Research considers the extent to which civil society organisations refer to international human rights framework in own activities

Date: 20th August 2020
Category: Other human rights treaties and mechanisms


The research, commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, focused on civil society organisations in England and Wales. In it, the ‘international human rights framework’ refers to all international human rights treaties and review mechanisms committed to by the UK.

The research aimed to discover the impact of this framework on Civil Society Organisations’ (CSO) activities, uncover what changes would enable CSOs to engage with the framework and hold governments to account against their human rights obligations.

Of 119 CSOs that responded to the survey, two-fifths (44%) said they referred to UN human rights treaties and engaged with any of the review mechanisms. One third (36%) said they only referred to the treaties in their work, while one-fifth (20%) did not refer either to the treaties or to the review mechanisms.

CSOs that both referred to the treaties and engaged with the review mechanisms were more likely to do so at a higher frequency per week than CSOs that only referred to the treaties. One of the main reasons for this was public campaigning, as 76% of the former group found their engagement either “very effective” or “quite effective” in achieving their organisation’s strategic aims and objectives.

Campaign engagement seemed to be the highest when CSOs referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The main obstacle which was cited as preventing CSOs from making greater use of the treaties and/or review mechanisms was a lack of resources and specialist knowledge on how to use human rights treaties or engage with review mechanisms.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission intends to use the findings to provide a better understanding of how to improve and inform the work with CSOs to further their engagement with the international human rights framework.

  • Read the research in full here.
  • Find out more about the UNCRC and its review mechanism here.