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Key issues on the Agenda of the General Assembly 77th Session's Third Committee

The Third Committee, the UN General Assembly’s principal human rights committee, has just kicked off its deliberations. This year's session will run for eight weeks, from 29 September to 18 November 2022, and it will be chaired by Ambassador José Alfonso Blanco Conde of the Dominican Republic. Below is ISHR's outline of expected reports, resolutions and events relating to human rights defenders and strengthening of the UN human rights system.

The Third Committee is a key moment in the year for UN member States to take action in support of the respect of human rights globally, through the negotiation and adoption of resolutions focused on thematic or country concerns. The Third Committee also brings together a wide array of Special Procedures mandate holders mandated by the Human Rights Council to report to the General Assembly on pressing human rights concerns.

This year’s Third Committee is expected to consider approximately 60 resolutions on a range of topics. ISHR will be closely monitoring the work of the Third Committee as well as relevant developments in the plenary of the General Assembly and will report on key developments relevant to human rights defenders (HRDs).

Unlike the previous two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the Third Committee is largely returning to pre-pandemic working methods, with sessions held in person. Civil society access to the building has been restored. However, resolution negotiations will take place both in person and virtually. Civil society does not have access to these negotiations unless invited by the penholders of the resolution.

Further, this year information on the negotiations will only be shared on the E-delegates platform — a deviation from the pre-pandemic practice of sharing on the public and more accessible UN journal. This differential access and information gaps significantly impact civil society’s ability to engage with States in both formal and informal settings and to contribute its expertise to the crucial work of the Committee. We encourage all delegations to engage meaningfully with civil society including by inviting NGOs to participate in informal negotiations.


Through its resolutions, the Third Committee considers specific thematic issues and country-specific situations, either annually or biennially. Though many topics are considered year after year, resolutions on issues not previously addressed can also be presented.


  • Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Lead Sponsor: Sweden) – This year we’ll see the return of the biennial resolution on extra-judicial killings which seeks to ensure the protection of the right to life of all persons, which is introduced biennially by Finland or Sweden alternating. The resolution historically includes a paragraph referring to groups that are vulnerable to extrajudicial killings such as people with disabilities, indigenous and older people. This paragraph urges States to protect against and investigate killings committed for reasons related to their activities as human rights defenders, or because of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). ISHR together with other NGOs will be advocating to ensure this language is maintained.
  • Right to privacy in the Digital Age (Lead Sponsors: Germany and Brazil) – The Third Committee will again consider a resolution on the right to privacy. In previous years this biennial resolution expressed concern regarding the violation of the right to privacy of human rights defenders. Spyware that is not in compliance with human rights norms and obligations can impact democratic movements and work undertaken by human rights defenders. ISHR together with other NGOs hopes the resolution will address the sale, transfer and use of private surveillance technologies, encryption and internet shutdowns, as well as the gendered impact of privacy regulations.
  • Treaty Body strengthening – (Lead Sponsor: Iceland) – Iceland is expected once again to present a resolution on treaty body strengthening. ISHR urges all States to use this resolution to welcome the recent report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the Treaty Body System with a view to ensuring the implementation of the recommendations contained in that report.
  • Death Penalty (Lead Sponsors: Costa Rica and Australia) – The Third Committee will once again consider its biennial resolution on the death penalty. This resolution calls for States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The death penalty, irrespective of its compliance with due process, is in violation of human rights. Despite a growing number of States showing support, this resolution continues to be a battleground for all discussions surrounding sovereignty and human rights.
  • Gender – Several resolutions address women and girls and gender issues, and many are expected to become battlegrounds regarding references to gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights, as has been the case in previous sessions of the Third Committee. This includes the resolutions on Violence against Women, Trafficking in Women and Girls, Female Genital Mutilation, Obstetric Fistula, and Child Early and Forced Marriage.

Country situations: 

  • Canada will again present a resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran spotlighting the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the resolution will reflect the ongoing protests against the morality police and hijab law triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini and the Iranian authorities’ violent response.
  • The European Union will again present a resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, given that the human rights situation has not improved but rather has continued to deteriorate especially in the context of recent flooding, including access to food, health, etc.
  • The EU, along with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will again present a draft resolution on the Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar. The resolution should address the deteriorating situation, including the execution of political opponents, torching of villages, extreme violence, and torture and rape of children.
  • It remains to be seen whether Ukraine will again present a resolution condemning Russia’s activities in Crimea (Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine) or if a broader resolution regarding the human rights dimensions of the invasion of Ukraine will be tabled.
  • Finally, a resolution on the Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic will be led by the USA and Saudi Arabia. A recent report by the UN Secretary-General said that new measures needed to be taken as virtually no progress had been made on finding missing persons in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. The report calls for an institution to be established to help find the more than 100,000 people missing and disappeared by the regime and other armed groups, many of them for taking part in protests or suspected of activism. It remains unclear how and when such an institution will be established and whether this resolution will take any steps towards its establishment.
  • At the 76th session last year, a joint statement condemning the Chinese government’s widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was presented by 43 Member States from all regional groups. States at the Human Rights Council in Geneva are currently negotiating a resolution that would seek to organise a debate on rights violations in Xinjiang, following the OHCHR’s report, ‘Assessment of human rights concerns in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China’, which warned of possible crimes against humanity. The OHCHR’s report concludes that ‘conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur’ and that it ‘requires urgent attention by (…) the United Nations intergovernmental bodies.’ ISHR urges States at the Third Committee to deliver a strong joint statement, regardless of the outcome at the Human Rights Council, that will contribute to sustaining global attention to human rights violations not only in the Uyghur region but also in Tibet, Hong Kong and mainland China, in light of China’s national security framework and common root causes identified in the OHCHR’s report.


