Photo: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

News

300+ NGOs urge UN to ensure defenders can continue to participate online

Over 300 organisations sent a joint letter to UN representatives calling on them to ensure live online modalities of participation for UN human rights bodies and mechanisms in light of concerns regarding access and participation of civil society in these spaces. Read the letter below.

UPDATE: Read the UN Secretary-General’s response to the letter here.

The undersigned civil society organisations are writing to express our great concern regarding issues of access and participation at the UN Human Rights Council, Treaty Bodies and related mechanisms. We recall the letter signed by 40 civil society organisations on 23 June 2023 welcoming the agreement between the Secretary-General and the President of the Human Rights Council for the 17th cycle to maintain hybrid modalities of participation throughout 2023 and urging the competent bodies to create a mandate that would allow for the consolidation of said modalities.

We deeply regret, however, that the 5th Committee of the General Assembly and its relevant subsidiary bodies in New York failed to provide the required mandate and legislative framework upon which such modalities could have been permanently adopted for 2024. We regret further that, in the recent UPR 45th session, the United Nations Offices at Geneva (UNOG)  did not provide modalities for live online participation, as it maintained that it has no mandate for providing hybrid services. Similarly, we are extremely concerned by the negative impact that these measures are having on the functioning of those Treaty Bodies that are currently in session or that will soon begin their sessions, as the online participation of numerous civil society representatives that were scheduled to interact with Treaty Bodies have been cancelled, while hybrid and online meetings are still allowed for States upon request.

We join States in Geneva in expressing our deep concern about the significant negative impact of the lack of provision for live online participation tools on the inclusivity and universality of all UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, UPR and Treaty Bodies. Civil society organisations have long demanded effective means for remote participation, due to the glaring obstacles faced by rights holders and victims and survivors of violations, as well as people from marginalised and vulnerable communities, in accessing multilateral spaces, including, but not limited to, denial of visas, resource challenges, travel costs, environmental considerations, security concerns and accessibility for people with disabilities. 

For the past four years, the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms in Geneva have set an excellent example for the UN-wide system and strengthened their work through live online interventions and pre-recorded videos, coupled with in-person interventions. These interventions have improved diversity and accessibility and brought defenders and victims of violations closer to the UN human rights system, in turn making the UN more relevant to rights holders. It is disheartening that we now face discontinuation of best practices rather than adoption across the UN mechanisms.

As illustrated by the High Commissioner’s landmark report A/HRC/51/13, ‘the recipe for effective crisis response and for trust and resilience is a more systematic investment in meaningful, safe and inclusive participation at all levels, coupled with effective measures to protect access to information and an enabling environment for debate as well as the security and holistic protection of those who speak up’.

Additionally, as we have emphasised on different occasions, Geneva is the central hub for human rights conferences at the UN level, and urgent action should be taken to mitigate its contributions to the climate crisis. While in-person meetings are necessary, the possibility of intervention through online participation allows the UN to align its practices with the urgency of reducing carbon emissions. With the HRC sessions getting longer, and the unmitigated planetary crisis, sustainability must be a priority. Ensuring modalities for remote participation also contributes to building greater engagement and ownership of norms and standards. 

The undersigned organisations respectfully urge you to:

  • Similarly to 2023, ensure that the necessary provisional arrangements are put in place to allow the UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms as well as the Treaty Bodies and other mechanisms, to continue to make live online participation available through Zoom, WebEx or other tools in all in-person meetings, both formal and informal, in all its sessions throughout 2024, until mandated otherwise, following the good practices consolidated during the business continuity scheme and the previous arrangements between the Council’s Presidency and the Secretary-General.
  • Ensure that UNOG and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have the budget and mandate to provide all stakeholders engaging with the UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as the Treaty Bodies and other mechanisms, with the necessary channels to participate in meetings via  Zoom, WebEx or other relevant platforms.
  • Insofar as is necessary and appropriate, address these challenges with the 5th Committee and relevant subsidiary bodies to ensure that the framework and technical requirements for hybrid and virtual services are put in place permanently for the effective participation of all stakeholders, in particular the beneficiaries of the UN system, including human rights defenders, and civil society organisations.

