Safeguard civil society participation at the United Nations Human Rights Council

Join us to urge the HRC President and HRC member States to ensure civil society participation at the HRC is promoted and safeguarded #NoCouncilWithoutUs

UPDATE: 56 organisations, including HRCnet members, joined the statement delivered during the Human Rights Council Organisational Meeting on December 9, 2022, asking the President and HRC member States to address the expected outcomes of the campaign, outlined on this page.

The presidential statement, adopted during the meeting, extended for another year the efficiency measures. UNOG announced that hybrid modalities during HRC sessions will be provided for the first quarter of 2023.

A number of States supported hybrid modalities, including focal points of Human Rights Council initiatives (based on results of consultations and questionnaires shared with member states): 

  • Armenia on behalf of the “Consultations on the strengthening and optimisation of the Universal Periodic Review” initiative;
  • Singapore on behalf of the “SIDs and LDCs, implementation of the measures on the use of modern technology” initiative;
  • Germany and Brazil on behalf of the “Examine the extraordinary modalities that the Council has adopted and applied throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to a post-COVID-19 Council” initiative and;
  • The Gambia on behalf of the “Task Force on Accessibility for persons with disabilities” initiative. 

While the President’s statement decided to “extend for one additional year the measure contained in PRST OS/13/1 related to general debates”, including the suspension of general debates in the June session, a positive outcome is that the statement decides to “continue to discuss ways and means to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness, including the convening of general debates at its June session.” 

This outcome builds upon civil society organisations’ advocacy to reinstate General debates and states supporting the demand in the meetings leading to the organisational meeting. 

HRCnet and partners will continue their efforts to ensure equal and facilitated access for civil society at the Human Rights Council and safeguard its participation. #NoCouncilWithoutUs!

Civil society participation is a cornerstone of the Human Rights Council. It brings voices from local communities and organisations who can effectively inform the HRC of human rights priorities and needs on the ground. 

Yet the special emergency measures and ongoing budget constraints adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2019, 2020 and 2021 coupled with measures adopted to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, and the ongoing Strategic Heritage Plan, have heavily restricted civil society participation at the Council.

Among the measures adopted and renewed, we’ve witnessed the elimination of general debates from the June session, capped NGO lists of speakers and reduced speaking times during interactive dialogues.

Consequently, civil society organisations and human rights defenders have suffered significant reductions in spaces for participation in the Council’s work. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, while civil society’s physical access was restricted, the implementation of remote participation allowed for greater inclusivity and the implementation of a long time demand of civil society organisations. 


All voices matter. Space for civil society must be promoted and safeguarded at the HRC so they can be heard and the Council can be fully informed of human rights priorities and needs on the ground. #NoCouncilWithoutUs

What do we want?

As the HRC reconsiders decisions under its efficiency process at its upcoming Organisational Session in December 2022, our campaign calls on States to prioritise inclusiveness and expertise over expediency by ensuring that civil society access and participation is safeguarded.

More specifically, we urge the Human Rights Council Bureau and the 47 member States to:

  • Maintain hybrid modalities (remote participation in all debates and informal consultations) for all Observers of the Council (States and civil society organisations with ECOSOC status) regardless of the Covid-19 measures, as complementary to in-person participation
  • Reinstate General Debates in June sessions and maintain unrestricted General Debates
  • Ensure that efficiency is not prioritised over effectiveness, expertise and inclusiveness, including by addressing the chronic underfunding of the UN’s human rights pillar. 
  • Institutionalise the good practice set by HRC president in 2022 where he responded to civil society’s ask to act as the civil society organisations’ focal point in the HRC Bureau, in order to facilitate their engagement throughout the year, particularly with regard to issues that affect civil society participation.


How do we achieve this?

HRCnet, of which ISHR is a member, together with partners, have been working hard to safeguard civil society space at the Human Rights Council. They have:

  1. Campaigned every year to pressure for measures which effectively promote civil society participation;
  2. Advocated for effective and inclusive participation of civil society organisations at the Human Rights Council directly with States, the President of the HRC and focal points on “efficiency measures” and “post-Covid modalities”;
  3. Gathered feedback from civil society organisations on the workings of the mechanisms that were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic to allow remote participation. The answers provided allowed us to evaluate practices and provide recommendations to amplify organisations’ access and informed engagement at the HRC post-Covid.


What can you do?

Join us calling on the President of the Council and HRC member States to safeguard civil society participation at the United Nations Human Rights Council! #NoCouncilWithoutUs!

  1. Sign the statement asking the President and HRC member States to address the expected outcomes outlined above (now closed).
  2. Tweet the diplomatic representation of your country in Geneva and ask them to ensure that civil society participation is promoted and safeguarded at the Council, online and offline. 
  3. Participate at the organisational meeting on 9 December 2022 at 10am.

Additional resources and updates

Civil society participation: 40 organisations call on the UN to make hybrid participation permanent

HRCnet, together with 40 organisations sent an open letter to ask for hybrid modalities to become a permanent tool to ease access for human rights defenders and organisations to key human rights mechanisms.

HRC needs to address challenges to civil society participation in light of restrictions

52 NGOs urge States, HRC Bureau and co-faciliators to ensure full and effective civil society participation at the HRC.

Civil society’s expectations for the Human Rights Council in 2022

39 NGOs have sent a letter to the incoming HRC President and Bureau on civil society participation at the HRC.

A/HRC/51/13: Civil society space: COVID-19: the road to recovery and the essential role of civil society

In its resolution 47/3, the Human Rights Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report, examining in detail the key challenges that civil society faced in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, both online and offline, and also examining best practices.