Side Event to 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council: Introduction to the Human Rights Council

GENEVA – Organized by WFUNA within the framework of the NGO Committee on Human Rights of CoNGO, the side event was the first of four information briefings on UN Human Rights Council. Chaired by Irene Martinetti, WFUNA’s Director of Programs, the objective of the session was to share concrete advice on how NGOs can engage effectively with the Human Rights Council.

The first panelist to take the floor was Ms. Lidya Grigoreva from the Civil Society Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She elaborated on the formal ways in which NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status can engage with the Human Rights Council. NGOs have the possibility to submit written statements relevant to the agenda items of each session and deliver oral statements during the Council’s agenda items. Speaking time is usually limited to two minutes and speaker lists open at 2pm on the Friday preceding the session. On certain items speaker lists tend to be very long and thus only a limited number of NGOs will have the opportunity to speak. For this reason it is important to register as soon as the list opens.  

NGOs also enjoy the possibility to organize side events on issues of concern for their advocacy work. Resources to get acquainted with the work of the Human Rights Council and comprehensive guides on how to submit written and oral statements can be obtained from Human Rights Council Extranet and on the official webpage of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Johannes Strasser, Second Secretary for Human Rights at the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations presented concrete ways to engage with diplomats to influence discussion and draft resolutions. Permanent Missions welcome cooperation with NGOs, especially with those working on the ground since they can provide useful information. Communications should be made well in advance, in order to collect relevant information to be brought during the informal consultations on resolutions that take place both before and during sessions. NGOs are warmly invited to submit to delegations contributions and written text proposals, with concrete objectives and clear indications on how to include them in the draft resolutions. At the same time, it can be be useful to establish contacts with government representatives in country.

Ms. Juana Kweitel, Program Director of Conectas, presented effective strategies for NGOs to engage with the Council. NGOs can use the Council to denounce human rights violations in their country. The most direct way to do this is by giving an oral statement (either in person or with a video message) during the relevant session of work or by organizing a side event. In this regard, it is very important to be aware of the high number of parallel events organized during the Council. Furthermore, she underscored the importance of being transparent and direct with the target governments about the rights violations denounced is also necessary.
Ms. Kweitel also encouraged NGOs to monitor procedures that their own country is taking towards other countries and to keep track of their voting record.

WFUNA would like to extend a warm thanks to all speakers and participants who contributed to the success of the side event!

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