Human Rights Council appoints seven new Special Procedures Mandate-Holders

by the URG team Blog, International human rights institutions, mechanisms and processes

The Council today moved to appoint seven new Special Procedures mandate-holders, including for the new mandate of Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (created in June 2014). These mandate-holders should have been appointed in September, during the 27th session, but the Council decided (as already happened earlier in 2014 with another batch of new mandate-holders) to postpone their decision, given controversies over the candidate proposed for the position of Independent Expert on Sudan.

With today’s appointments, there are now 51 active mandates and 75 mandate-holders. This marks a 28% increase in the number of active mandates since 2006. (The appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, scheduled for March 2015, will bring the number of active mandates to 52, and thus the increase to 30%).

This year has seen a turnover of 36% in Special Procedures mandate-holders, with a record of 27 new appointments taking place between January and November. This is largely down to the fact that it is six years (the maximum term for thematic mandate-holders) since most mandates were renewed by the Council (2007-2008), ias part of the review of mandates called for in GA resolution 60/251 (establishing the Council).

It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that the appointment of mandate-holders has proved so controversial this year, resulting in two postponements. 2014 has marked a critical moment for the Special Procedure mechanism, as over a third of the Special Procedures mandate-holders – the Council’s “eyes and ears” on the ground – have been replaced. As noted in the March 2014 URG-Brookings Institution policy report on Special Procedures, the quality, credibility and ‘gravitas’ of mandate-holders has a profound impact on the mechanism’s influence and effectiveness.

Because of this, the selection and appointment of new mandate-holders has demanded an inordinate amount of the Council’s time and focus this year. Guided by the Consultative Group, the Council has looked to identify the best candidates while maintaining gender and geographic balance – in line with the 2006 Institution-Building Package (IBP).

On the latter point, while overall there is a fairly good geographic balance, when weighted for population Africa (AG; 24%) and Asia (APG; 20%) remain under-represented.

Gender balance, however, has worsened, with the proportion of female mandate-holders now at just 39% (down from 45% in May).

Diversity of Mandate Holders (6th November 2014)

As noted in the URG-Brookings Institution report, many believe that the only way to genuinely improve diversity would be to give renewed thought to offering remuneration to Special Procedures mandate-holders, for example by providing limited monthly honoraria or by introducing a compensation structure similar to that enjoyed by special envoys or representatives of the Secretary-General. To this end, the report recommended that, at the close of the 8th cycle of the Council, the Consultative Group should undertake an analysis of the degree to which the Special Procedures appointment process is delivering on paragraphs 39 and 40 of resolution 5/1, which stipulate that mandate-holders should be nominated, selected and appointed on the basis of their expertise, relevant experience, independence, impartiality, personal integrity and objectivity, while also giving “due consideration to gender balance and equitable geographic geographic representation, as well as to an appropriate representation of different legal systems.” The findings should then be submitted to the President of the Council for consideration by the Bureau, and possibly wider consultations.

List of New Mandate Holders (appointed 6th November 2014)

Mr. Mohammed Ayat (Morocco) – Independent Expert on capacity-building and technical cooperation with Cote d’Ivoire (download application form)

Mr. Aristide Nononsi (Benin) – Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan (download application form)

Note: Mr. Nononsi was originally on the list of eligible candidates for the position of Independent Expert on the enhancement of capacity-building and technical cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights, but was put forward as one of five appropriate candidates by the Consultative Group in the additional addendum to their report in October 2014.

Mr. Léo Heller (Brazil) – Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation (download application form)

Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar (Costa Rica) – Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (download application form)

Mr. Ricardo III Sunga (Philippines) – Working Group on Experts on People of African Descent, member from Asia-Pacific States (download application form)

Mr. Michael Balcerzak (Poland) – Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, member from Eastern European States (download application form)

Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) – Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, member from Western European and other States (download application form)


Appointment of Mandate Holders, Organizational Meeting – 28th Regular Session of Human Rights Council, 6th November 2014

President’s revised list presented on 5 November 2014

URG Insights articles also available on the May 2014 and June 2014 Special Procedures appointments.

URG-Brookings Institution Policy Report: Special Procedures: Determinants of Influence by Ted Piccone (Brookings Institution) & Marc Limon (URG)

URG Policy Brief: History of the United Nations Special Procedures Mechanism: Origins, Evolution and Reform by Marc Limon & Hilary Power

Special Procedures Timeline (1967-Jan 2014)


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