons’ statement was negotiated line-by-line and had an excellent impact on the discussion. Mr. Salama mentioned that it was proposed to link the resources allocated to a treaty body to the number of States parties of its treaty and that one single financial request for all treaty bodies would be prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner and submitted to the General Assembly. The budget division struggled with the budget incidences of the draft resolution under discussion. The independence and relevance of the Committees would be protected. No additional page limitations would be added, except with regards to national reports. The chairpersons were very clear in saying that additional resources were needed. The challenges faced by the treaty body system required the General Assembly to take decisions. The biggest risk was the postponement of the process.
Three Experts who had participated in the meeting said that the treaty bodies’ members had shared their experience with the States parties and had called on the General Assembly not to interfere with the work of the treaty bodies. The treaty bodies were exercising a quasi-judicial function and should not be limited with regards to the length of the documents they produced. An Expert hoped that the General Assembly’s decision would not damage the Committees’ work.
During the discussion, Experts asked for information on the present state of the negotiations in New York. Had the Committee still any room to make an impact on the discussions? It was noted that the draft resolution circulated earlier referred to issues and measures which the Committee had suggested. The main problem of the treaty body system was the issue of underreporting by some States parties. A comprehensive reporting calendar had to be set up. Even without a comprehensive reporting calendar, the Committee could produce a reporting calendar for the States parties to know when they were expected to report before the Committee.
An Expert said that he had been expecting a more ambitious approach. The work of the treaty bodies had to be rationalized. The proposals made were interesting but did not constitute a true reform, which the treaty body system needed. He expressed his disappointment that the discussions focused on details such as administrative and financial issues, which were important, but noted that the real issues of the treaty body system reform were not linked to word limits and financial resources. Another Expert asked if the resolution of the General Assembly would infringe on the independence of the Committee and, if yes, in what ways. It was desirable to consider seriously the use of dual chambers as long as there was a reporting backlog. Another Expert pointed out that misunderstandings existed on what the treaty body system reform was to be and underlined that a step-by-step approach could give rise to tangible reforms. An Expert said that the reform involved two avenues: the protection of the independence of the committees and the establishment of clear criteria for the election of committee members.
Mr. Rodley said that no comprehensive solution that would deal with all structural difficulties would be found during the present treaty body strengthening process. The process would end up with more resources for the Committee and savings would be made here and there.
The Committee then turned to the draft statement of the chairpersons of the treaty bodies on the post-2015 development agenda, which highlighted the importance of a human rights-based approach and included a reference to the issue of corruption and its underlying negative effects on human rights. The Committee could take action on the statement at a later stage.
The Committee also discussed the next meeting with States parties and Mr. Rodley underlined that the Committee was aware of the importance of cost-effectiveness and efficiency in carrying out its mandate.
Finally, the Experts discussed the establishment of a mandate of Special Rapporteur on new communications and noted that clear criteria were needed for the registration of new communications.
The Human Rights Committee will resume its work this afternoon, at 3 p.m., to consider the second periodic report of Albania (CCPR/C/ALB/2).
For use of the information media; not an official record