On the 6th of December 2021, the EUD attended a webinar hosted by TB-Net, a network of NGOs that work with the United Nations treaty bodies. The purpose of the webinar was to discuss actions that civil society organisations (CSOs) can explore to ensure more and better practices in the elections of UN treaty bodies’ members. The following treaty bodies are facing elections in 2022:
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child
- The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
- The Committee on Human Rights
The first speaker was Isis Alves, TB-Net Coordinator and Independent Researcher. She presented the participants with an overview of the 10 UN treaty bodies and explained that they constitute a vital mechanism for advancing human rights. Their members are in charge of reviewing States’ compliance with respective treaties, adopting views on individual complaints, developing general comments and other important tasks. Ms Alves outlined the criteria for becoming a committee member:
- To be national of the country that is a party to the treaty;
- To be of high moral standing, with recognised competence in the field of human rights;
- To have extensive knowledge of the matters of the committee; and
- To be able to attend the sessions and serve in their capacity.
Following Ms Alves, several speakers in turn discussed the current gaps in the composition of the above treaty bodies. Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the Center for Civil and Political Rights, gave a detailed overview of the current situation of the Human Rights Committee, calling for greater participation of women to achieve a gender balance. Meanwhile, for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Juliette Wyss, a research fellow working with the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on renewable energies and gender justice, called for the nomination of members with more substantial expertise in human rights as many of the current members have diplomatic backgrounds. For the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Ilaria Ilaria Paolazzi, Deputy Director at Child Rights Connect, argued for nominations of education experts. Finally, Shanti Uprety, a Programme Manager from the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, called for greater participation of women so that balanced representation can bring about a more substantial structural change for equality.
Frank Folino, a board member from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), covered the current gaps relating to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Mr Folino emphasised that historically, there was a lack of gender balance, but this has been addressed by the last two elections, in 2018 and 2020. Going into the 2022 elections, the committee should reflect the diversity among the community of PWDs, including those with hidden disabilities. Mr Folino explained that currently, there are committee members who are blind or have physical disabilities, but no members who are deaf or have psychosocial disabilities. Furthermore, he reminded participants that the deadline for nominations for the CRPD election is 30 April 2022.
The event was highly informative and brought to light the importance of the active participation of civil society in the crucial process of electing independent experts. This participation is instrumental in ensuring the realisation of human rights and meaningful implementation of the related UN treaties, including the UNCRPD. CSOs should engage throughout the process, including at both the national and international levels through their States.