CALL TO ACTION: Human Rights Treaty Bodies Under Immediate Threat

The UN human rights system continues to be under threat, requiring immediate action from all of us!
We have some important news via IWRAW Asia Pacific as of May 16th, 2019, regarding the human rights mechanisms of the UN.  We request that you join us in taking action.
A letter sent on 30 April from Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, to treaty body chairs, explains that due to financial shortfall, sessions of the following treaty bodies, originally scheduled for late 2019, are likely to be postponed:
  • Committee on the Rights of the Child
  • Human Rights Committee
  • Committee Against Torture
  • Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
  • Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination
We expect the OHCHR website to be updated shortly to reflect this decision. The affected CEDAW session is the 74th one, covering Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and the Seychelles.
Ms Bachelet notes that these treaty bodies are likely to each have only two sessions in 2020 as well.
This development is in large part due to UN member states not paying their fees. While we appreciate that this inevi tably results in financial constraints, and member states should as such be held accountable, we are also deeply concerned by the internal deprioritisation of the treaty body system, coming as it does at a critical point when right-wing populism is chipping away at human rights around the world. 
According to the attached screenshot, only 40 member states have fully paid their dues in full and on time. (Source: Statement on Financial Situation of the United Nations, 7 May 2019.) You can check whether your country is one of them.

IWRAW-AP has provided two template letters which we encourage you to adapt and send.   Please write to us at to receive the templates.

  • One is for you to register your concern with the UN.
  • The other is for those whose countries have not paid their UN fees. Please send it to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs; your Permanent Representatives to the UN in Geneva and New York; and, where applicable, any other sympathetic government ministries, e.g. Ministry for Women.
 Please feel free to personalise these letters, for example by describing your organisation’s work and its experiences with the treaty body system, or the threats to human rights which particularly concern you. You may also wish to focus on a different treaty body rather than CEDAW. They are all equally under threat.
Please do copy IWRAW Asia Pacific <> and WHRI at <> on any correspondence. This is a critical moment and we hope that as many groups as possible will mobilise to send the message that this state of affairs is unacceptable.
Similar campaigns are underway with regard to other affected treaty bodies, in particular the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). If you would like to directly engage with these campaigns we would suggest that you contact Child Rights Connect and OMCT respectively for more information.

 Note that the cancellations have not been 100% confirmed, so it’s an important time to make noise.

See below the correlated NEWS RELEASE from the OHCHR, May 17, 2019:

UN budget shortfalls seriously undermine the work of the Human Rights Treaty bodies

GENEVA (17 May 2019) — The ten United Nations human rights treaties are legally binding treaties, adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by States. Each Treaty establishes a treaty body (or Committee) comprising elected independent experts who seek to ensure that States parties fulfil their legal obligations under the Conventions. This system of independent scrutiny of the conduct of States by independent experts is a key element of the United Nations human rights system, supported by secretariats in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In April this year, the Chairpersons of all 10 treaty bodies* were informed that six of them are very likely to have sessions in 2019 cancelled for financial reasons – an unprecedented consequence of some UN member States delaying payments due to the organisation.

This means that reviews already scheduled with States, as well as consideration of complaints by individual victims of serious human rights violations – including torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances – will not take place as scheduled. The cancellation of sessions will also have numerous other negative consequences, and will seriously undermine the system of protections which States themselves have put in place over decades.

The Chairpersons of the ten Committees are deeply concerned about the practical consequences of cancelling these sessions and have sent a letter to the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, requesting that they, together with Member States, find ways of addressing this situation, as a matter of urgency.

* The 10 UN human rights treaty bodies are:
The Human Rights Committee
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The Committee against Torture
The Committee on Migrant Workers
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
The Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture