Policy Dialogue: Improving the accessibility, responsiveness and effectiveness of the United Nations human rights communications system
The ability of individuals to complain about the violation of their rights in an international arena brings real meaning to the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core conventions. The system of submitting communications to the international human rights system has evolved gradually since the time of the League of Nations, and is now both multifaceted – encompassing communications with Special Procedures, communications with Treaty Bodies, and communications with the Human Rights Council’s confidential complaints procedure – and highly complex. At the same time, it is not always clear how effective this system is in dealing with the considerable demands placed upon it in today’s interconnected world.
Understanding whether the United Nations human rights communications system is delivering effective remedy – indeed is capable of delivering effective remedy – for those who need and seek international-level support is extremely important, not least because the communications system is the main portal through which victims can reach-out to and interact with the international human rights protection system. Considering the central importance to the UN human rights system (and the legitimacy thereof) of receiving and acting upon individual communications and complaints, it is imperative for key stakeholders to stand back and assess the degree to which the communications system is delivering on its crucial protection mandate.
With this in mind, on Friday 12th June, the Universal Rights Group and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights held a policy dialogue on “improving the accessibility, responsiveness and effectiveness of the United Nations human rights communications system.” The discussion, which was held under Chatham House rule, brought together around 20 key Special Procedures and Treaty Body experts, former members of the Council’s Working Group on Situations, other states, NGOs and key OHCHR officials in an informal environment to consider the key challenges – and indeed opportunities – facing the system (as a whole as well as its three individual mechanisms) and to reflect on how it could be made more cost-efficient, accessible, responsive and effective.
Participants discussed the impact of each of the mechanisms (Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies and confidential complaints) in terms of supporting the victims of human rights violations and helping them secure remedy and redress, and reflected on the operational effectiveness of the system as a whole. The key objective of the discussion was be to identify practicable and realistic policy solutions to make the system more responsive to the needs of victims.
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