In focus: domestic implementation of universal norms

A major thematic focus of the Group in its second biennium is domestic implementation of universal norms

Strengthening the on-the-ground domestic implementation and impact of international human rights obligations, commitments and recommendations is a key priority for URG’s work. The URG seeks to strengthen universal human rights norms, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of international human rights institutions, and translate universal norms into the local human rights reality through better implementation.

Our projects

National Mechanisms for Implementation Reporting and Follow-up (NMIRFs)

How do States transpose international human rights recommendations into local reality, and how to measure progress?

This project adopts a ‘bottom-up’ approach to understanding how, and to what extent, States implement international human rights obligations and recommendations at domestic level, and seeks to replicate good practice and provide counsel to UN mechanisms and processes designed to support domestic implementation (e.g. follow-up and capacity-building processes).

The role of national parliaments

Over recent years, a clear focus of discussions around the evolving position of parliaments in the universal human rights system has been their role in the implementation, by States, of international human rights obligations and commitments. As part of a wider global ‘human rights implementation agenda,’ the IPU, the UN and the Commonwealth have each taken important steps to assert the role of parliaments, especially parliamentary human rights committees, in a systemic manner throughout the international human rights ‘implementation-reporting cycle.’ This means leveraging parliaments’ legislative, oversight and budgetary roles to support the effective domestic implementation of the recommendations of the UN’s human rights mechanisms, the transparent monitoring of progress, and objective and balanced international reporting.

The role of international development partners

Together with the Government of Norway and rotating host countries, the URG has launched the Oslo-meeting process, which brings together governmental human rights policy experts and development policy experts, as well as other development actors to discuss the latest developments in the intersectionality of the two policy fields.

In the past these one-day meetings have explored the role of multilateral and bilateral development partners in supporting States, in particular developing States, implement the recommendations of the UN’s human rights mechanisms (Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review); thereby strengthening State compliance with their international human rights obligations and commitments, and (by extension) making a major contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind.

The key points and outcomes of these discussions are captured in policy briefs which can be consulted on the project page.

Clustering and integrated implementation

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Treaty Body system and Special Procedures mechanism are supposed to be complementary and mutually reinforcing. But is this proving to be the case in practice?

This project aimed to identify and understand the ways in which the three processes are complementing and supporting each other. It looked at the relationship between recommendations produced by the three mechanisms, and also at what impact UPR has had on Treaty Body reporting and Special Procedures engagement. The project, taking this analysis into account, proposed ways in which the interaction of the three processes might be strengthened.

Measuring change and impact

In 2020-2021, URG will work with the Human Rights Measurement Initiative to develop a user-friendly web-portal called ‘The state of the world human rights report,’ covering every country that has ever been a member of the Human Rights Council. For the first time ever, the portal will allow users to look at the real-world enjoyment of a wide range of human rights across over a hundred States – to track progress or backsliding. Crucially, this will make it possible (again for the first time) to attempt to answer the following question: is the global human rights situation getting better or worse? Once a year, URG will then publish key trends from the web portal, together with case studies ‘digging down’ to understand the stories behind key trends, in an annual (printed) ‘State of the world human rights report.’ This will be published each December and launched at events in Geneva and New York.