Signatories (updated on a rolling basis)*:

  1. “All for Education!” National Civil society Coalition
  2. “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center
  3. 4Métrica
  4. A E Hanlon
  5. ABC Nepal (Agro- Forestry Basic Health and cooperative Nepal)
  6. ABC TAMIL OLI
  7. Acceso a la Justicia
  8. Acción Solidaria
  9. Action Canada for Sexual Health and RIghts
  10. Action pour les Personnes Vulnérables (APV)
  11. ACTION SRI LANKA
  12. ADALAH- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
  13. AJIS Association Jeunesse Insertion Solidarite
  14. Akahata – Equipo de trabajo en sexualidades y géneros
  15. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
  16. Alana Institute
  17. Albinism Society of Eswatini ASESWA
  18. AlertaVenezuela
  19. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
  20. All Survivors Project
  21. Amazon Watch
  22. Amnesty International
  23. Anti-Slavery International
  24. APIB – Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil
  25. APLE Cambodia
  26. Aquarius Supervivientes
  27. OMBUDS OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY
  28. Arisa
  29. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  30. Asociación Mujeres Sin Fronteras
  31. Associação EuSouEu-A Ferrugem
  32. Association Arc en ciel
  33. ASSOCIATION BHARATHI CENTRE CULTUREL FRANCO-TAMOUL
  34. Association caritative étudiante pour la jeunesse
  35. ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE DES TAMOULS EN France
  36. Association de Défense et de Promotion des Droits de l’Homme (ADEAGE)
  37. Association de Developpement et de la promotion de Droit de l’Homme
  38. Association des étudiants tamouls de France
  39. Association des jeunes femmes pour la culture et le développement D’Haiti
  40. ASSOCIATION DES JURISTES SPECIALISES EN DROITS ETRANGERS (A.J.S.D.E.).
  41. ASSOCIATION DROIT ET TALENTS DE FEMMES
  42. Association for emancipation solidarity and equality of women – ESE
  43. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
  44. Association for the Prevention of Torture
  45. Association Humaniste de France
  46. ASSOCIATION LUTTE CONTRE LA VIOLENCE FAITE AUX FEMMES
  47. Association Pour La Diffusion Des Droits De L’homme Dans L’universite De Lyon
  48. Association Pour la Solidarité Internationale
  49. Association pour le Droit de l’Homme et Le Développement Durable
  50. ASSOCIATION THENDRAL
  51. AsyLex
  52. ATD Fourth World
  53. Austrian League for Human Rights
  54. AWID
  55. AYTAÇ VISUAL IMPAIRED VILLAGE
  56. Border Violence Monitoring Network
  57. Boutokaan Inaomataia ao Mauriia Binabinaine Association (BIMBA)
  58. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  59. Caleidoscopio Humano
  60. Campaña Latinoamericana por el Derecho a la Educación-CLADE
  61. Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC)
  62. Canadian Peace Initiative (CPI)
  63. CARE International
  64. Caribbean Association for Youth Development (CAYD)
  65. Casacidn de Argentina.Comite Argentino de Derechos del Niño d de la Niña
  66. Catwlac- chapitre Haïtien
  67. Center for Human Rights Defenders and Justice (CDJ)
  68. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  69. Center for Migration, Gender, and Justice
  70. Center for the human rights of children, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  71. Central Union for Child Welfare, Finland
  72. Centre for Child Law
  73. Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre)
  74. Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDD)
  75. Centre for Human Rights and Development
  76. Centre International de Conseil, de Recherche et d’Expertise en Droits de l’Homme (CICREDHO)
  77. Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation
  78. Centro de Animación Juvenil
  79. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  80. Centro de Justicia y Paz – Cepaz
  81. Chair of Rights Human of the University Western Center Lisandro Alvarado
  82. Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia)
  83. Child Rights Coalition Cambodia (CRC-Cambodia)
  84. Child Rights Connect
  85. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  86. Children First Canada
  87. Children’s Fund of Kazakhstan
  88. Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town
  89. Children’s Parliament
  90. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
  91. CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality
  92. Citizens Advice Newcastle
  93. Citizens Commission on Human Rights Europe (CCHR Europe)
  94. CIVICUS
  95. Civil Liberties Union for Europe
  96. Civilis Derechos Humanos
  97. Clean Air Action Group (Hungary)
  98. Clima21
  99. CNAPE
  100. Coalizão Negra por Direiros
  101. Colectivo Artesana
  102. Colectivo de Derechos de Infancia y Adolescencia de Argentina
  103. Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Defense des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda ”CLADHO”
  104. Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)
  105. COLTE/CDE Guinée
  106. Comisión de DDHH de la Federación Venezolana de Colegios de Abogados del estado Apure
  107. COMITÉ/CLUB UNESCO UNIVERSITAIRE POUR LA LUTTE CONTRE LZ DROGUE(CLUCOD)
