Expert Meeting Discusses how to Evaluate the Impact of UN Special Procedures

7 December 2020

During an online expert meeting hosted by the Geneva Human Rights Platform, more than 20 United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs and members of UN working groups, as well as staff from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), civil society representatives and lawyers explored how the impact of UN Special Procedures’ visits, recommendations and inquiries can be effectively measured and evaluated.

‘Special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council are a major component of today’s global human rights protection system. Their work not only allows addressing specific cases or situations but also contributes significantly to clarify the content of specific rights and related states’ obligations. Evaluating their impact is therefore key to ensure the continued relevance of this important mechanism’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform and Manager of Policy Studies at the Geneva Academy.

OHCHR Work and Examples from Three Mandate Holders

The meeting began with an introduction presenting the work of OHCHR in developing mechanisms to review and appraise the progress made by UN Special Procedures mandates in protecting and promoting human rights.

Three mandate holders – the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Clément Voulé, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer – presented their work and discussed how they measure their impact, notably in relation to country visits and inquiries.

‘The discussion showed that there is not only one way to measure impact and that this is work in progress. This exchange was important to share experiences, methodologies and best practices’ explains Felix Kirchmeier.

Portrait of Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture

The Role of NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and Human Rights Defenders

In the second session, NGO representatives, civil society organizations and human rights defenders who co-operate with UN Special Procedures presented how this cooperation provides opportunities to all stakeholders to gauge their own performance and determine where refinements could further enhance efforts in advocacy and rights protection.

Towards Common Tools

The final session of the meeting addressed how the respective mandates could integrate some common evaluation tools to facilitate benchmarking while also remaining flexible as to the choice of indicators used for measurement.

Participants also highlighted the need to integrate into the assessment less tangible aspects of the work, such as improvements in capacity building, the impact on long-term policymaking or the longer-term influence on states to engage in programmes for the promotion and protection of human rights.

‘This meeting provided us with invaluable insights for our work on the evaluation of the impact of UN Special Procedures’ visits, recommendations and inquiries. We will publish a working paper on this issue shortly, along with a report of the meeting’s findings’ says Felix Kirchmeier.

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