What difference does the UN human rights treaty system make, and why?

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By: Christof Heyns & Frans Viljoen

February 11, 2020

A new, global academic study to answer this question is launched in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UN treaty bodies system has operated for the last more than half a century on the premise that it makes a difference where it matters: on the ground, in all countries around the world. Yet there is very little evidence available of the extent to which it actually makes such a difference, and why. It is hard to see how the system can survive—or for that matter be reformed, or even understood—without a much clearer picture of its impact and the forces that drive it.


The impact of the UN human rights treaty system on the domestic level: A call for human rights researchers worldwide to contribute to a global study

call for researchers

What has been the influence to date of the main United Nations human rights treaties, and the work of the committees that monitor compliance by States with these treaties, on the lives of people worldwide? A group of human rights researchers are currently engaged in a comprehensive ‘domestic impact study’ that will address this question in 20 countries. Researchers in other parts of the world are now also encouraged to undertake research on the same issue in their home countries.



University of Pretoria: Opportunity for doctoral studies on the impact of the United Nations human rights treaties on the domestic level.


The Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, invites applications from individuals interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in law, specifically on the topic of the impact of the United Nations human rights treaties on the domestic level.



Press Statement: University of Pretoria announces mayor new study with United Nations on the global human rights system

press statement


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6 February 2018 - The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria is pleased to announce the start of a comprehensive study into the impact of the United Nations (UN) human rights treaty system in 20 countries around the world.