Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Scholarship on Special Procedures

Earlier this week, Risa Kaufman blogged about upcoming UN Special Procedures visits to the United States.  For a critical look at these UN mechanisms, check out two new articles.

First, in the February 2016 issue of Human Rights Quarterly, Rosa Freedman and Jacob Mchangama raise questions about the growing number of Special Procedures in this article, "Expanding or Diluting Human Rights?: The Proliferation of United Nations Special Procedures Mandates."  Here's the abstract:



The United Nations Special Procedures system was described by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as “the crown jewel” of the UN Human Rights Machinery. Yet, in recent years, the system has expanded rapidly, driven by states creating new mandates frequently on topics not traditionally viewed as human rights. This article explores the connection between forms of governance and the states voting for and promoting these newer mandates. We explore states’ potential motivations for expanding the system and the impact on international human rights law. This article forms an important part of discussions about Special Procedures and rights proliferation.

Second, Rosa Freedman and Francois Crepeau have posted a forthcoming book chapter on SSRN, titled "Supporting or Resisting? The Relationship Between Global North States and Special Procedures."    Note that the article includes a case study of the US response to Special Procedures in the area of poverty.  The abstract is here:


Scrutiny of the relationship between Special Procedures and States typically focuses on mandate holders’ independence and expertise, as well as the impact of their work ‘on the ground’. Global South countries have been criticised for ignoring visit requests, resisting recommendations contained within reports, and seeking to undermine Special Procedures by introducing new, vague mandates on subjects not traditionally viewed as falling within the human rights matrix. Little attention, however, has been paid to the relationship between Global North States and Special Procedures. This chapter will interrogate the relationship between those countries and mandate holders, individually, and the system more broadly. The research will demonstrate that while Global North States typically have supported Special Procedures mandates – through sponsoring, promoting or voting for them as well as through financial contributions – they tend only to engage fully with mandates where the focus is on civil and political rights or on certain categories of vulnerable groups. Using four case studies – the UK and adequate housing, Canada and food, the EU and migrants, the US and poverty – we shall explore the ways in which Global North States often resist and undermine particular mandate holders’ activities. Analysis will focus on the reasons for that resistance, which challenge the principle of universality of human rights. In particular, we shall highlight the ideological divisions that remain, despite Global North States paying lip service to the indivisibility of human rights. As well, we shall document the increasingly frequent political attitude of many Global North States who insist that, considering their human rights record, they ought not to be visited and criticised by Special Procedures mandate holders, who should rather concentrate their energy on States with much worse human rights records.

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