UNGA72 | Special Rapporteur emphasises role in alerting the world to emerging crises


The Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association has an important prevention and early warning role to play, says the new mandate holder Annalisa Ciampi in her first report to the General Assembly.  Ciampi’s report provides an overview of where she plans to concentrate her efforts over her term of the mandate, and will be presented to the General Assembly in New York on 17 October 2017.

The new UN Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association has highlighted the role of her mandate in alerting the UN and its Member States to emerging crises and recommending whether and how the Human Rights Council should respond to a situation of concern. 

Helen Nolan, lead on ISHR’s work on Special Procedures, welcomed this assertion by Ciampi and noted that it was a reminder of the need for a better response to human rights violations by the United Nations. A need that Ciampi underlines States themselves have increasingly recognised.

‘Whilst prevention of human rights abuses is central to the UN human rights pillar, including through the Human Rights Council, we need to see prevention prioritised and here Special Procedures have a critical role to play,’ Nolan said.  

Special Procedures – frequently called the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Human Rights Council – are well placed to pick up and analyse information that prompts an early warning, and can inform consideration of how to respond.

In her first report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur reflects upon the mandate and other key factors that will guide her work, with the promotion and protection of civic space both nationally and globally being central. ‘A State becomes stronger when it nurtures a strong civil society. The relationship between a strong State and a strong civil society is directly, not inversely, proportional. There is no trade-off between the two,’ states Ciampi in her report.

Ciampi highlights the Sustainable Development Goals as providing a potential opportunity for expanding civil society space, with a positive impact on societies and institutions. 

In addition, the Special Rapporteur spells out how freedom of association and assembly ‘are essential for democracy and constitute an indispensable condition for sustainable development’.  She emphasises the ‘potentially positive role of business in defending human rights’.

Nolan noted the important role that the mandate could play in foregrounding human rights in discussions and decisions regarding economic development. ‘The Special Rapporteur could contribute significantly to pushing back on policies that speak to economic interests over the respect of human rights,’ she said.

The Special Rapporteur provides an overview of the topics covered by her predecessor in his reporting to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.  She then outlines her current thematic priorities, which include:

  • Use of force, including less lethal weapons, and management of assemblies
  • Digital space, emerging technologies and human rights
  • Freedom of association within multilateral organisations, with a particular focus on the ECOSOC process of accreditation of NGOs

Eleanor Openshaw, ISHR New York office director and head of regional advocacy, noted that the Special Rapporteur’s choice of a focus on restrictions on civil society space including in the UN, was critically important. ‘The current practice for accrediting NGOs by ECOSOC is unacceptable and needs to be tackled urgently,’ said Openshaw. ‘The experience of restrictions on access and participation within the UN is a reflection of limitations on civil society space globally. The UN must drive a process of change’, she added.

Ciampi will present her first report to the General Assembly on 17 October in New York, and will engage in a dialogue with States.

‘ISHR looks forward to Ciampi’s first exchange with the Third Committee members, and to continuing to engage with her on her mandate and her priorities,’ said Nolan.  


Photo: Rodrigo Suarez via Flickr


  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council