National Strategies for Human Rights Monitoring and Implementation

12 February 2021

At a time when Geneva-based human rights mechanisms are under pressure – battling with budget cuts, staff shortages and accessibility/connectivity problems linked to the COVID-19 pandemic – it is all the more crucial that domestic human rights structures are in place and function effectively.

Our new publication National Human Rights Strategies: The Role of National Human Rights Systems in the Implementation of International Human Rights Standards analyses institutional cooperation initiatives at the domestic level designed to strengthen human rights implementation.

Authored by Domenico Zipoli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy, this Academy Briefing is the outcome of a broader research project that analyses the role of national human rights systems (NHRSs) in implementing international human rights standards and recommendations.

A First Study of this Kind

This Briefing consolidates into one publication the most recent efforts at systematizing the role and functions of NHRSs from both an academic and policy perspective. It represents a concrete and useful tool to further streamline the uptake of recommendations from the United Nations (UN) human rights system at the national level.

As both states and international human rights monitoring mechanisms struggle to keep up with their workload, it is important to ask ourselves whether the current international human rights system can benefit from improved coordination and leveraging of synergies at the domestic level.

‘By analysing how specific strategies are used within different NHRSs, we can identify factors that can assist in determining the most appropriate tools for monitoring, implementation and follow-up of UN human rights recommendations. Our findings represent timely avenues that ongoing reform processes at both Treaty Body and Human Rights Council levels should take into consideration’ stresses Domenico Zipoli.

Identifying Best Practices

Having outlined the general underpinnings and value of adopting an NHRS approach, the Briefing situates the discussion within existing best practices from different national contexts. It does so by providing a reality check from recent national strategies for human rights monitoring and implementation, according to three key capacities that shape the ability of NHRSs to function effectively, namely engagement and coordination; digital information management; and participation.

Broad Consultations

The research notably prioritized broad consultations with more than twenty partners from different national human rights systems, including Costa Rica, the Kingdom of Morocco, Mongolia and Paraguay.

‘Through such a collaborative process, it has been possible to explore often-overlooked dynamics that take place at the domestic level in response to issued international human rights recommendations’ explains Domenico Zipoli.

Guiding Principles for the Effective Functioning of National Human Rights Systems

Building on this research and publication, the Geneva Academy will start a process of reflection, among both academics and practitioners, on a possible standardized set of Guiding Principles for the Effective Functioning of NHRSs.

Such principles would represent a useful set of tools for national human rights actors when devising their monitoring and implementation strategies. They would also be of practical use for international human rights monitoring bodies, as benchmarks in their assessment of States’ legislative, institutional and policy measures.

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