Hoppa yfir valmynd

Joint Statement at meeting with the chairs of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies

Delivered by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland
on behalf of
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and at the outset let me welcome the chairs of the treaty bodies to New York. I have the pleasure to deliver this statement on behalf of a group of countries that have led a biannual resolution on the Human Rights treaty body system in the Third Committee of the General Assembly since 2016; Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and my own country, Iceland. Together we attach great importance to the strengthening of the human rights treaty body system and have been actively engaged on this issue for more than a decade. Therefore, we welcome today’s timely exchange and other discussions happening this week.

We would like to extend our appreciation for the recently published working paper as a good basis for further discussion, with many suggestions for practical solutions, although we will need time to study it more carefully. We also look forward to actively engaging in the forthcoming consultations organized by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to solicit inputs for the implementation plan.

This paper adds to a growing body of reports and studies, including the 2020 report co-facilitated by Morocco and Switzerland, previous chairs’ reports, and reports of the Secretary-General, that identify a number of proposals that urgently need your attention. These include the implementation of predictable review cycles, better alignment of working methods, and acceleration of the digital shift, including with regards to individual complaints and the use of virtual forms of meetings. Further progress on these proposals is needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the treaty body system and bring more predictability and transparency to its work.

While plenty of challenges remain, many opportunities lie within the work that has already been carried out over the years, through various processes and reports, including your own, on how to improve and better align the working methods of the treaty bodies. As chairs, you play a key role in ensuring that implementation happens in a timely manner. We urge you to be more ambitious in this work, within your respective mandates.

Mr. Chair,

The challenges faced by the treaty body system are not new, but eighteen months of full suspension or postponement of their sessions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021, did worsen these challenges. Our biannual resolution was most recently adopted by the General Assembly in December 2022 as resolution 77/210. An important element of it has been maintaining consensus, while reflecting the ongoing efforts towards strengthening the human rights treaty body system. The resolution adopted last December has two new additions worth highlighting.

1. The resolution acknowledges the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the work of the human rights treaty bodies, and;
2. Notes the considerable potential of digitalization of the work of the treaty bodies and encourages further use of digital technologies in the treaty bodies’ work.

As it stands now, overcoming the Covid-backlog will take years for most of the treaty body committees. We have seen, however, that increased use of simplified State party reporting procedures has helped some committees to begin to address their backlogs. We therefore encourage you – the chairs – to take further steps in this regard, so that simplified reporting procedure can be implemented by all committees for all interested State parties, making the reporting process both more efficient and focused.

We also urge you to coordinate and shorten the list of issues and to work, in consultation with member states, on a more predictable and better aligned calendar for States’ reporting, which is coordinated with other treaty bodies and with the calendar of the UPR. We look forward to the future digitalization of the treaty body system, which will strengthen the work of the Treaty Bodies and improve efficiency and transparency. Introducing a digital case management system and an online submission platform for individual complaints, as recommended in the 2020 Treaty Body review process, should remain a key priority of any “digital shift”.

Mr. Chair,

In conclusion, many of the measures that have been identified do not require more guidance or budget allocations from Member States. The COVID pandemic provided the committees with some practical experiences in terms of adapting their working methods, State Party reviews and further digitalization. We would like to emphasise the importance of these lessons to be used as a ground to build upon in your work as Chairs.

Finally, let me reiterate that much of the success depends on your stewardship – the chairs’ – in leading your respective committees towards improved working methods, predictability and alignment in a timely manner. In achieving this, you should be guided by your mandates, inspired by the extensive work already done and encouraged by our firm support of your work.

Thank you.


Contact us

Tip / Query
Please answer in numerics