Using the UN System
Human Rights recommendations from United Nations committees
Recommendations from United Nations (UN) committees or treaty bodies can be used in your conversations with Government.
Australia is a “party” to various international human rights treaties. This means it has agree to comply with the treaties. Periodically, the UN treaty bodies (experts) review Australia’s compliance with those treaties, and make recommendations about what Australia should change, or improve, in order to meet international human rights standards. Further information about the UN system for periodic reviews is contained in the Guide to UN Treaty Bodies by the International Service for Human Rights.
It can be useful to quote the UN recommendations when advocating for change to laws, policies or practices in Australia.
Recent concluding observations in relation to Australia can be found here, including:
- Committee on the Rights of the Child (concluding observations from 2012)
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (concluding observations from 2010)
- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (concluding observations from 2010)
- Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (concluding observations from 2009)
- UN Human Rights Committee (2009)
Recommendations from UN Special Rapportuers include:
- Report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya - Situation of indigenous peoples in Australia (2010)
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health - Mission to Australia (2010)
Submitting a Human Rights Complaint to the United Nations
The United Nations human rights system contains various human rights complaint procedures. Through these procedures, individuals may bring a human rights concern to the attention of the United Nations.
Human rights complaints may be submitted under these three mechanisms:
- The international human rights treaties (petitions);
- The special procedures mechanisms of the Human Rights Council; and
- The complaint procedure of the Human Rights Council.
Details about these complaint mechanisms and when they can be used are found in Chapter VIII, “Submitting a Complaint of an Alleged Human Rights Violation”, of the Office of United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights’ “Handbook for Civil Society”
By ratifying the ICERD, the CAT and the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Australia has recognised the competence of Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee to hear individual complaints about violations of the relevant treaty provisions.
For detailed information, consult the Guide to UN Treaty Bodies by the International Service for Human Rights
The Australian Human Rights Commission produces a number of Factsheets about human rights and the United Nations.
One of the factsheets “Case Studies”, sets out examples of complaints that have been made in relation to Australia.