  108. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  109. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)
  110. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  111. Conenfoque
  112. Conflict Victims’ Society for Justice
  113. Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI)
  114. CONSEIL DES ORGANISATIONS DE LUTTE CONTRE L’ ABUS DROGUES DE CÔTE D’IVOIRE(CONAD-CI)
  115. Convention Against Enforced Disappearances Initiative (CEDI)
  116. Corporación Programa La Caleta
  117. Count Me In! Consortium comprised of Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Mama Cash, CREA, JASS, Urgent Action Fund and Urgent Action Fund-Africa, and strategic partners Red Umbrella Fund (RUF) and Dutch gender platform WO=MEN
  118. CRCA/ECPAT Albania
  119. Defence for Children International
  120. Defence For Children International Canada
  121. Défenseurs plus
  122. Derechos Digitales · América Latina
  123. Disability Federation Ireland
  124. DONCEL
  125. Državljan D / Citizen D
  126. Due Process of Law Foundation
  127. Dutch NGO Coalition on Children’s Rights | Kinderrechtencollectief
  128. Edmund Rice International
  129. Egyptian Coalition for Child Rights
  130. Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions (DCI EGYPT)
  131. Enfants Solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde (ESAM)
  132. Equality Now
  133. Equipo Decenio Afrodescendiente- España
  134. ETUDIANTS POUR UNE SOCIETE DURABLE PARIS
  135. European Network on Statelessness
  136. FEED
  137. Feminist Dalit Organization Nepal
  138. FIAN International
  139. FIAN Norway
  140. FIDH
  141. Finnish League for Human Rights
  142. Finnish Society of Social Rigths
  143. FIRST CHILDREN’S EMBASSY IN THE WORLD MEGJASHI
  144. Fondation « Zanmi Timoun
  145. Franciscans International
  146. Freedom Now
  147. Freer Press Unlimited
  148. Fundacion Aguaclara
  149. Fundación Cónclave Investigativo de las Ciencias Jurídicas Y Sociales (CIJYS)
  150. Fundación Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo
  151. Fundación Karisma
  152. Fundacion Nuevas Bandas
  153. FundaRedes
  154. Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra
  155. Geneva Human Rights Platform
  156. Global Alliance against Traffic in Women
  157. Global Campaign for Education
  158. Global Detention Project
  159. GLOBAL HEALTH ACCESS INITIATIVE-LESOTHO
  160. Globe International Center
  161. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  162. Haïti débout pour les droits des enfants
  163. Halley Movement
  164. Harm Reduction International
  165. Háttér Society
  166. HIV Legal Network/Réseau juridique VIH
  167. Hivos
  168. org
  169. Hong Kong Committee in Norway
  170. Human Rights Center for Citizens of Mongolia, NGO
  171. Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN)
  172. Human Rights House Foundation
  173. Human Rights Watch
  174. Humanists Interntional
  175. Humanists UK
  176. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  177. Hungarian Women’s Lobby
  178. IFEX
  179. Iinternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  180. ILGA World
  181. IMPETUS
  182. Independent academic & migration-health justice advocate
  183. Initiative citoyenne pour la promotion des jeunes Leader (ICEPJL)
  184. Institute for NGO Research
  185. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  186. Instituto RIA, AC
  187. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  188. International Catholic Child Bureau
  189. International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents
  190. International Commission of Jurists
  191. International Disability Alliance
  192. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  193. International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA)
  194. International Planned Parenthood Federation – IPPF
  195. International Play Association – Canada Branch
  196. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  197. International Social Service – General Secretariat
  198. International Tibet Network
  199. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
  200. Irídia – Center for Human Rights
  201. Irish Council for Civil Liberties
  202. JASS – Just Associates
  203. JEUNESSE ETUDIANTE TAMOULE
  204. Juristes pour l’enfance
  205. Just Fair
  206. Justiça Global
  207. Justice & Peace
  208. Justicia Encuentro y Perdón
  209. Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children
  210. La Caleta
  211. Laboratorio de Paz
  212. Latvian Protect the Children – Glabiet bernus
  213. Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL)
  214. LE CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL POUR LES DROITS DE L’HOMME
  215. LE PONT
  216. Legal Literacy – Nepal
  217. Les Caribous Libérés
  218. LGBT CENTRE MONGOLIA
  219. Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights
  220. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)
  221. Mental Health Reform
  222. Methoria
  223. MINUSCA
  224. Mobile Info Team
  225. Molo Songololo
  226. Mongolian Education Alliance
  227. Mongolian Family Welfare Association
  228. Mongolian Women’s Employment Supporting Federation NGO
  229. Monitor de Derechos Humanos
  230. MOSCTHA
