UN Treaty Bodies

The treaty bodies are the Committees of independent experts in charge of monitoring the implementation by States parties of the rights protected in international human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). 

The 9 international human rights treaties are:

  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  • The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)
  • International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) 
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 

In 2014, the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples called upon the treaty bodies to consider the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in accordance with their respective mandates.  

The main functions of the treaty bodies are to examine State parties’ periodic reports, adopt concluding observations and examine individual complaints.

Concluding observations contain a review of both positive and negative aspects of a State’s implementation of the treaty and recommendations for improvement.

Treaty bodies also adopt general comments which are interpretations of the provisions of the treaties.

So far, the CERD and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) have adopted general comments specifically addressing indigenous rights.

The Treaty Bodies and Indigenous Peoples Rights 

Over the years, the treaty bodies have contributed to the progressive development of a comprehensive body of jurisprudence on indigenous rights.

In 2015, indigenous peoples’ rights and concerns continued to gain prominence in particular in the concluding observations adopted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

On their part, the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) continued to make limited reference to indigenous peoples’ rights and concerns.

Most treaty bodies continued to address indigenous peoples’ rights under specific sections. The CERD and the CESCR continued to refer or use the provisions of the UNDRIP and ILO Convention 169, in particular in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples to consultation, participation, free, prior and informed consent, lands, territories and natural resources, self-identification or access to justice. 

Read more about major developments for indigenous peoples' rights in the context of the UN Treaty bodies during the course of 2015.