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Written submission of intervention by Sharon Hom at the co-facilitators’ informal consultations on state of UN human rights treaty body system (session with NGOs and NHRIs)

September 1, 2020

Thank you for this opportunity to share our concerns and recommendations. We completely align with the concerns and recommendations that have already been advanced and reiterated by Jacob Blaustein Institute and Amnesty International, as well as those we have shared throughout the treaty body strengthening process and in joint civil society statements.

One overarching point highlighted by this consultation, that is, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the that fact it will shape the global environment for some time to come, needs to be recognized in the final report by your excellencies to the President of the General Assembly.

While the use of online platforms enables broader participation, greater transparency, and easier access, we also urge greater attention to potential measures for protecting civil society groups and human rights defenders against retaliation, particularly for those operating in  restrictive environments such as China. Examples of legislative, legal, and policy requirements include: real-name registration, social credit systems, and a new university notice that requires all participants in online seminars and webinars to make declarations 15 days in advance and provide details of the online events including topics of discussion and agenda, in order to apply for approval. (See HRIC’s comments and translation of the Notice on HRIC website.)

These kinds of restrictions on online platforms impact privacy, security, and anonymity of participants that are necessary for safe, sustainable participation.

Let me move to several recommendations related to enhancing the effectiveness of the treaty bodies and the participation of civil society.

First, we want to emphasize that treaty bodies must be recognized in their respective competency and independence to determine their own rules and procedures. Coordination among the different treaty bodies to harmonize as well as support different expertise and competencies is already occurring, but their independence to do so needs to be respected and supported.

Second, it is extremely important for the final report to President of the General Assembly to respect the treaty bodies’ decisions to welcome information from and consultation with CSOs, including with NGOs without ECOSOC accreditation. Human Rights in China is a non- ECOSOC accredited organization and for more than 25 years, we have participated and contributed to all treaty body reviews of China, as well as the three Universal Periodic Reviews of China. We should note that some of our constructive and concrete recommendations, particularly for legislative reforms, have been taken onboard by the treaty bodies, and even implemented by the state party.

Third, with regard to frequency of the reviews, we would urge that the co-facilitators not recommend any kind of reduction of the frequency of reviews. Given the almost universal delays in reporting, reducing the frequency of reviews would create a greater gap between developments which are often fast-moving on the ground and information submitted both by the states and by civil society. This lag undercuts the effectiveness and meaningfulness of any review.

Fourth, we would also urge that any recommendations made in the final report be accompanied by firm commitment of financial resources and institutional support for the effective implementation of recommendations, including resources to support translation critical to the effective work of the treaty bodies. Thank you.

3.00 – 6.00pm, GVA (9.00am-12noon, EDT), August 28, 2020 Room XX, Palais des Nations, UN Human Rights Council, Geneva