Implementation Tracking – New Tech and New Opportunities for NHRIs
All states have a multitude of obligations arising from the conventions it has ratified and recommendations received from the treaty body committees, the Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures.
As the ultimate duty bearer of rights the state should track implementation at all times in order to understand where progress is being made, to coordinate responses among actors and address shortcomings and emerging issues in a timely manner.
Two actors of the state bear the primary responsibility to track national human rights implementation:
- Government, as the main implementer of rights;
- NHRIs as an oversight mechanism of the state.
However, whilst our understanding of the importance of human rights implementation tracking may be relatively advanced, our knowledge of how to do it well is not. Few, if any countries, have a comprehensive tracking system for all human rights obligations and recommendations, let alone the Sustainable Development Goals as well.
This is true among both governments and NHRIs, especially the former where the previous few decades have been characterised by an ‘ad hoc approach’ to implementation and reporting. Recommendations and obligations are often felt to be overwhelming in number and overlapping in nature. Ministries and other actors work in silos without any coordinated approach because there is no knowledge of how to do so effectively. This makes tracking impossible and creates the reporting burden where one-off committees are established to collate data that may not exist, from people who may have moved jobs and have more pressing matters to deal with. And this happens every time a report due, despite much of the same information being required.
Emerging tracking technologies
New open source technology is changing this, and giving rise to opportunities for NHRIs – not only to develop their own tracking systems but also as an advocacy strategy to encourage greater tracking within government.
IMPACT OSS and the National Recommendations Tracking Database (NRTD) are two new innovations that help states track their human rights obligations through the creation of a national implementation plan. The tools help cluster recommendations to make them manageable, easily identify implementation gaps, track progress against all relevant recommendations and obligations (thus eliminating duplication of actions) and send out automated email reminders for data. They even go as far as tracking SDG implementation too.
These tools are not designed to answer all of the difficulties encountered in achieving effective implementation. They have emerged in conjunction with the growing awareness of the need for government-led National Mechanisms for Implementation and Follow-Up (NMIRFs) which can coordinate and track human rights. They are a tool for these mechanisms to address the remaining challenges that exist when a coordinated approach to implementation and tracking is being sought.
Whilst primarily a tool for NMIRFs, they can also be utilised by NHRIs especially where National Mechanisms have not yet been established.
Case Study: The New Zealand Human Rights Commission
Several years ago the New Zealand Human Rights Commission (NZHRC) identified the need to effectively track UPR recommendations as part of its monitoring function and developed its National Plan of Action (which later combined with SADATA in Samoa to form the first iteration of IMPACT OSS).
Not only has the use of technology in this manner helped the Commission track implementation of the UPR but it has also encouraged government to reassess its approach. By creating a platform which allows the public to track progress the NZHRC has led the government to realise they would be wiser to take primary responsibility for this so they can give a full account of their actions. Therefore through their own initiative the NZHRC has gently encouraged the government to improve their own tracking system – the first step towards more coordinated and effective implementation of human rights.
A new era in effective implementation and tracking
Previously, the path to effective implementation was not known or understood, so it didn’t happen. Now there is a growing realisation that NMIRFs are a required entity of the state, to develop and track National Implementation Plans and coordinate effective implementation. These new technologies can help ensure the success of putting this realisation into practice by addressing the remaining tracking challenges. And NHRIs can take up these tools as well, to both better fulfil their own monitoring mandate and also to show Governments what they might not already know – that the path to effective implementation is starting to become clearer.
This is a guest blog by Ashley Bowe, Programme Manager of the Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project (PCEP) at the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and founding Trustee of the Impact OSS Trust.
About SPC RRRT and PCEP
Established in 1995, SPC RRRT is the pioneer of huma
n rights training in the Pacific region, working to build a culture of human rights and assisting nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.
The UK-funded PCEP is a two-year project being implemented by SPC RRRT to; (1) establish and strengthen Pacific NHRIs; (2) enhance state capacity to implement human rights; (3) empower key groups to advocate for and monitor enjoyment of human rights.
The Impact OSS Trust is an organisation that helps potential and existing users of IMPACT OSS through technical support (installation, configuration, customisation, managed hosting) and user training.