Examination of communications relating to human rights in UNESCO’s fields of competence (104 Procedure)

Moon Wall by Miró
Last update: 26 July 2022


Pursuant to Article I of its Constitution, UNESCO’s purpose is to “contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations”.

Mindful of the competence and role thus set for UNESCO in the field of human rights, the Executive Board decided, in 1978, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to establish a dedicated procedure for the examination of individual communications concerning alleged violations of human rights in its fields of competence. The procedure is set up in 104 EX/Decision 3.3 and is generally known as the “104 Procedure”.

The CR Committee has been entrusted with this mandate. It examines communications received by the Organization at each ordinary session of the Executive Board and adopts decisions with a view to helping to bring about a friendly solution designed to advance the promotion of the human rights falling within UNESCO’s fields of competence.

The 104 Procedure is characterized by its strict confidentiality and has greatly contributed to further UNESCO’s mandate in the area of human rights.

Purpose of the 104 procedure 

The CR Committee seeks a friendly solution to cases brought to UNESCO’s attention:

  • By establishing a dialogue with the governments concerned to examine with them in complete confidentiality what could be done to promote human rights falling within the Organization’s competence;
  • By acting “in a spirit of international cooperation, conciliation and mutual understanding, and recalling that UNESCO should not play the role of an international judicial body” (paragraph 7 of 104 EX/Decision 3.3). 

Specificities of the 104 Procedure

The 104 Procedure has certain specificities which distinguish it from other human rights procedures in the United Nations system: 

  • It is not treaty-based, as it has been defined by a decision of the Executive Board;
  • Communications may be made with respect to alleged human rights violations against any UNESCO Member State, irrespective whether it is or not a party to any specific human rights treaty; 
  • The individual nature of communications is preserved throughout the procedure, i.e. they are examined in their own merit and not as sources of information relating to any possible broader situation of flagrant and systematic human rights violations;
  • The authors of the communication and the Member State concerned are given the possibility to provide their arguments in a confidential setting and this confidentiality is maintained throughout the procedure, including its final outcome;
  • The procedure is neither judicial nor quasi-judicial in nature: it aims at helping bring about an amicable solution to the situation of the alleged victim designed to advance the promotion of human rights, avoiding any conflictual and accusatory context or condemnation of the government concerned.

Role of the Director-General in the 104 Procedure

The 104 Procedure confirms the role that the UNESCO Director-General has always played with regard to the promotion of human rights, particularly her or his right of intercession as recognized by the General Conference (resolution 19 C/12.1). On several occasions, the Director-General has personally made humanitarian representations on behalf of alleged victims of human rights in UNESCO’s fields of competence, whose cases demanded urgent examination.