Sunday, January 3, 2016

New ratifications in 2015

The UN treaty body system continues to grow at an impressive rate, especially since it is approaching universal ratification of several of the available instruments. There were 53 new ratifications during 2015. This represents a 2.4% growth rate.  The last 4 years' growth has looked like this:


Year
New
Growth
Total
2015
53
2.4%
2222
2014
59
2.7%
2167
2013
46
2.2%
2108
2012
59
2.9%
2061


These ratifications include both new countries ratifying one of the 12 major human rights instruments, and existing member countries ratifying or accepting the individual complaint mechanisms that are available under most of the treaties. 

Breakout per treaty

Here is what the breakout now looks like per treaty 



instrument
total
complaint mechanism
subject
CERD
177
57
racial discrimination
CCPR
168
115
civil, political
CESCR
164
21
econ, social, cultural
CAT
158
66
torture
OPCAT
80
torture prevention
CEDAW
189
106
women
CRC
196
22
children
OPSC/CRC
171
child pornography
OPAC/CRC
162
child soldiers
CMW
48
4
migrant workers
CRPD
160
88
disabilities
CED
51
19
disappearances
TOTALS
1724
498
2222


Ratifications per treaty instrument

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

  • Togo ratified the treaty on January 9
  • Panama accepted the individual complaint mechanism on May 7

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)

  • no new ratifications

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

  • Belize ratified the treaty on March 9
  • South Africa ratified the treaty on January 12
  • France ratified the individual complaint mechanism on March 18
  • Italy ratified the individual complaint mechanism on February 20
  • Luxembourg ratified the individual complaint mechanism on February 3
  • San Marino ratified the individual complaint mechanism on August 4

Convention Against Torture (CAT)

  • South Sudan ratified the treaty on April 30
  • Viet Nam ratified the treaty on February 2
  • San Marino ratified the individual complaint mechanism on August 4

Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT)

  • Belize ratified the protocol on September 4
  • Mongolia ratified the protocol on February 12
  • Rwanda ratified the protocol on June 30
  • South Sudan ratified the protocol on April 30

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

  • South Sudan ratified the treaty on April 30
  • South Sudan ratified the individual complaint mechanism on April 30

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

  • Somalia ratified the treaty on October 1
  • South Sudan ratified the treaty on January 23
  • Argentina ratified the individual complaint mechanism on April 14
  • Chile ratified the individual complaint mechanism on September 1
  • Denmark ratified the individual complaint mechanism on October 7
  • El Salvador ratified the individual complaint mechanism on February 2
  • Mongolia ratified the individual complaint mechanism on September 28
  • Uruguay ratified the individual complaint mechanism on February 23
  • Several countries also withdrew reservations to the treaty including
    • Austria (October 1)
    • Brunei Darussalam (August 10)
    • Iceland (May 20)
    • Oman (May 19)
    • Kiribati (September 16)
    • Czech Republic (December 2)
    • Finland (November 12)

Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale, pornography of children (OPSC)

  • Bahamas ratified the protocol on September 28
  • Kiribati ratified the protocol on September 16

Optional Protocol to the CRC on child soldiers (OPAC)

  • Bahamas ratified the protocol on September 28
  • Micronesia ratified the protocol on October 26
  • Kiribati ratified the protocol on September 16
  • Ireland modified its declaration on the minimum age to serve in the military, from 17 years to 18 years (January 12)

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)

  • Madagascar ratified the treaty on May 19
  • El Salvador ratified the individual complaint mechanism on January 23 (the complaint mechanism has not yet come into effect; it needs 6 more ratifications)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

  • Bahamas ratified the treaty on September 28
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo ratified the treaty on September 30
  • Gambia ratified the treaty on July 6
  • Kazakhstan ratified the treaty on April 21
  • Madagascar ratified the treaty on June 12
  • Marshall Islands ratified the treaty on March 17
  • Sao Tome and Principe ratified the treaty on November 5
  • Trinidad and Tobago ratified the treaty on June 25
  • Viet Nam ratified the treaty on February 5
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo ratified the individual complaint mechanism on September 30
  • Gambia ratified the individual complaint mechanism on July 6
  • El Salvador withdrew its prior reservation on conflicts with its Constitution (March 18)
  • Thailand withdrew its reservation on conflicts with its national laws, regulations and practices (February 5)

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)

  • Belize ratified the treaty on August 14
  • Greece ratified the treaty on July 9
  • Italy ratified the treaty on October 8
  • Malta ratified the treaty on March 27
  • Mongolia ratified the treaty on February 12
  • Niger ratified the treaty on July 24
  • Ukraine ratified the treaty on August 14
  • Ukraine ratified the individual complaint mechanism on August 14

Conclusion


The steady growth in the system is one indication of its general health and stability as a system, and its growing acceptance among state parties. However, one would hope that budgets and personnel resources would catch up to the backlogs and growth trends. One other human rights treaty that bears mentioning is the Genocide Convention -- it entered into force in January 1951, and now has 147 state parties, including one new ratification in 2015, Tajikistan (November 3). While this Convention has no active treaty body monitoring its compliance like the other instruments above, it is clearly important and available as a legal commitment in the event of grave human rights violations. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

States need to do better -- implementation is important

Implementation needs to be the focus of the human rights treaty system. How well are states complying with human rights standards and implementing recommendations made by the treaty bodies?

