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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.
 
 

International Mechanisms

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What you need to know

 

Engagement with International Monitoring Mechanisms


The Equality Commission has increasingly sought to make use of the international mechanisms to secure local and international advocacy in support of securing the adoption and uptake of key Commission recommendations to advance equality of opportunity and good relations.

We will seek to use the recommendations made by international treaty bodies to support and challenge government and key partners to address key inequalities through the development and delivery of legislation, policy and practices, which give effect to our specific recommendations.

See our recommendations to, and engagement with, the following international bodies:
             

How does the Equality Commission engage with International Monitoring Mechanisms?

In engaging with international mechanisms, (including UN treaty bodies and the Council of Europe) the Commission seeks to secure local adoption of our priority recommendations for law, policy and practice by:

  • International Advocacy: working directly with international mechanisms to secure international ‘Concluding Observations’ and advocacy in support of Commission’s policy priorities.
  • Local Advocacy: Building local partner awareness of international mechanisms and Commission priorities – to facilitate and support local partners to encourage adoption of Commission priorities by international mechanisms; the UK Government; and the NI Executive.
  • Local Adoption: Highlighting key shortfalls and recommendations directly to the UK Government, NI Executive and relevant Departments - directly supporting and challenging them to fulfil their international obligations relevant to advancing equality.

Aligned to the above, the Commission’s engagement locally, and with the international mechanisms, is multi-layered and has included:

  • shadow reporting (including submissions to formal examination processes and supporting ‘List of Issues’ considerations)
  • briefing international Committees and advisory bodies
  • engaging locally with partners to raise awareness of reporting mechanism and/or key Commission recommendations
  • organising training for MLAs and government officials
  • engaging with Ministers, Departmental Officials, Assembly Committees and elected representatives.
 

What are the reporting cycles and examination processes?

In broad terms, the UK State Party is required to periodically report to treaty bodies or committees. The members of each treaty body are independent experts who have been appointed from a broad geographical spread and for their experience in the subject area.

The reporting cycles for each committee differ in length and each treaty body has developed its own particular working methods. The diagram below however outlines the common steps in the reporting cycle that all treaty bodies will undertake.

Human Rights treaties - reporting cycle


For further information on the work of human rights monitoring bodies see:

 

What is the impact of the Equality Commission's engagement?

The Commission has secured progress locally and with the international mechanisms.

Locally, in addition to raising partner awareness of, and support for, Commission recommendations, we have used the international frameworks and associated Concluding Observations to seek to directly influence government officials and elected representatives. We have sought to influence key stakeholders  through our engagement as part of the Racial Equality Subgroup; engagement with Assembly Committees and via direct engagement ahead of Assembly debates; and through engagement with NGOs throughout the monitoring process e.g. hosting a live streaming and discussion of the UK CEDAW examination in 2013.

We have also provided direct input, and commentary upon State Party reports, to the UK Government – including on the UK Government’s State Party report to CERD and UNCRPD. 

Aligned to our policy engagement work, including with international mechanisms, we have secured a number of advances.  Strategies such as the Disability Strategy and the Race Equality Strategy include clear references to international frameworks and to our related recommendations.

For example, the Racial Equality Strategy includes commitments to address the Commission race equality policy priorities on issues such as ethnic monitoring, hate crime and racist bullying.  The draft Children and Young People’s Strategy, includes a proposed indicator on negative stereotyping  (reflecting both the Commission’s calls for action to address negative attitudes towards children and young people and the UNCRC Concluding Observations on the need to tackle the ‘intolerance of childhood’ including their portrayal in the media).

In its consultation on the Programme for Government (PfG), the Executive committed to continue to fulfil its equality obligations including compliance with international human rights conventions. The PfG includes key Commission recommendations across a range of social policy areas including race and disability law reform.  The Commission's PfG policy recommendations are also reflected in the Executive’s PfG delivery plans. For example, the Delivery Plan for Indicator 42  includes actions closely aligned with the Commission’s recommendations on disability (including commitments to develop public awareness raising initiatives to address negative attitudes and to promote the participation of disabled people in public life).

Internationally, our work with the mechanisms has been effective in influencing the reports and recommendations of a range of international treaty bodies. For example:

  • CEDAW 2013 Concluding Observations included Commission priorities in relation to women’s economic independence and participation in public and political life
  • CERD 2016 Concluding Observations included all five of the Commission’s priorities and echoed Commission’s recommendations on a range of issues including law reform, data disaggregation/monitoring and refugee integration
  • ECRI 2016 report on the UK specifically referenced the Commission’s proposals for legislative reform and included reform of the racial equality legislation in Northern Ireland as one of two priority areas for follow-up
  • FCNM 2017 adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations and formed observations in support of the Commission’s 3 priority recommendations (law reform; commitments to tackle racism and key inequalities; and monitoring)

Driving Success
The Commission’s recent progress in securing local advocacy and supporting Concluding Observations have derived from a strong, authoritative analysis of key issues; identification of clear, focussed recommendations; and detailed multi-layered engagement with key stakeholders and Committees (including face-to-face engagement with key members).

We will continue to work to refine and tailor this approach over the course of the current Corporate Plan, seeking to secure local and international advocacy in support of the Commission’s priority recommendations.
 

What are the Equality Commission's overarching recommendations?

In November 2016, the Commission provided evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Executive Committee on government’s engagement with international mechanisms. In addition to our issue based recommendations we set out three overarching recommendations:

  • Greater co-operation with UN Treaty Bodies: The Commission previously noted the NI Executive’s lack of involvement in the examination process for ICESCR  in 2009 and 2016 and with the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2012.  We recommended that TEO continues to support and encourage the Executive to fully participate in the reporting processes for relevant Conventions and ensure the circumstances of Northern Ireland are fully reflected in the UK State Party reports’
  • Mainstreaming Treaty Body recommendations: The Commission recommended that the Executive should fully consider action to give effect to the recommendations from relevant Treaty Bodies  (including in the development and implementation of the new Programme for Government and associated delivery plans)
  • Exiting the European Union - No regression from existing protections under equality law: Obligations under international conventions relating to equality law will continue to apply to the UK Government and remain within the competence of the UK Government, after the UK leaves the EU . However, withdrawal from the EU would mean that the UK no longer has to comply with the human rights obligations contained in the EU Treaties and other sources of EU law, unless Parliament chooses to continue them in force.  We recommended that the principles of non-discrimination and equality should underpin the negotiations and final agreement regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  In particular, the NI Executive should ensure no regression from existing protections under equality law. Further information is available online at www.equalityni.org/EUexit
 
 

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