Enhancing cooperation between United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms

The United Nations (UN) recognizes the significant role played by regional and subregional human rights arrangements in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, endorsed efforts to establish, strengthen and increase the effectiveness of these arrangements while at the same time stressed the importance of their cooperation with the UN human rights system. This has been reconfirmed by the UN General Assembly in several of its resolutions requesting the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen the exchanges between the UN and regional intergovernmental organizations dealing with human rights (A/RES/32/127 and A/RES/63/170).

In 1993, the then Commission on Human Rights adopted the first of a number of resolutions on the subject, which inter alia requested the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen exchanges between the UN and regional intergovernmental organizations dealing with human rights and invited the treaty bodies to explore ways to increase the exchange of information and cooperation with regional human rights mechanisms (CHR Resolution 1993/51). The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has reiterated this through a number of resolutions which have requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to bring together regional and UN human rights mechanisms to exchange views on good practices and lessons learned with a view to enhancing cooperation between them. (HRC resolutions A/HRC/RES/6/20 of 2007; A/HRC/RES/12/15 of 2009, A/HRC/RES/18/14 of 2011 and A/HRC/RES/24/19 of 2013.)

Since then, UN Human Rights has held a series of workshops to examine how the UN and regional mechanisms can work more closely and effectively together. 

The October 2019 workshop

Following Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 34/17, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, on 21 and 22 October 2019.  Participants took stock of the implementation of recommendations made at the 2016 workshop, including lessons learned and challenges encountered during that process. A thematic discussion was held on the role of regional arrangements in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. The High Commissioner presented the report of this workshop to the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in March 2020.

Participants included: members of  East African Court of Justice; the ECOWAS Court of Justice; the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights; the Caribbean Court of Justice;  the Council of Europe; the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) ;  the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights; the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR); the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the Arab Human Rights Committee; the Organization of Islamic States, Independent Human Rights Commission;  United Nations independent experts, including Special Procedures mandate-holders and treaty body members, OHCHR staff, representatives of governments, NHRIs, civil society organisations, international organizations, and academia.


Earlier workshops

The OHCHR held biennial workshops, as follows:

November 2008: “Good practices, added value and challenges’ for regional human rights mechanisms”;

May 2010: “Strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and regional arrangements to overcome obstacles to human rights promotion and protection at the regional level”;

December 2012: “Strengthening cooperation on information-sharing, joint activities and follow-up to recommendations from United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms with special focus on prevention of torture, women’s rights and children’s rights” (see report A/HRC/23/18).

October 2014: “Enhancing cooperation between United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms” (see report A/HRC/28/31).

October 2016: “Cooperation among the United Nations, regional human rights mechanisms, civil society organizations and human rights defenders” (see report A/HRC/34/23). 

Other events

Entitled “A journey to strengthened cooperation between the international and regional human rights mechanisms: implementation of the CRPD and SDGs”, it took place on the margins of the 10th Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (June 2017).