The data


Measuring these types of results has only been possible relatively recently as more data, including historical data, has been posted publicly by the UN human rights office.  Eight of ten treaty bodies now have some form of follow up to concluding recommendations. Six of those now post that information publicly on their websites. Four of those six now have enough of a data sampling to provide some useful conclusions.

Here is my analysis of the available information:


Response is on time
Response is late
Response is overdue
NGO reports
Compliance rate
Aggregate number of report reviews/time span
CCPR
(33) 32%
(45) 43%
(24) 25%
(58) 43%
12%
102 due/126 total/8 years
CEDAW
(26) 23%
(52) 46%
(35) 31%
(19) 17%
20%
113 due/160 total/5 years
CAT
(58) 36%
(58) 36%
(45) 28%
(31) 19%
Not available
161 due/180 total/12 years
CERD
(48) 28%
(40) 24%
(82) 48%
(2)** 1.2%
Not available
170 due/191 total/10 years
CED
(3) 50%
(2) 33%
(1) 17%
(2) 33%
33%
6 due/13 total/2 years*
CRPD
(2) 50%
0%
(2) 50%
(1) 25%
Not available
4 due/24 total/3 years*
Total
170/556 = 31%
197/556 = 35%
189/556 = 34%
110/556 = 20%
37/221
 = 17%
556 total responses due









Footnotes:
1. *Both CED and CRPD have sample sizes that are too small for this data to be meaningful so far
2. *CRPD has also adopted the practice of identifying recommendations for follow up in this procedure only about 50% of the time.
3. CMW has adopted the procedure this year; no data is yet posted (no responses are yet due)
4. CESC has also adopted a pilot program this year, but it is too early to have any data
5. Three of the Committees provide an evaluation or grading system of the state party's response. I have used the "largely satisfactory" or "[A]" grade in these evaluations to calculate the compliance rates in the table. 
6. This table only addresses follow up to Concluding Observations. When a treaty body issues Concluding Observations on a state report it identifies 2 to 4 recommendations for followup within 1-2 years (the particular deadline is specified in the report).  This table does not cover recommendations (Views) in individual cases -- that data is being reported less systematically so far, and I have not determined how best to measure the response rates. 
7. **the 2 NGO reports listed for CERD actually appeared to be from NHRIs. Apparently no NGO reports were received by CERD under its follow up procedure.
8. I have considered a state response late for these purposes if it was submitted 2 months or more after the recommended deadline.  Most late responses are much more late than just 2 months, so the 2 month filter was my approach to clustering the "barely late" responses from the "really late" responses.

Viewed as a bar chart, here is a comparison of state performance by treaty body:

As you can see from this data on the two tables, CAT has the best on-time response (35%) and CCPR has the best overall response rate (32% + 43% = 75%). CERD has the worst overall response rate -- 48% of states fail to respond at all to the Committee's requests for implementation information.  

As noted earlier, the figures from CED and CRPD are too small so far to make any generalisations from.

Also, it's important to note that there are very few NGOs apparently active in this follow up process so far -- only 20% of the total cases have an NGO report submitted, but most of these are in the CCPR process (and most of those NGO reports are from one of two NGOs, either the CCPR Centre or TRIAL -- kudos to both!). So NGO involvement generally is very low in this follow up procedure so far. 

Is the glass half full or half empty?


On the bright side, 66% of states are responding at some point to the Committees' requests to submit information on implementation -- 31% are on time, 35% are 2 months or more late. 

On the more disappointing side, these figures indicate that states fail to respond at all to the Committee requests in 34% of the cases and, where their response is actually evaluated, only 17% submit a satisfactory response. 

Conclusion 


So it seems we have a long way to go before we have acceptable rates of implementation in the human rights treaty system. States need to submit responses on a more timely basis and they need to implement treaty body recommendations more consistently.  It is acknowledged that sometimes the states don't agree with the treaty body's recommendations and are not willing to implement them for this reason -- this is a natural aspect of a constructive dialogue process, but states who believe the treaty body recommendation is wrong are free to submit written comments to that effect -- something states rarely do at the present time. 

My key takeaway points: 
  • states need to submit their responses in a more timely fashion; dealing with late responses is a time and resource waster in a system that can not afford these types of inefficiencies
  • states need to implement treaty body recommendations more frequently
  • data that makes it possible to measure these matters must remain open, timely, and transparent to those of us following the performance of the system
  • NGOs should get more involved in submitting their own reports on state party compliance to treaty body recommendations; in reviewing treaty body comments during this research, it was clear to me that when a well-reasoned, relevant NGO report is submitted, it is given significant weight by the treaty body in the evaluation process