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Background information on UN Human Rights Bodies and their Mandates

Women's rights

The United Nations develops standards and mandates that protect human rights around the world. These standards are used as sources to explain the recommended actions in the FIGO Human Rights and Women’s Health project. This glossary serves as a  single source for learning about a variety of human rights treaties and monitoring bodies.

UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies. Each of the major human rights treaties has a committee made up of individual experts whose mandate is to monitor and provide guidance to states to ensure their compliance with each of the treaties. They do this in several ways, including through a country reporting process, which requires states to report periodically on their efforts to respect, protect and fulfill human rights enshrined in a treaty. Following these reports and in-person dialogues with government representatives, they issue concluding observations on where countries have met their obligations and provide recommendations on measures to take where meeting obligations have fallen short. Every year, these observations are compiled in a report and sent to the General Assembly of the UN. The committees also issue general comments and recommendations which are not country specific, but which address measures that all countries can take to implement specific rights or issues covered by the treaty. Finally, most committees can also hear individual complaints alleging violations of the treaty against a specific country. Taken together, the concluding observations, general comments, and case decisions of the committees guide governments and advocates in further advancing human rights.

UN Special Rapporteurs are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic perspective. There are currently 36 thematic mandates. They undertake country visits, send communications to states when there are concerns of individual or structural human rights violations, conduct thematic studies, and engage in advocacy and raise public awareness. They report annually to the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States that are elected by the UN General Assembly on a rotating basis.

UN Human Rights Treaty Treaty Monitoring Body
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW Committee
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee on the Rights of the Child
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights Committee
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment Committee against Torture