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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.

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. ARARTEKO. 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 Commission on Human Rights Europe (CCHR Europe)
93. CIVICUS
94. Civil Liberties Union for Europe
95. Civilis Derechos Humanos
96. Clean Air Action Group (Hungary)
97. Clima21
98. CNAPE
99. Coalizão Negra por Direiros
100. Colectivo Artesana
101. Colectivo de Derechos de Infancia y Adolescencia de Argentina
102. Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Defense des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda ”CLADHO”
103. Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)
104. COLTE/CDE Guinée
105. Comisión de DDHH de la Federación Venezolana de Colegios de Abogados del estado Apure
106. COMITÉ/CLUB UNESCO UNIVERSITAIRE POUR LA LUTTE CONTRE LZ DROGUE(CLUCOD)
107. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
108. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)
109. Conectas Direitos Humanos
110. Conenfoque
111. Conflict Victims’ Society for Justice
112. Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI)
113. CONSEIL DES ORGANISATIONS DE LUTTE CONTRE L’ ABUS DROGUES DE CÔTE D’IVOIRE(CONAD-CI)
114. Convention Against Enforced Disappearances Initiative (CEDI)
115. Corporación Programa La Caleta
116. 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
117. CRCA/ECPAT Albania
118. Defence for Children International
119. Defence For Children International Canada
120. Défenseurs plus
121. Derechos Digitales · América Latina
122. Disability Federation Ireland
123. DONCEL
124. Državljan D / Citizen D
125. Due Process of Law Foundation
126. Dutch NGO Coalition on Children’s Rights | Kinderrechtencollectief
127. Edmund Rice International
128. Egyptian Coalition for Child Rights
129. Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions (DCI EGYPT)
130. Enfants Solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde (ESAM)
131. Equality Now
132. Equipo Decenio Afrodescendiente- España
133. ETUDIANTS POUR UNE SOCIETE DURABLE PARIS
134. European Network on Statelessness
135. FEED
136. Feminist Dalit Organization Nepal
137. FIAN International
138. FIAN Norway
139. FIDH
140. Finnish League for Human Rights
141. Finnish Society of Social Rights
142. FIRST CHILDREN’S EMBASSY IN THE WORLD MEGJASHI
143. Fondation « Zanmi Timoun
144. Franciscans International
145. Freedom Now
146. Freer Press Unlimited
147. Fundacion Aguaclara
148. Fundación Cónclave Investigativo de las Ciencias Jurídicas Y Sociales (CIJYS)
149. Fundación Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo
150. Fundación Karisma
151. Fundacion Nuevas Bandas
152. FundaRedes
153. Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra
154. Geneva Human Rights Platform
155. Global Alliance against Traffic in Women
156. Global Campaign for Education
157. Global Detention Project
158. Globe International Center
159. Greek Helsinki Monitor
160. Haïti débout pour les droits des enfants
161. Halley Movement
162. Harm Reduction International
163. Háttér Society
164. HIV Legal Network/Réseau juridique VIH
165. Hivos
166. Hochstrittig.org
167. Hong Kong Committee in Norway
168. Human Rights Center for Citizens of Mongolia, NGO
169. Human Rights Cities Network (HRCN)
170. Human Rights House Foundation
171. Human Rights Watch
172. Humanists International
173. Humanists UK
174. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
175. Hungarian Women’s Lobby
176. IFEX
177. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
178. ILGA World
179. IMPETUS
180. Independent academic & migration-health justice advocate
181. Initiative citoyenne pour la promotion des jeunes Leader (ICEPJL)
182. Institute for NGO Research
183. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
184. Instituto RIA, AC
185. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
186. International Catholic Child Bureau
187. International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents
188. International Commission of Jurists
189. International Disability Alliance
190. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
191. International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA)
192. International Planned Parenthood Federation – IPPF
193. International Play Association – Canada Branch
194. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
195. International Social Service – General Secretariat
196. International Tibet Network
197. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
198. Irídia – Center for Human Rights
199. Irish Council for Civil Liberties
200. JASS – Just Associates
201. JEUNESSE ETUDIANTE TAMOULE
202. Juristes pour l’enfance
203. Justiça Global
204. Justice & Peace
205. Justicia Encuentro y Perdón
206. Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children
207. La Caleta
208. Laboratorio de Paz
209. Latvian Protect the Children – Glabiet bernus
210. Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL)
