ALHR endorses Pretoria Statement on strengthening the UN treaty system

August 5, 2011

ALHR endorsed the Pretoria Statement on the Strengthening and Reform of the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System.

The statement was an outcome of a civil society consultation hosted at the University of Pretoria from 20-21 June 2011, and builds on a series of consultations and statements on reform of the treaty body system, representing the views of several regional and national-level organisations.

It calls for stronger measures of transparency and accountability and in particular:

* calls upon Member States to engage in constructive dialogue with NGOs regarding treaty body issues (acknowledging the benefits of this particularly in enhancing the efficiency and impact of treaty bodies’ work and can contribute constructively to States’ understanding and implementation of their international human rights obligations – ALHR has been actively involved in UN treaty processes

* suggests there is inadequate public understanding of the work of treaty bodies and the UN agencies, OHCHR and NHRI should take proactive role in keeping NGOs informed of these processes;

* states treaty bodies should seek NGO input at the earliest possible stage, including particularly in the development of lists of issues prior to reporting. (acknowledging NGOs are often best placed to identify key issues) and that NGOs should be given the opportunity to formally brief treaty bodies at all relevant stages of the review process;

* calls for all necessary measures to prevent reprisals against human right defenders, victims and witness and take appropriate action to provide remedies for reprisals;

* indicates Member States should take into account non-compliance with States? reporting obligations when electing members of the Human Rights Council;

* in the interests of transparency and accountability:
– it recommends States Parties should be represented by well-informed high-level delegations who can respond fully to the issues raised by the treaty body;
– there should be a formalised follow up process whereby NGOs can provide input on the veracity of information provided by States regarding the implementation of Concluding Observations and Views and contribute additional data on the matter;
– follow up processes should be complemented with public hearings with video conferencing facilities to encourage broad participation by civil society;
– treaty bodies should periodically undertake country visits in order to directly verify levels of implementation.
– During the visits, broad consultations with civil society and NHRIs should be ensured;
– a public chart should be developed that includes all recommendations made by the different mechanism of the UN human rights system (including treaty bodies, special procedures and the UPR) and details as to the status of implementation of each.