News

19 Jan

On 19 January 2018, Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was taken by police while he walked his son to school; his wife received notice of his formal detention over a week later. For two years his family and friends – supported by the international community - have continued to call for due process and his safe release.  

13 Dec

The UN is seeking ideas on how best to support and engage with civil society at national level as well as within UN human rights mechanisms and other bodies. Online consultations will be held from 13 -24 January 2020. 

18 Dec

ISHR joins 24 other non-governmental organisations in raising the alarm about potentially serious negative impacts on human rights of budget proposals currently being debated at UN headquarters. 

21 Nov

15 NGOs that closely follow and engage with the Third Committee have joined together to publish a joint statement on outcomes of this 74th session.

05 Dec

A big thanks to everyone who’s getting behind our fundraising appeal and investing in a better world by supporting human rights defenders!

Reprisals | NGO Committee members must say ‘not in my name’

06.06.2019

The second 2019 session of the ECOSOC NGO Committee, the body mandated to consider NGO applications for consultative status, has just ended.  Good outcomes for a small number of human rights organisations didn’t take away from the fact that a significant number of long-term deferred NGOs received yet more questions from Committee members. 

The practice of perpetual questioning of some human rights organisations – a means by which an application is generally deferred to the next session of the Committee - has been denounced multiple times by States, UN officials and experts.  

The Assistant Secretary - General and senior UN official on reprisals, Andrew Gilmour, has highlighted concern about the practice of the Committee and made specific reference to the ‘de facto rejection’ of case of the application of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) by the Committee. 

IDSN is an NGO working for Dalit human rights and to raise awareness of Dalit issues nationally and internationally.  The Network first submitted their application in 2007 and since then have received 92 questions, all from Committee member India.  IDSN has diligently responded to all questions, in some cases multiple times.  One of the questions asked at the most recent session is almost an exact copy of a question asked of IDSN, and responded to, in 2008 and 2010. 

Committee practice dictates that questions posed by a Committee member go in name of the whole Committee.  

‘When Committee practice is tantamount to a reprisal being committed against an NGO, individual members must stand up and challenge what is happening,’ said Openshaw.  

Some attempts were made at the most recent session to challenge repeated questions or ask whether continued questioning was reasonable. 

‘Greece and Mexico spoke up about the unreasonable and time-consuming practice in a couple of cases and those interventions were very welcome,’ said Openshaw. ‘However, questions were still put forward to those NGOs.'

'Given that this case is over 12 years old, there is no justification for consideration of this application to extend beyond the next NGO Committee session,' she added.

There are several options: 

1/  The Committee could invite the organization to New York for an extended Q&A where any outstanding questions India or any other Committee member may have could be addressed once and for all, and the NGO finally recommended for accreditation. 

2/  If another deferral is imminent, individual Committee members should refuse to allow further questions to be asked of this NGO in their name.  

3/ If no other action is successful, a member of the Committee, or group of members, should call a vote on this case.  Denmark – the State where IDSN is registered – needs to work for that outcome. If Denmark continues to fail to prompt any action, a Committee member or group of Committee members must call for a vote on this case.  

‘This situation is no longer simply about one State blocking an NGO for political reasons – however egregious that is -  but about all other Committee members being complicit in that action,’ said Openshaw, ‘States must call a halt to this practice and refuse to participate in reprisals against NGOs.’ 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Photo: ISHR

 

NGO Committee | Members must reject reprisals by saying ‘not in my name’

06.06.2019

The second 2019 session of the ECOSOC NGO Committee, the body mandated to consider NGO applications for consultative status, has just ended.  Good outcomes for a small number of human rights organisations didn’t take away from the fact that a significant number of long-term deferred NGOs received yet more questions from Committee members. 

The practice of perpetual questioning of some human rights organisations – a means by which an application is generally deferred to the next session of the Committee - has been denounced multiple times by States, and UN officials and experts.  

The Assistant Secretary - General and senior UN official on reprisals, Andrew Gilmour, has highlighted concern about the practice of the Committee and made specific reference to the ‘de facto rejection’ of case of the application of the International Dalit Solidarity Network by the Committee. 

IDSN is an NGO working for Dalit human rights and to raise awareness of Dalit issues nationally and internationally.  The UN’s flagship policy, Agenda 2030, makes much of the notion of ‘leaving no-one behind’. 

‘No-one can speak of a commitment to ‘leaving no-one behind’ when IDSN and other Dalit organisations are repeatedly denied accreditation,’ said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw. 

The Network first submitted their application in 2007 and since then have received 92 questions, all from Committee member India.  IDSN has diligently responded to all questions, in some cases multiple times.  One of the questions asked at the most recent session is almost an exact copy of a question asked of IDSN in 2008 and 2010. 

Committee practice dictates that questions posed by a Committee member go in name of the whole Committee.  

‘When Committee practice is tantamount to a reprisal being committed against an NGO, individual members must stand up and challenge what is happening,’ said Openshaw. 

Some attempts were made at the most recent session to challenge repeated questions or ask whether continued questioning was reasonable. 

‘Greece and Mexico spoke up about the unreasonable and time-consuming practice in a couple of cases and those interventions were very welcome,’ said Openshaw. ‘However, questions were still put forward to those NGOs.  More robust action is needed.’ 

'Given that this case is over 12 years old, there is no justification for consideration of this application to extend beyond the next NGO Committee session,'  Openshaw noted.  There are several options: 

1/  The Committee could invite the organization to New York for an extended Q&A where any outstanding questions India or any other Committee member may have could be addressed once and for all, and the NGO finally recommended for accreditation. 

2/  If another deferral is imminent, individual Committee members should refuse to allow further questions to be asked of this NGO in their name.  

3/ If no other action is successful, a member of the Committee should call a vote on this case.  Denmark – the State where IDSN is registered – needs to work for that outcome. If Denmark continues to fail to prompt any action, a Committee member or group of Committee members must call for a vote on this case.  

‘This situation is no longer simply about one State blocking an NGO for political reasons – however egregious that is -  but about all other Committee members being complicit in that action,’ said Openshaw, ‘States must call a halt to this practice and refuse to participate in reprisals against NGOs.’ 

 

 

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Opinion:

By Lena Hasle, Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Achieving strong provisions for women human rights defenders in the resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on 18 December was a key concern for Norway. The fact that many States were represented by women negotiators was important for the discussion, and for securing new language regarding the protection of women human rights defenders against sexual and gender based violence, as well as attacks online.

Browse our articles:

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Mechanism

 
 
1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders