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Effective implementation of international human rights instruments: Development of the human rights treaty system

The promotion and protection of human rights is one of the fundamental aims of the United Nations. The setting of legal standards in the field of human rights and the establishment of mechanisms to monitorthose standards has been one the primary means of achieving this aim. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was the first treaty body, established in 1969, and the system has grown to include six treaty bodies.As of 2004 a seventh treaty body will begin operation to monitor the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (MWC).

As the system has grown, it has confronted challenges. These include delays in submission and/or consideration of reports, non-reporting, and duplication of reporting requirements among treaty bodies. Improving the effectiveness of the human rightstreaty system has been an ongoing interest of individual treaty bodies, the meeting of chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies, the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly. These issues have also been the subject of the Inter-Committee Meeting.

In his 2002 report, Strengthening the United Nations: an agenda for further change, the UN Secretary-General identifies further modernization of the treaty system as a key elementin the United Nations goal of promoting and protecting human rights. He has called on the human rights treaty bodies to consider two measures: first, to craft a more coordinated approach to their activities and standardize their varied reporting requirements; and second, to allow each State to produce a single report summarizing its adherence to the full range of human rights treaties to which it is a party.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has been requested to undertake consultations on new streamlined reporting procedures, and submit his recommendations to the Secretary-General by September 2003. The views of the treaty bodies, States parties, non-governmental organizations and other partners within the United Nations system are being sought.

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