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Statement: Human Rights Treaty Body System

Statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Thordur Oskarsson, 
Deputy Permanent Representative of Iceland, on behalf of
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden
Meeting of the Chairs of Human Rights Treaty Bodies with UN Member States
27 June, 2024

Thank you, Mr. Chair, 

I have the pleasure of delivering this statement on behalf of Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and my own country, Iceland. 

This group of seven countries has led a biannual resolution on the Human Rights treaty body system in the Third Committee of the General Assembly since 2016 and will be presenting it for the fifth time later this year.

Together we attach great importance to the strengthening of the human rights treaty body system. 

Mr. Chair,

We welcome this exchange and we much appreciate the work that has been done in the past years, by you as Chairs, the committees, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This has resulted in identifying several practical solutions and recommendations. Most of these recommendations have been backed by States, within the mandate of the General Assembly, in the guiding resolution of 68/268, which was adopted after a thorough intergovernmental process.

We, therefore, urge you to build upon this work, redouble your efforts and prioritize implementation of these recommendations, within your mandates as Chairs and committee members, and with OHCHR as the Secretariat providing you with administrative support. 

Mr. Chair,

The Third Committee resolution on the human rights treaty body system we will be facilitating later this year plays an important part in the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 68/268. 

One of the resolution’s strengths is that it has been passed by consensus, demonstrating the support of the entire UN Membership of the treaty body system and its strengthening. Importantly, the resolution encourages all stakeholders to continue their efforts for the full implementation of resolution 68/268. 

On the other hand, our biannual resolution has its limitations in scope, as a technical, consensual text, passed within the tight time frame of the Third Committee. Its main purpose has been to consolidate and reaffirm much of the good work carried out on treaty body strengthening. 

Mr. Chair,

The key issues to be addressed are well-known, including the implementation of predictable review cycles, better alignment of working methods, and an acceleration of the digital shift, including for individual communications. 

We want to highlight that the 2022 resolution notes the considerable potential of digitalization of the work of the treaty bodies and encourages further use of digital technologies in their work. It also encourages further use of virtual forms of meetings while stressing the importance of in-person meetings.

On the working methods, continued implementation needs to be carried out based on the years’ worth of various processes and reports, including your own. 

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, which frankly, reaches further than that of the GA in this regard. 

Mr. Chair,

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 worsened the challenges already faced by the treaty body system. The current liquidity crisis has further exacerbated an already critical situation.

Overcoming the backlog will take years for most of the committees. Increased use of simplified State party reporting procedures has helped some committees to begin to address their backlogs. 

We therefore encourage you – the chairs – once again, to work together and with your own respective committees in making it a priority to implement simplified reporting procedure, by all committees for all interested State parties. This encouragement is set forward already in resolution 68/268 in operative paragraphs 1 and 2 and we believe it will make the reporting process both more efficient and focused. We also urge you to coordinate and shorten the list of issues.

We also encourage you 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. This principle is also set forward already in resolution 68/268, paragraph 34, where it invites you to increase coordination and predictability in the reporting process to achieve a clear and regularized schedule for reporting by States parties. 

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 communications, as recommended in the 2020 Treaty Body review process, should remain a key priority of any “digital shift”. We urge Member States to avail extra resources for this to materialize.

Mr. Chair,

Many of the measures that have been identified do not require more guidance or budget allocations from Member States. Under the current conditions, including the UN Secretariat’s liquidity crisis, this is an even more relevant point to stress. 

Much of the success depends on your stewardship – the chairs of the committees – 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.

I thank you.


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