Chairs of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies
Remarks by H.E. Mr. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland
New York, 2 June 2022
Thank you Mr Chair, and welcome to the chairs.
The strengthening of the treaty body system is an issue which Iceland attaches great importance to and has been actively engaged on for the past decade. We therefore welcome this timely exchange today and other discussions taking place this week – after two long years of COVID.
Iceland was one of the co-facilitators in 2012-2014 of the process that led to resolution 68/268, which eight years later is still a landmark document for the process. The resolution is not perfect, but it was the first time the General Assembly came together and addressed the treaty bodies in such a comprehensive way. Eight years later, many of us would have hoped to see the process advance further.
We, therefore, much welcomed the report from 2020 co-facilitated by the Permanent Representatives of Morocco and Switzerland. Many of the issues raised regarding the treaty bodies were already addressed in resolution 68/268 but implementation was slow on some issues and inconsistent on others. We particularly welcomed its emphasis on the following four key elements:
- A proposed schedule and estimated costing for predictable review cycles.
- Accelerated alignment of working methods.
- Enhanced visibility and accessibility.
- Acceleration of the digital shift, including online and hybrid meetings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only upset the follow-up to the report, but exacerbated some of the challenges identified there. The now-daunting backlog of state parties’ reviews has left the committees with no other choice but to review and start implementation on more efficient working methods, including simplified reporting.
If the current backlog is to be overcome, progress must be made on both:
- more predictable review cycles, and;
- the alignment of working methods.
There are many challenges with “hybrid” formats of meetings, but in some instances the digital shift enforced by the pandemic years has been for good and even in some areas it has advanced accessibility. Thus, we must draw on the lessons learned from the successes and mistakes made in the last two years as we move forward.
All of this will require resources, including for longer sessions in Geneva for the coming sessions, if we expect the treaty body committees to catch-up on lost time from the previous two years. Member States must come together to enable this way forward.
It will also inevitably increase the workload on the elected committee members. They are now also expected to do more remote work in between the physical sessions in Geneva. Current and incoming members will have to adapt to these expectations.
Since 2016, Iceland has successfully led, with cross-regional sponsorship, a biannual resolution adopted by the Third Committee and the GA by consensus. Two years ago, a technical roll-over was necessary due to the pandemic restrictions on our work here in New York. This resolution should come before the Committee during the upcoming 77th Session and we stand ready to do our part once again.
Hopefully, our discussion today can be a part of a rejuvenated process here in New York, as well as in Geneva.