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Joint Statement of the Chairpersons of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

As Chairpersons of the ten UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies1, we recognize the fundamental importance of the current discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. We recall that the 2005 World Summit acknowledged that peace and security, development, and human rights are the three pillars of the United Nations system and recognised that “development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.” We believe that the human rights treaty bodies have an important role to play in contributing to both the finalization and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

We recall our previous statement of May 2013, and recognize the progress since made, including the integration of important human rights elements in the Open Working Group’s 17 draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, as well as the emphasis placed on human rights in the Secretary-General’s synthesis report of December 2014 ‘The Road to Dignity: Ending Poverty, Transforming All lives and Protecting the Planet.’ We believe that this provides a basis for a new and effective universal development agenda grounded in freedom from fear and freedom from want for all, without discrimination.

The emphasis placed by the Open-Working Group and the Secretary-General’s reports on equality and non-discrimination, including two dedicated equality goals on gender equality and equality within and between countries, is crucial. Previous development efforts failed to produce sufficient improvements in the plight of the marginalized, disempowered and excluded, including women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, older persons, persons with disabilities and the poor. Even where overall progress was positive, inequalities and inter-sectional discrimination have dramatically increased between social groups, countries and between regions. The inclusion of non-discrimination and social cohesion targets is, therefore, an important step towards a development agenda that leaves no-one behind.

We strongly urge Member States to maintain - and, indeed, strengthen - consistent alignment with, and references to, human rights, by recognising and including, inter alia:

  • That in addition to economic and social rights, the inclusion of civil and political rights is a significant step towards a balanced and transformative agenda that addresses freedom from fear along with freedom from want. In this context, the reference to fundamental freedoms should be strengthened by explicitly referring to freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly (Goal 16, target 16.10) and the protection against torture, abuse, exploitation and trafficking should be expanded to cover adults, in addition to children (Goal 16, target 16.2).
  • While the inclusion of the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms and promotion of gender equality in the goals and targets is crucial, this must reflect international human rights standards and not be limited by national laws (goals 5 and 16).
  • While the explicit references to indigenous peoples in relation to food productivity (Goal 2, target 2.3) and universal access to education (Goal 4, target 4.5) are welcome, we propose the inclusion of the right to free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in relation to decisions that affect them as a key means of ensuring respect for all rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples.
  • Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights is an important element of ensuring rights-based development, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls (Goal 5, target 5.6); we encourage an explicit reference to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ that is fully consistent with international standards and the respect of the right of all women and girls, freely and without coercion, violence or discrimination, to have control over and make decisions concerning their own sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health.
  • Consideration should be given to the inclusion within the goals of universal implementation of accessibility and the application of reasonable accommodation the full exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities, including their effective participation in society.
  • That goal 16, target 7 should be understood as including women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, older persons, persons with disabilities and the poor.
  • That goal 10, target 7 should be understood as encouraging respect for the human rights of migrants, regardless of their condition or status and preserving their human dignity.
  • That goal 16, target 5 should stress that the elimination of corruption is essential to good governance, which is, in turn, a necessary condition for the full enjoyment of human rights.
  • That in Goal 8 reference be made to the need for human rights-based protection of marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as minorities, migrants or persons with disabilities, during economic downturns.

In this context, we strongly support the Secretary-General’s calling on Member States to include a ‘technical review’ of the goals and targets in order to ensure that they are ambitious whist also measurable, achievable and consistent with existing international standards and agreements, including human rights treaties.

We welcome the emphasis placed on accountability and call for this to be strengthened. We strongly agree with the Secretary-General’s call for a ‘robust and participatory monitoring and review framework’ for the SDGs at the national, regional and global levels, with a systematic and institutionalized flow of information from and to existing monitoring mechanisms, including the human rights treaty bodies, in order to ensure synergies between existing mechanisms and a post-2015 monitoring and review framework.

In this regard, we further believe that Member States should build upon the principles and inclusive working methods of existing mechanisms such as the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, as well as the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.

Bearing in mind the many gains which are to be drawn from harnessing the energy and resources of the private sector to ensure the successful implementation of the SDGs, accountability mechanisms should also include accountability of the private sector. We underline the relevance of the work of the human rights treaty bodies in the area of corporate sector accountability2 and call upon Member States to endorse the call for the full application of the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as referred to in the Secretary-General’s Synthesis report.

We emphasize that measuring progress in achieving development goals should include an assessment of the contribution of such measurement processes to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. In addition, we stress the need for reliable and validated means of measuring progress in meeting development goals. Indicators should be based upon appropriately disaggregated data, derived from, and taking account of, new technologies.

In our own work, we will encourage our Committees to consider the impact of development goals on the enjoyment of the rights in our respective treaties. We will also encourage the Committees to draw on development data and reports, as appropriate, in our Committees’ constructive dialogue with States.

The importance of a successful conclusion to this agenda-setting process cannot be underestimated. We encourage Member States and all stakeholders during these last stages of the intergovernmental negotiations to rise to the challenge of adopting a truly transformative, universal, and human rights-based development agenda that protects human dignity and contributes to the realization of human rights for all without discrimination.

18 January 2015


1. Human Rights Committee, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Committee Against Torture, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Committee on Migrant Workers, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture and Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

2. Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.16 on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights (CRC/C/GC/16); Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Statement on the Obligations of States parties regarding the Corporate Sector and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/2011/1).