211. LE CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL POUR LES DROITS DE L’HOMME
212. LE PONT
213. Legal Literacy – Nepal
214. Les Caribous Libérés
215. LGBT CENTRE MONGOLIA
216. Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights
217. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)
218. Mental Health Reform
219. Methoria
220. MINUSCA
221. Mobile Info Team
222. Molo Songololo
223. Mongolian Education Alliance
224. Mongolian Family Welfare Association
225. Mongolian Women’s Employment Supporting Federation NGO
226. Monitor de Derechos Humanos
227. MOSCTHA
228. MOVIMIENTO MOVILIZANDONOS por una cultura de DERECHOS DE NIÑOS, NIÑAS Y ADOLESCENTES EN CHILE
229. National Center Against Violence
230. National Harm Reduction Coalition
231. National Secular Society
232. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
233. NGO for Children Confederation
234. No Permitas Malos Tratos
235. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
236. Norwegian Peoples Aid
237. Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund – SAIH
238. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones
239. Observatorio Venezolano Derechos Humanos Mujeres
240. Observatory of Women Human Rights
241. ONG Synergies & Développement (SYDEV)
242. Oyu Tolgoi Watch
243. Panamerican and Caribbean Union for Human Rights -PACUHR-
244. Paradigm Initiative
245. Peace Brigades International
246. PeACE-ONG
247. Penal Reform International
248. People Forum for Human Rights(people Forum)
249. People´s Health Movement – PHM
250. Plan International
251. Plataforma de Infancia
252. Polish Foster Care Coalition (in Polish: Koalicja na rzecz Rodzinnej Opieki Zastępczej)
253. POS Foundation
254. POURAKHI Nepal
255. PRAKSIS
256. Presentation Sisters in Ireland & England
257. Privacy International
258. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
259. PROMEDEHUM
260. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
261. Punanga Tauturu Inc
262. QADER for Community Development
263. RAJES
264. Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice
265. Red para la Infancia y la Familia – Peru
266. Red Umbrella Fund
267. REDE DE MULHERES NEGRAS DE PRNAMBUCO
268. Rede Nacional de Feministas Antiproibicionistas
269. Rede Nacional de Mulheres Negras no Combate à Violência
270. RÉSEAU DES ASSOCIATIONS ET CLUBS UNESCO UNIVERSITAIRES DE CÔTE D’IVOIRE ( CAU-CI)
271. RÉSEAU DES ONG ACTIVES POUR LE CONTRÔLE DU TABAC (ROCTA-CI)
272. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Elections en Guinée – ROSE
273. Reseau Guineen des Maisons et Foyers des jeunes et de la culture REGUIMAJEC
274. RESET, Politicas de drogas y derechos humanos, Argentina
275. Right to Education Initiative
276. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
277. Rural Reconstruction Nepal
278. Ruşen Yakut
279. Rutgers
280. SAMAAP
281. Save the Children
282. Save the Children South Africa NPC
283. Sayanaa Wellbeing Association
284. Sex og Politikk (IPPF Norway)
285. Sexual Rights Initiative
286. Shakti Samuha
287. Sisters Trust
288. Skoun, Lebanese Addictions Center
289. South African Child Rights Coalition
290. Stepping Stones International
291. Steps Without Borders NGO
292. StopIGM.org / Zwischengeschlecht.org
293. Suomen Setlementtiliitto
294. TACTEENNAEIL_ECPAT KOREA
295. TAMIL UZHAGAM
296. Tamil-Style
297. Tanzania Child Rights Forum
298. TB-Net
299. Terre des Hommes International Federation
300. The Advocates for Human Rights
301. The Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations NYTKIS
302. The Concerned Japanese Citizens for The Rights of The Child to Eradicate Child Guidance Centre Sufferings (JCREC)
303. The Finnish Women´s Association Unioni
304. The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
305. The National Council of Women of Finland
306. The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM Norway)
307. The Norwegian Human Rights Fund
308. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara
309. The Norwegian Tibet Commitee
310. Tibet Justice Center
311. Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights)
312. TOURNER LA PAGE
313. Transbantu Association Zambia
314. Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University
315. Threshold Association
316. UN CEDAW
317. UN Program, Occidental College
318. Una Ventana a la Libertad
319. Unicef DK – Greenland
320. UNICEF Ireland
321. Universal Rights Group
322. Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism
323. Vicaría de Derechos Humanos de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas
324. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform
325. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
326. Women’s World Summit Foundation
327. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
328. WORLD Policy Analysis Center, University of California Los Angeles
329. World Uyghur Congress
330. 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.

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