Photo: Lorena Russi


Third Committee | First ever meeting held with civil society

History was made on Monday when the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee and civil society representatives met, at the invitation of the Chair, to reflect on the work of the Committee, past, present and future, particularly on human rights.

In the first ever such encounter, civil society representatives from a range of NGOs engaged with member States of the Third Committee – the General Assembly’s main human rights body in New York – on some successes from the recent Committee session, as well as concrete ways in which the Committee could better promote and protect rights.

Opening the meeting, the Chair of the Third Committee, Ambassador Braun of Luxembourg, said that the Committee could not work effectively without taking into account of the viewpoints of civil society. The President of the General Assembly made a similar point, speaking of ‘fostering dialogue’. Even the unusual seating employed at the meeting – mixing member States and civil society speakers together – underscored the notion of partnership between Member States and civil society.

‘This was an opportunity to showcase the value of critical and constructive engagement on issues of common concern,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

Speakers addressed a range of issues – from the rights of people with disabilities to digital rights, from freedom of expression to how best to contribute to the prevention of armed conflict.

‘The diversity of interventions made evident the scope and depth of expertise civil society can bring to the table,’ added Openshaw.

During the conversation, ISHR spoke to the ways in which the Third Committee could itself assist in encouraging implementation of its own resolutions.

‘The exchange with States allowed us to share our analysis – developed over many years engaging in UN spaces and with defenders nationally – of ways to make resolutions as focused and action orientated as possible,’ said ISHR’s Zamzam Mohammed, who delivered the statement.

Andrew Smith, of Article 19, presented an assessment of the highs and lows of the recent Committee session, in name of several human rights organisations, including ISHR.

States including Djibouti, Japan, Turkey, Norway and the US, took to the floor to commend the initiative of the Chair of the Committee, and speak of the value of civil society engagement and an interest in seeing similar meetings held in the future. Pushback by a small number of States ahead of the meeting was barely referenced during the event.

Costa Rica noted that discussion of increasing participation of different stakeholders in the work of the Committee should be considered in the context of efforts to revitalize and reinvigorate its work.

‘This was a very significant encounter,’ said Openshaw. ‘The Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Braun, has shown real leadership and innovation in bringing partners in the UN project together in this way. We are hugely grateful to him for his initiative.’

‘This kind of encounter must happen again,’ she added.

Contacts: Eleanor Openshaw, [email protected]; Zamzam Mohammed, [email protected]


Related articles

ACHPR 69: Protect women human rights defenders in Sudan

During each ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘The African Commission’), Commissioners present their activity reports which provides an overview of the work done in between two sessions. On 23 November 2021, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Focal point on reprisals presented his report.

ACHRP 69: Periodic review of Benin

In compliance with Article 62 of the African Charter, States have the obligation to report every two years on the legislative, administrative and political measures taken with a view to give effect to human rights guaranteed by the Charter. Despite the challenges of conducting the sessions online, it doesn't prevent the African Commission from holding States accountable to their human rights obligations.

LGBTIQ: 3rd Committee of GA adopts resolution on free and fair elections that makes it the second-ever resolution to mention ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’

During its 76th session and in a move welcomed by civil-society, the Third Committee of the GA adopted by consensus a resolution recognising the rights of all people to participate in elections and public affairs, without discrimination, including on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

ACHPR 69: the situation of human rights defenders in exile in Africa

Concerned about the increase in the number of human rights defenders in exile in Africa, during its 27th Extraordinary session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Commission’) adopted resolution 439 mandating the African Commission to publish a report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Exile in Africa.

ACHPR 69: Protect defenders in Africa without discrimination

On 16 November, ISHR delivered a statement on the situation of human rights in Africa, with a particular focus on the criminalisation and arrest of women defenders in Sudan, of LGBTI defenders in Namibia and the progress made on legislative protection of defenders in Benin and Mali.

Stay in the loop!

Would you like to be informed of future events, news, updates on our work, invitations and appeals? Please enter your email address below!