Strengthening of Special Procedures mechanism and its on-the-ground impact
The UN’s independent human rights experts – known as ‘Special Procedures’ – are considered by many to be, in the words of then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the ‘crown jewel’ of the international human rights system. Today, the UN boasts 56 separate Special Procedures mandates (and 80 mandate holders) covering a wide-range of thematic (44) and country-specific issues (12).
While the first Special Procedures mandates were established on an ad hoc basis to address alleged human rights violations in a small number of countries, the mechanism has grown since then in size, reach and sophistication. Yet with this rapid change and development have come challenges – both for the Special Procedures system itself and for the States that cooperate with it.
In 2014, Brookings Institution and the Universal Rights Group published a policy report on the contemporary situation of the Special Procedures. Overall, the report presented a positive picture: a dynamic, flexible and resourceful mechanism that has had, and continues to have, real impact on people’s lives and rights. However, the report also identified important challenges and proposed a number of remedial steps to be taken by the mechanism, OHCHR and States.
In the years since the report’s publication, some of these challenges have been addressed. For example, in 2016 a group of States led by Uruguay created a group of friends of Special Procedures to help support the mechanism; while the Special Procedures coordination committee has now begun publishing data on State cooperation (or non-cooperation). Important steps have also been taken by OHCHR to deploy new technology to make the Special Procedures communications system more accessible, reliable and effective.
However, other challenges have not been addressed, and today seem to have grown in significance. In some cases, this may lead to a break down in trust between the mechanism and individual States, including States that have long been supportive of Special Procedures and their work.
HRC41 side event
The Human Rights Council side event (Room IX) will consider the achievements of and challenges facing Special Procedures, and will aim to have an informal dialogue between mandate-holders, OHCHR, States and NGOs about how they can work together, through cooperation and dialogue, to better recognise the positive impacts of Special Procedures, address key challenges and weaknesses, and strengthen the on-the-ground relevance and effectiveness of this crucial UN human rights mechanism.
H.E. Mr. Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco – Opening remarks and moderator
H.E. Mr. Ricardo Gonzalez Arenas, Permanent Representative of Uruguay
Ms. Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, OHCHR
Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Member of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Mr. Marc Limon, Executive Director, Universal Rights Group
Questions and answers
H.E. Mr. Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of Germany
Palais des Nations, Room IX
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