  231. MOVIMIENTO MOVILIZANDONOS por una cultura de DERECHOS DE NIÑOS, NIÑAS Y ADOLESCENTES EN CHILE
  232. National Center Against Violence
  233. National Harm Reduction Coalition
  234. National Secular Society
  235. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  236. NGO for Children Confederation
  237. No Permitas Malos Tratos
  238. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  239. Norwegian Peoples Aid
  240. Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund – SAIH
  241. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones
  242. Observatorio Venezolano Derechos Humanos Mujeres
  243. Observatory of Women Human Rights
  244. ONG Synergies & Développement (SYDEV)
  245. Oyu Tolgoi Watch
  246. Panamerican and Caribbean Union for Human Rights -PACUHR-
  247. Paradigm Initiative
  248. Peace Brigades International
  249. PeACE-ONG
  250. Penal Reform International
  251. People Forum for Human Rights(people Forum)
  252. People´s Health Movement – PHM
  253. Plan International
  254. Plataforma de Infancia
  255. Polish Foster Care Coalition (in Polish: Koalicja na rzecz Rodzinnej Opieki Zastępczej)
  256. POS Foundation
  257. POURAKHI Nepal
  258. PRAKSIS
  259. Presentation Sisters in Ireland & England
  260. Privacy International
  261. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
  262. PROMEDEHUM
  263. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
  264. Punanga Tauturu Inc
  265. QADER for Community Development
  266. RAJES
  267. Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice
  268. Red para la Infancia y la Familia – Peru
  269. Red Umbrella Fund
  270. REDE DE MULHERES NEGRAS DE PRNAMBUCO
  271. Rede Nacional de Feministas Antiproibicionistas
  272. Rede Nacional de Mulheres Negras no Combate à Violência
  273. RÉSEAU DES ASSOCIATIONS ET CLUBS UNESCO UNIVERSITAIRES DE CÔTE D’IVOIRE ( CAU-CI)
  274. RÉSEAU DES ONG ACTIVES POUR LE CONTRÔLE DU TABAC (ROCTA-CI)
  275. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Elections en Guinée – ROSE
  276. Reseau Guineen des Maisons et Foyers des jeunes et de la culture REGUIMAJEC
  277. RESET, Politicas de drogas y derechos humanos, Argentina
  278. Right to Education Initiative
  279. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
  280. Rural Reconstruction Nepal
  281. Ruşen Yakut
  282. Rutgers
  283. SAMAAP
  284. Save the Children
  285. Save the Children South Africa NPC
  286. Sayanaa Wellbeing Association
  287. Sex og Politikk (IPPF Norway)
  288. Sexual Rights Initiative
  289. Shakti Samuha
  290. Sisters Trust
  291. Skoun, Lebanese Addictions Center
  292. South African Child Rights Coalition
  293. Stepping Stones International
  294. Steps Without Borders NGO
  295. org / Zwischengeschlecht.org
  296. Suomen Setlementtiliitto
  297. TACTEENNAEIL_ECPAT KOREA
  298. TAMIL UZHAGAM
  299. Tamil-Style
  300. Tanzania Child Rights Forum
  301. TB-Net
  302. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  303. The Advocates for Human Rights
  304. The Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations NYTKIS
  305. The Concerned Japanese Citizens for The Rights of The Child to Eradicate Child Guidance Centre Sufferings (JCREC)
  306. The Finnish Women´s Association Unioni
  307. The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  308. The Hong Kong Scots
  309. The National Council of Women of Finland
  310. The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM Norway)
  311. The Norwegian Human Rights Fund
  312. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara
  313. The Norwegian Tibet Commitee
  314. Tibet Justice Center
  315. Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)
  316. TOURNER LA PAGE
  317. Transbantu Association Zambia
  318. Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University
  319. Trasek
  320. Treshold Association
  321. UN CEDAW
  322. UN Program, Occidental College
  323. Una Ventana a la Libertad
  324. Unicef DK – Greenland
  325. UNICEF Ireland
  326. Universal Rights Group
  327. Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism
  328. Vicaría de Derechos Humanos de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas
  329. VRC Social Innovations Pty
  330. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform
  331. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  332. Women’s World Summit Foundation
  333. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  334. WORLD Policy Analysis Center, University of California Los Angeles
  335. World Uyghur Congress
  336. World Vision International

*This is a public letter, open to all who support civil society access and participation at the Human Rights Council. Signatures are collected on a rolling basis, and ISHR has not reviewed or vetted sign-ons.

Related articles

Sudan: calling for ceasefire and end of crackdown on humanitarian workers, activists

After a year at war, Sudan is witnessing unprecedented violence and targeted attacks on civil society and local responders, with dozens of activists and local volunteers arrested, threatened and prosecuted in several states during in recent weeks. We reiterate our call for ceasefire, restoration of communications and cease of attacks against health facilities.