Human Rights Institute Co-Hosts Expert Consultation on Strengthening Global and Regional Human Rights Mechanisms
Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute recently organized a two-day global expert convening on improving human rights protection mechanisms in the Americas
November 2016, SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA - The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute organized a two-day groundbreaking transnational dialogue with experts from Latin America exploring ways to deepen the impact of the U.N. human rights treaty bodies and strengthen relationships between global human rights protection mechanisms and regional mechanisms such as the Inter-American Human Rights Court and Commission.
The consultation, which took place on November 19 and 20 in San José, Costa Rica, brought together experts on the United Nations and the Inter-American human rights systems from governments, academia, and civil society, with experts drawn from across the Americas. The meeting was convened in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, the Inter-American Institute for Social Responsibility and Human Rights, the Faculty of Law of the University of Costa Rica, and the Human Rights Institute of the National University of La Plata, in partnership with Columbia University and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, to inform the reform process of the UN treaty body system initiated by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 68/268 (2014). The San José consultation is part of a broader effort by the Columbia Human Rights Institute, in partnership with the Geneva Academy and others, to engage human rights experts globally in examining the core strengths of UN treaty bodies, the challenges they face, and opportunities to increase their visibility and effectiveness. This regional consultation focused in particular on specific opportunities to enhance cooperation between the UN and regional human rights mechanisms, in order to improve human rights protections within the Americas.
Columbia University’s role in the consultation was made possible by a grant from the Columbia University Global Innovation Fund, which will also be used to support four additional meetings on enhancing the UN human rights treaty body system, including meetings in New York, Amman, Jordan, and Istanbul, Turkey in 2017.
The Human Rights Institute worked closely with local partners to shape the agenda and facilitate convening sessions in San Jose, as part of the Institute’s new Global Human Rights Connectivity Project. Through the project, the Institute is promoting greater coherence and coordination among global and regional human rights systems. The Institute is also working to strengthen advocates’ understanding and strategic multilateral engagement with human rights mechanisms, with the goal of strengthening the global human rights architecture to enhance human rights compliance around the world.
“The past 70 years have seen a rapid growth and institutionalization of human rights around the globe. While this has led to important advances in human rights protections, norm development, and internalization, the international human rights system currently lacks the coherence and efficiency necessary for it to be a fully functioning system,” noted Human Rights Institute Faculty Co-director Sarah Cleveland, the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights at Columbia Law School. Professor Cleveland is the U.S. independent expert on the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees state implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the U.S. independent Member on the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the expert advisory body that evaluates the compatibility of national laws and legal reforms with fundamental rights for the Council of Europe. “Among the many challenges confronting the systems is the sometimes haphazard exchange of information among the treaty bodies and with regional and other human rights institutions. Greater exchange of information has the capacity to enhance human rights compliance.”
The Human Rights Institute has deep expertise with the UN and regional human rights systems and a unique understanding of the challenges currently facing them. In addition to Professor Cleveland’s membership on the UN Human Rights Committee, for over a decade, through its Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers’ Network, the Human Rights Institute has led and coordinated U.S. advocates’ efforts to engage with the UN human rights mechanisms. And the Institute has long worked to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights system, in partnership with advocates and scholars throughout the Americas.
“The UN treaty bodies are the critical backbone of the global human rights protection regime. They offer human rights victims around the world a venue to pursue accountability when rights are violated, yet they are under-resourced, and currently lack the capacity to achieve their full potential,” noted JoAnn Kamuf Ward, the director of the Institute’s Human Rights in the U.S. project, and coordinator of the Institute’s working group on the Inter-American human rights system, who participated in the convening. “Given the unique strengths and tools of the UN human rights treaty bodies and the Inter-American System, there are many exciting opportunities for the systems to amplify and leverage each others’ work, as well as to improve human rights monitoring and enforcement.”
The Institute will present outcomes from the San José convening future multistakeholder meetings on the treaty body strengthening process, and will continue to engage in complementary efforts to enhance the UN human rights system.
The Human Rights Institute advances international human rights through education, advocacy, fact-finding, research, scholarship, and critical reflection. We work in partnership with advocates, communities, and organizations pushing for social change to develop and strengthen the human rights legal framework and mechanisms, promote justice and accountability for human rights violations, and build and amplify collective power.
Founded in 1998 by the late Professor Louis Henkin as the anchor for human rights within Columbia Law School, the Human Rights Institute promotes engagement and knowledge of human rights within the law school, throughout the University, and around world. Across the many substantive areas of its work, the Institute builds bridges between scholarship and activism, develops capacity within the legal community, engages governments, and models new strategies for progress.
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