In March 2021, various regional and United Nations bodies are meeting – mostly virtually – to continue their oversight and monitoring of human rights conditions. The regional bodies in session will include the European Committee of Social Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its counterpart Court, the Human Rights Council, and the UN human rights treaty bodies focused on civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; discrimination against women; and the rights of persons with disabilities. The Commission on the Status of Women will also convene for its annual session. For more information on each of the bodies mentioned, visit the Courts & Monitoring Bodies section of the IJRC Online Resource Hub.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the scheduling and format of supranational human rights bodies’ sessions and other activities. For example, the United Nations special procedure mandate holders have mostly suspended their country visits, and no visits are scheduled for March 2021.
The IJRC monthly overviews have detailed these changes, beginning in April 2020. For an overview of the initial changes in human rights oversight caused by the pandemic, see our July 2020 post on OpenGlobalRights. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
European Committee of Social Rights
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold its 319th Session from March 22 to 26. The session agenda will be posted to the ECSR sessions webpage in advance. Among other tasks, the Committee plans to discuss a revised statement on social rights and COVID-19, according to the synopsis of its 318th session.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is holding its 179th Period of Sessions virtually from March 15 to 26. [IACHR Press Release] It will hold hearings via Zoom on topics of concern in particular countries and in the region. While the schedule of hearings is not yet posted, the IACHR has previously announced a hearing requested by Mexico on its experience with its national System for Follow-up and Attention to International Human Rights Recommendations (SERIDH), and an ex officio hearing on Internet Content Moderation and Freedom of Expression in the Americas, to be held during this session.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) is holding its 140th Period of Sessions, virtually, from March 1 to 26. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] It will hold merits hearings in four cases, and convene hearings on compliance with two judgments. The hearings will be streamed and recorded on the Court’s YouTube page. The Court will also host a seminar on the obstacles to gender parity in judicial institutions (in Spanish) on March 8, 9, and 10; interested individuals can register to attend (via Zoom) through the registration form.
Commission on the Status of Women
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will hold its 65th Session from March 15 to 26 in a hybrid format that will be mostly virtual. This year’s priority theme is “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The session will also include review of “women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development” from the 60th Session. The draft agreed conclusions, agenda and other documents are available on the UN Women website, along with information on civil society participation and virtual side events.
Human Rights Council
The UN Human Rights Council is holding its 46th regular session from February 22 to March 23 in Geneva, Switzerland. The session agenda and programme of work are available on the session webpage, along with other documentation. The Council will consider the reports of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review for Andorra, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Panama, Mongolia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, and the United States of America. In addition to many other reports from the special procedure mandate holders and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), it will receive the Commissioner’s report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights worldwide. The Council will also appoint several special procedure mandate holders and members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).
UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies
Some UN treaty bodies are resuming limited State party reviews, which had been postponed because of COVID-19 and in accordance with guidance released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in September 2020. Newer information from the OHCHR indicates which bodies plan to hold reviews in the first few months of 2021. Treaty bodies’ public activities, including State party reviews that do take place, will be webcast on UN Web TV.
Human Rights Committee
The Human Rights Committee will hold its 131st Session, virtually, from March 1 to 26. It will review Finland and Kenya, but postpone other State party reviews. The Committee will adopt lists of issues prior to review for Grenada, Fiji, Iceland, Malawi, Nepal, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Korea, and Tanzania, and consider implementation of prior recommendations by Jamaica, San Marino, Slovakia, and Moldova through its follow-up procedure. Among other agenda items, the Committee will also elect its Chair and other officers to two-year terms.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The CESCR is holding its 69th Session, virtually, from February 15 to March 5. In February, it held its review of Finland and Latvia, as detailed in the programme of work. The session agenda indicates that other State parties’ reviews have been postponed to future sessions.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
The CEDAW Committee will hold its 78th Session, virtually, from February 15 to 25 and on March 4. The Committee held its review of Denmark on February 22-24. All other State party reviews have been postponed to the next session.
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The CRPD will hold its 24th Session, virtually, from March 8 to April 1. This month, it will hold an “online pilot dialogue” with Estonia. The Committee will hold a general discussion on the right to work and employment, on March 22 and 24. Additional details can be found in the programme of work.
The International Justice Resource Center has put together a webpage compiling supranational human rights bodies’ guidance on States’ obligations to respect human rights in their COVID-19 mitigation efforts. See IJRC, COVID-19 Guidance from Supranational Human Rights Bodies. The webpage includes resolutions, press releases, and other statements from universal and regional bodies as well as their parent intergovernmental organizations, organized by issue area and by the body or organization that issued it. See id. For more information on other suspended sessions or the various human rights monitoring bodies, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. To stay up-to-date on international human rights law news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.