At a strategic consultation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted its 2024 Action Plan to enhance support for defenders amid shrinking civic space and heightened State focus on terrorism.
Click here to read more about ISHR’s coverage of COVID-19.
The full statement is below:
Civil Society Principles and Recommendations on Ensuring Civil Society Access and Meaningful Participation in UN Discussions During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The UN and member-States are faced with the need to respond swiftly and effectively to the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, engaging with civil society partners in all their diversity is critical. As UN agencies, mechanisms, and bodies alter their way of working – postponing sessions or moving activities online – they must consider how to maintain and broaden that meaningful and inclusive engagement with civil society. They should be guided in this by the principles of accountability and transparency and have a mind to the following recommendations:
● Including civil society should be a key consideration in decision-making processes related to COVID-19, as measures adopted must respond to actual needs and create more confidence and compliance in order to protect health and lives;
● Exceptional measures and states of emergency adopted to fight COVID-19 should not be used as reasons to restrict civil society access and opportunities for participation within UN fora;
● Any changes to working methods and modalities of UN meetings due to being held online or to physical distancing should include an impact assessment on civil society participation before being enacted, the purpose of which is to ensure that civil society space is not limited by any such changes;
● When any activities are moved online, opportunities for participation and engagement for both ECOSOC-accredited and non-accredited NGOs should be, at a minimum, as significant and as meaningful as they were in person;
● All open sessions of UN deliberative and decision-making bodies, including but not limited to human rights bodies, should be broadcast in source language and in English and the footage archived;
● Secure, open, and accessible communication platforms should be adopted to protect civil society and ensure participation regardless of technological resources;
● The digital divide should be addressed through financial and technological assistance for civil society actors who are less able to acquire the necessary technology and connectivity on their own;
● Feedback from civil society actors should be actively sought when selecting secure means of communication to engage with them online or by phone;
● Member-States and the UN must remain vigilant about, and take measures to mitigate and respond to, the possibility of new and increased risks of intimidation and reprisals targeting human rights defenders when operating online and via information and communication technologies; and have in mind that intimidation and reprisals can span the the spectrum of online and offline spaces;
● The UN and its agencies, offices, and other constituent bodies should make available comprehensive and easily understandable information in a variety of languages on how to engage with the UN virtually;
● If carried out inclusively and securely, online participation presents an opportunity to widen the number and diversity of civil society actors engaging with UN agencies, mechanisms, and bodies, including after in-person meetings are resumed, as it will remove the resource constraints linked to travel; and
● Resident Coordinators and OHCHR offices in country should ensure they maintain close contact with human rights defenders in country. This, as a means to channel crucial situational analysis and other information into the UN system for response, but also to monitor restrictions placed on the activity of human rights defenders that go beyond what are reasonable measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
European Center for Not-for-Profit Law Stichting (ECNL)
Global Justice Center
Human Rights in China (HRIC)
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL)
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
International Women’s Health Coalition
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI)
Outright Action International
Save the Children
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
On 30 August 2022, the UN Human Rights Office concluded that the Chinese State may be responsible for committing crimes against humanity, in a report on human rights in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang). One year later, global pressure on Beijing remains high, ahead of a major UN human rights review in January.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights concluded its 77th Ordinary Session held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania from 20 October to 9 November 2023. During the session, the Commission renewed its Bureau. It received solemn declarations from elected and re-elected members and launched several documents and newsletters, among others.