Mar 19 2014
Past event

Methods of Work and Mechanisms: Understanding and strengthening the output of the Human Rights Council

On 19th March, the Universal Rights Group co-hosted, with the Permanent Missions of Norway and Turkey and the Brookings Institution, a meeting on ‘Understanding and strengthening the output of the Human Rights Council’. The event, which was attended by over 100 representatives of diplomatic missions, NGOs, OHCHR and academia, also marked the launch of URG’s first policy report, Special Procedures: Determinants of Influence, co-authored by Marc Limon (URG) and Ted Piccone (Brookings Institution).
This reception provided an informal opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen the output of the Human Rights Council – in particular Council resolutions and the Council’s key mechanisms.
This subject was keenly debated during the 25th session of the Council, with a number of side-events and statements on the subject. For example, on 14th March, Norway and Turkey, with the support of 61 states, delivered a cross-regional statement on improving the working methods of the Council including the effectiveness of Council Resolutions. And on 19th March, Costa Rica (on behalf of Chile, Honduras, Peru and Uruguay) delivered a joint statement on strengthening the Special Procedures system. Both statements borrowed from and reflected the findings of URG projects on these matters.
The 19th March event offered an opportunity to present and discuss these and other related initiatives, and to place them in the broader context of strengthening the UN’s human rights pillar. Speakers included:
  • H.E. Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi (Turkey), who urged his colleagues to take a minute to think about the actual on-the-ground impact of all of the work done in the Council. He stressed the need for “dialogue and consensus” in dealing with the important and sensitive institutional issues, and thanked URG for organizing the event and for its work which he said “has already begun to constitute a huge added value to the Council.”
  • H.E. Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella (Gabon), speaking in his national capacity as Permanent Representative of Gabon, who said that there is no need to “re-invent the wheel” in efforts to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the Council, as “many of the ways in which the Council can improve its working methods are laid down in resolutions 5/1 and 16/21. He also stressed the importance of working “on the basis of inclusivity, constructive dialogue and consensus.”  He concluded  by challenging the audience “to regularly ask: can we do better?”
  • Harriet Berg (Norway) who focused on the importance of effectively implementing Council resolutions and the recommendations emanating from Council mechanisms. She drew particular attention to the importance of deploying adequate financial and human resources in support of the Council and its mechanisms.
The event also saw the launch of a joint URG-Brookings Institution policy report: Special Procedures: Determinants of Influence. The report is the result of a year-long project on the future sustainability and effectiveness of the Special Procedure mechanism, reflecting primary and secondary research, two policy dialogues (in Geneva and in New York) and nearly fifty interviews with key policymakers.
  • Marc Limon discussed the historic evolution of the Special Procedures system to date, and noted that if current growth rates continue, we may reach a hundred mandates by 2030. While reflecting the success of the mechanism, this quantitaitve expansion should give pause for thought on whether the mechanism is fulfilling its potential and what steps might be taken to strengthen its impact.
  • Ted Piccone outlined the six structural determinants of Special Procedures influence identified in the report, as well as some of its key policy recommendations. He noted that despite the importance of Special Procedures to the protection of human rights, they receive less than 0.5% of the UN’s general budget, and recommended that the current allocation of 3% of the UN’s general budget to human rights  – one of the three pillars of the UN – be doubled by 2015.

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