Monday, 10th March 2014 A landmark reform of the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations was based, in large part, on the research of Professor Michael O'Flaherty from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. The reform will mean greater accountability and efficiency in protecting the rights of oppressed groups in societies across the world – such as victims of discrimination and others on the margins of our societies.
The UN human rights oversight mechanism, known as the treaty body system, had become very bureaucratic and inefficient and increasingly starved of resources. This undermined its capacity to do its job of getting governments to uphold the human rights of their peoples.
The ‘Dublin Process’, initiated by Professor O’Flaherty and largely funded by the Irish government, set out to strengthen and enhance the structures of the system. The process aimed, for example, to simplify the reporting duties of governments under UN treaties, a framework that had developed incrementally over time, resulting in significant overlapping procedures, inefficiencies and unnecessary delays, as well as to attract more financial support from governments
An example of how the treaty body system works to uphold human rights is the way in which it triggered considerable international media attention to the human rights abuses committed in Magdalen laundries and put that topic firmly on the agenda of the Irish government. Internationally, the system has led to numerous changes in law and improvements in the situation of the most vulnerable and marginalised of people.
In 2009, Professor Michael O’Flaherty, on the invitation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, convened an expert group in Dublin to set out a road map for a reform process that would deliver meaningful results. World-wide consultations followed and resulted in 100 recommendations adopted at a second meeting in 2011, again convened in Dublin by Professor Michael O'Flaherty.
Those recommendations were then put before the UN General Assembly by means of a report submitted to it by the High Commissioner. The subsequent two-year debate, in which Professor O'Flaherty participated in an expert capacity, was brought to a conclusion with an historic resolution on the 11th February 2014. The resolution in large part reflects the recommendations that had emerged from the Dublin Process.
Professor O'Flaherty, Director of NUI Galway's Irish Centre for Human Rights, said, "This is a defining moment in a treaty body reform process that got underway in Dublin in 2009. Remarkably, it does so with some success, paving the way for the delivery of enhanced resources to the long neglected sector and re-affirming the independence of the treaty bodies and their membership. The pathway to the adoption of the resolution was also notable, comprising a multi-stakeholder engagement that was exceptional in terms of UN human rights diplomatic practice.”
“The Dublin Process will serve as a template of how other intractable problems of the UN Human rights system can be tackled in an effective way” he said. “The Irish government deserves great credit for its steadfast support for the exercise. The Dublin Process highlights the impact that university-based research can have in shaping international public policy.”
For more information on the process Professor O'Flaherty discusses it in a recent blog post at: http://www.nuigalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/news/-professor-oflaherty-on-strengthening-of-the-un-human-rights-treaty-body-system.html