Pretoria Statement: Strengthening the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System

A coalition of leading international and domestic NGOs has presented a major paper to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on strengthening the UN human rights treaty bodies. The Pretoria Statement - which was prepared by NGOs including Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, the Centre for Human Rights (South Africa), CELS (Argentina) and the Human Rights Law Centre (Australia) - contains over 60 concrete and practical recommendations to improve the work of human rights bodies at the international level and the fulfilment of human rights on the ground.

The statement is open for endorsement by other NGOs. If your NGO wishes to endorse the Pretoria Statement, please send a notification preferably before 15 August 2011 to melhik.bekele@up.ac.za.

UN human rights bodies are an essential part of the framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, complementing the work of regional and domestic human rights mechanisms, non-government organisations and national human rights institutions.

In 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights commenced a process of reform to strengthen the UN human rights treaty bodies. The strengthening process is intended to make the work of treaty bodies more coordinated and effective and to enhance the fulfilment of human rights on the ground. The High Commissioner has invited inputs and proposals from states, NGOs, human rights experts and NHRIs in this regard.

In response to this call, a civil society consultation was held in Pretoria on 20 and 21 June 2011, hosted by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria. This consultation examined and built on previous statements, including the 2009 Dublin Statement on the Process of Strengthening the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System (and the 2010 NGO response thereto), the 2010 Marrakech Statement, the 2010 Poznan Statement and the 2011 Seoul Statement.

The Pretoria Statement sets out over 60 recommendations, including as to:

  • guiding principles of reform;
  • the periodic reporting process;
  • the review of states which fail to submit periodic reports;
  • individual communications and remedies for human rights violations;
  • follow up and implementation of human rights recommendations; and
  • the protection of human rights defenders.