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Work Of Human Rights Treaty Bodies At Risk, Warn UN Committee Chairs

Chairpersons of the 10 UN committees that monitor the implementation of international human right treaties have called on States to properly support their work, warning that the current underfunding is set to affect upcoming review meetings from September onwards.

“States have a legal obligation to fund the treaty bodies. Their refusal to fully do so is all the more outrageous amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to a wide range of human rights violations around the world,” the chairpersons said.

The call by the chairpersons follows their annual meeting, held virtually from 27-30 July. During the meeting, the members of the 10 human rights treaty bodies discussed their work and ways of enhancing the effectiveness of the treaty body system as a whole.

The chairpersons said that the current UN budget crisis is a major threat to their mission. They noted with dismay that there is currently no guaranteed funding available to support the treaty bodies’ meetings from September onwards. “We believe that in this time of unprecedented global crisis, the need to uphold human rights is greater than ever,” they stressed.

The Chairpersons called on States and the Secretary-General to fully support the work of human rights treaty bodies and to enable them to exercise their mandates to the maximum extent possible in the coming months.

During the four-day session, the chairpersons also held dialogues with the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN and the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the UN, the co-facilitators of the General Assembly’s 2020 Review of the Human Rights Treaty Body system, regarding potential strengthening of the existing treaty bodies mechanism to continue to adequately protect and promote the interests of vulnerable persons worldwide.

They also discussed the COVID-19 contingency strategy with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. The travel restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic have meant that the treaty bodies have been unable to hold physical meetings since March 2020. Nevertheless, the Committees have continued to work through online sessions. The Chairs noted that this was, however, only a temporary solution, highlighting that they looked forward to resuming their work in plenary face-to-face sessions as soon possible.

In the meantime, the Chairs decided to continue the work of their COVID-19 Working Group, focussing on the practical impact of COVID-19 on the enjoyment of human rights. The establishment of this group will facilitate cohesive and collective responses by the treaty bodies as a system to challenges posed by the pandemic.

Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna, chairperson of the child rights committee, was elected as Chair of the Chairpersons Meeting and Danlami Basharu, chairperson of the disabilities rights committee, was named Vice-Chair for the coming year.

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