Other key issues:

For the fourth year in a row, a joint statement on intimidation and reprisals will be delivered, this time by Ireland. The statement is expected to call on all States and the UN to prevent, respond to, and ensure accountability for cases of intimidation and reprisals against those who engage or seek to engage with the UN. Eighty States joined last year and it is hoped that an even greater number of States will sign on this year.

Human Rights Council elections will take place on 11 October. ISHR is disappointed that many regions have presented closed slates this year.  However, we are encouraged that two slates (Asia Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean) remain competitive. Furthermore, 8 of the 18 States running for election to the Council are cited by the Secretary-General in his latest report on reprisals and intimidation. We call on all UN member States to only vote for candidates that uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully cooperate with the Council and other UN human rights mechanisms. Candidate States must secure at least a two-thirds majority of all voting States to obtain a seat at the Human Rights Council. ISHR has published ‘scorecards’ for each of the States seeking membership. These provide a quick ‘at-a-glance’ objective comparison of the candidates, focusing on their cooperation with the Council, their support for civil society, their engagement with UN treaty bodies and Special Procedures, among others.

The Fifth Committee will consider the UN’s annual budget during its main session (October- December, including the human rights budget). In the meantime, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has not yet published its report on the proposed programme budget for 2023.


Overview of Reports and Dialogues with UN experts:

The UN Special Procedures — Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts, and Working Groups — as well as the President of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several heads of UN Agencies will brief the Third Committee and hold interactive ‘dialogues’ with member States. Several of this year’s reports reflect concerns about increased attacks on human rights defenders and emphasise the critical importance of creating and maintaining space for civil society. Click here for a list and schedule of dialogues and here for the list of reports.

  • Report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the human rights treaty body system (A/77/279). In addition to information on the regular work of the treaty bodies, it includes information on the proposal for a new predictable calendar of reviews of States parties’ compliance with the treaties.
  • The report of the Secretary-General on reprisals and intimidation related to UN engagement. The latest report is available here (A/HRC/51/47). The report, which is discussed by the Human Rights Council every year in September, will be introduced by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights for the first time at the General Assembly, on 14 October, in accordance with HRC resolution 48/17. ISHR urges States to draw attention to the report in their statements, in particular to specific cases of victims of reprisals.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/77/178): Mary Lawlor analyses the situation of human rights defenders working on the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to the often vulnerable situation of defenders supporting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers and the particular administrative, legal, practical and societal barriers they face, including from States who have laws to assist people in danger but target and prosecute HRDs doing that (e.g., introducing restrictions on defenders and NGOs). The report contains examples of individual cases of a wide range of HRDs successfully working and achieving great results around the world in this area, often at great risk. The Special Rapporteur makes recommendations to States and other relevant stakeholders on providing a safe, accessible and supportive environment for individuals and organisations that work to promote and protect the human rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 13 October 2022.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/77/171): Clément N. Voule highlights the important role social movements around the world play in creating more just and inclusive societies while being valuable tools to recognise and realise a wide range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Special Rapporteur recommends several measures that States and other actors can take to create an open and enabling space for social movements to enhance their ability to contribute to the construction of a more open, inclusive, equitable and sustainable future. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 28 October 2022.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (A/77/288): Irene Khan examines the challenges that information manipulation poses to freedom of opinion and expression during armed conflict. While manipulation of information and the information environment by State and armed groups has long been a feature of war, Irene Khan notes a new serious concern regarding the ease, scale and speed with which false or misleading harmful information is being created, distributed and amplified by digital technology to sow confusion, feed hate, incite violence and prolong conflict. Emphasising the vital importance of the right to information as a ‘survival right’ on which people’s lives, health and safety depend, the Special Rapporteur recommends that human rights standards be reinforced alongside international humanitarian law during armed conflicts. She urges States to reaffirm their commitment to upholding freedom of opinion and expression and ensuring that action to counter disinformation, propaganda and incitement is well grounded in human rights. She recommends that social media companies align their policies and practices with human rights standards and apply them consistently across the world. She concludes by reiterating the need to build social resilience against disinformation and promote multi-stakeholder approaches that engage civil society as well as States, companies and international organisations. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 14 October 2022.
  • Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (A/75/235): Victor Madrigal-Borloz reports on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; focusing on how LGBT and gender diverse individuals are disproportionately impacted during an armed conflict. The report categorises such forms of discrimination and violence as both structural and connected to larger social discriminatory patterns, often exacerbated in war-torn areas across the globe. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 28 October 2022.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: yet to be issued. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on 31 October 2022.
  • Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: yet to be issued (A/76/168).
  • Report of the Human Rights Council (A/77/53): The Third Committee will consider the Human Rights Council Report which compiles resolutions and decisions taken by the Council throughout the year, including those being negotiated at the current 51st session of the Council. A presentation of the report and an interactive dialogue will be held on Wednesday 2 November 2022.


Formal meetings of the Third Committee can be watched live on the UN Web TV. Follow us on Twitter at @ISHRglobal using #UNGA77 for the latest updates.

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