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Monitoring and promoting UN treaties

The seven treaties

One of the Commission’s core tasks as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) is to monitor the UK’s compliance with the seven United Nations (UN) human rights treaties it has signed and ratified. These seven treaties are:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (CRPD)

Although the rights contained in these treaties are not directly legally enforceable in UK courts, they do constitute binding obligations in international law. By ratifying the treaties, the UK has pledged to make sure its domestic laws and policies comply with them. This means the Commission, Parliament and civil society can hold the Government accountable against the terms of the treaties. The UK is committed to ensuring everyone can enjoy the economic, social and cultural rights they contain over time (a process the UN calls ‘progressive realisation’).

Formal monitoring of the UK’s treaty obligations is done by the relevant UN treaty body. The Commission supports this by examining the Government’s performance across all the treaties and reporting to the UN in what are known as ‘shadow reports’.

Civil society organisations can also submit ‘shadow reports’ and the Commission supports civil society to understand and use the treaties to improve government accountability.

Last updated: 04 May 2016