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United Nations Programme

In spite of advances in human rights protection over the past decades, current human rights mechanisms at the United Nations remain weak in delivering meaningful results.


  • Mechanisms fail to tackle impunity in many cases. The rights of victims, including through the right to remedy and reparation for violations of human rights, remain vulnerable.
  • There continues to be a lack of enforcement of recommendations, related to both individual cases as well as to the legal and policy structure of States on the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Some UN mechanisms continue to be selective in their approach to human rights protection, and lack effective systems for dealing with urgent and chronic human rights situations.

ICJ’s activities

The UN Programme functions primarily as the ICJ’s advocacy programme at the United Nations, focused on the human rights mechanisms in Geneva.

Activities focus mainly on engagement with the UN treaty bodies, and the Human Rights Council. This includes work with the Council’s subsidiary bodies, including the ‘Special Procedure’ mandates and the Universal Periodic Review.

Standard setting

The Programme also works on issues of “institutional standard-setting”, aimed at improving the procedures and actions of the UN human rights mechanisms to promote and protect human rights, including by checking that they are not selective in their work. This feature of our work also calls on UN mechanisms to clarify and further develop international human rights law.

Legal submissions

In practical terms, the ICJ’s work with the UN human rights mechanisms includes the making of legal submissions to the Human Rights Council and the treaty bodies on the implementation by States of their obligations under international human rights law.

Submissions also focus on certain themes being considered by the Council and the treaty bodies, such as commenting on draft ‘General Comments’ or making legal interventions concerning the development or application of specific areas of law.

We also engage in the negotiation of resolutions and other legal and policy instruments being developed by the various UN mechanisms.

Enhancing victims’ access to justice through UN human rights mechanisms