Third Committee: Dialogue on improving civil society participation

On 22 February 2023, the Chair of the UNGA Third Committee convened an informal meeting with civil society a few months after the Committee’s 77th session to assess outcomes and meaningful civil society participation in the Committee’s work.

ISHR is pleased to welcome the third informal post-session meeting held after the Third Committee. This meeting follows previous ones held in late 2020 and earlier in 2022, and is the fourth meeting of its kind between civil society and third committee member states. Committee Chair Ambassador José Alfonso Blanco Conde convened the meeting and highlighted the importance of maintaining the practice of holding informal meetings at the beginning and end of each session. ISHR strongly encourages future Chairs to continue organizing such meetings.

Throughout the meeting civil society’s valuable role was recognised by all intervening stakeholders. The Chair recognised civil society’s contribution, and critically the responsibility of the UN to protect and ensure participation of civil society organisations in order to protect universal human rights. General Assembly (GA) President Csaba Kőrösi echoed this sentiment, highlighting the ‘courage of human rights defenders and countless civil society actors fighting for justice, equality and human rights’. Kőrösi affirmed his commitment to make civil society engagement a priority and to create opportunities for civil society to participate in the GA’s work. ISHR welcomes this initiative and looks forward to concrete actions in the coming months.

During the interactive dialogue, meaningful interventions were made by Bahai’i International Community as well as Access Now, outlining some of the thematic and country-specific resolutions adopted during the session. Several civil society groups also recalled the importance of civil society participation to contribute its knowledge and expertise and condemned the serious lack of participation at the Third Committee, reiterating their disappointment that civil society was only invited to this meeting one business day beforehand. 

While the Third Committee is a critical space to address human rights violations, civil society does not have any formal interaction with the Third Committee, apart from these meetings. In delivering opening remarks, ISHR’s Maithili Pai provided concrete suggestions to improve civil society engagement at the Third Committee, by way of recommendations to States, members of the Bureau, as well as the UN:

  • allow NGOs to make oral statements during general debates and interactive dialogues
  • incorporate the schedule of informal negotiations back to the UN journal
  • organise genuine consultations and interactive meetings with civil society prior, during and after each session, which include hybrid modalities
  • provide timely notice to civil society of opportunities for engagement and 
  • invite civil society into informal negotiations of resolutions as observers.  

ISHR welcomes States vocal in the room supporting civil society contributions and pledging to enhance meaningful participation. Canada noted that active civil society participation is important for the UN’s credibility and that voices of human rights defenders need to be heard. Poland emphasised its strong support to enhance meaningful participation in all meetings, while recalling concerns about the NGO Committee deferring many NGOs from UN participation. 

‘We welcome the Chair’s explicit acknowledgement of civil society’s joint call for timely notice of these meetings, as well as the UK’s call for this meeting to become standard practice’, said ISHR’s Maithili Pai. ‘Many civil society representatives attended the meeting, despite the last minute notice. We were there to meaningfully engage and contribute to UN outcomes to protect the human rights of all. Prior notice and enhanced means of participation will then only strengthen the UN’s impact’, she added.

ISHR’s remarks can be found here.

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HRC52: ISHR urges HRC to take action on Burkina Faso, Colombia, El Salvador and Saudi Arabia

On 22 and 23 March 2023, the Human Rights Council held a general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention. States and NGOs spoke, and the High Commissioner spoke on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They drew the Council’s attention to a number of country situations of concern. ISHR delivered a statement, highlighting the human rights situation in four countries: Burkina Faso, Colombia, El Salvador, and Saudi Arabia.

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