Research event

Within the realm of the possible: Reforming the UN treaty bodies’ individual communication mechanisms

This workshop is organized by Bașak Çalı, Hertie School, Andreas Follesdal, PluriCourts, University of Oslo, Geir Ulfstein, PluriCourts, University of Oslo and Andreas von Staden, University of Hamburg. Hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

The reform of the United Nations human rights system is once again on the agenda. The latest such review was concluded by the UN General Assembly in 2014, and it called for States to undertake a subsequent review no later than April 2020.  The upcoming 2020 review of the treaty body system by the General Assembly offers an opportunity to reflect on how to strengthen the impact of the human rights treaty bodies’ work.

One important development since the last review in 2014 has been the coming into force for all treaty bodies save one—the Committee on Migrant Workers—of the optional competence to receive and issue views on individual complaints (“communications”). All human rights treaty bodies with an active competence to receive individual communications have by now also delivered views in individual cases and are developing procedural and substantive UN human rights law case law. With the expansion of the right to individual petition across a number of bodies, a wide range of concerns can be identified in the context of the reform agenda. These include, inter alia, the risk of case backlogs, styles of interpretation, fragmentation of substantive and procedural case law across treaty bodies, fragmentation between UN and regional human rights law, the resistance of states to ‘soft judgments,’ and the lack of an effective dissemination of UN treaty body case law.

The aim of this workshop is to take stock of the performance of the individual communications mechanisms of the UN human rights treaty bodies, to review their evolving case law, and to ask what reforms are required within the realm of the legally and politically possible to strengthen the right to individual petition as a means to protect and promote human rights globally. The workshop focuses on reform proposals that require neither significant treaty amendments nor major financial commitments. Recommendations from the seminar will be submitted to the United Nations Secretary General and to the chairpersons of the UN human rights treaty bodies.


For further information on the workshop programme please click here.


The registration for the workshop is closed.