20 Jun

Support ISHR's June fundraising appeal to help human rights defenders pursue their work across the globe. 

19 Jun

The practice of censorship in the twenty-first century is changing, but is no less effective at closing down dissent. A new report by the UN expert on freedom of expression speaks to a range of developments, and makes pointed recommendations, on how to move forward. But ISHR asks: what does this look like with respect to China?

19 Jun

In 1998 the world made a commitment to promote and protect the rights of defenders.  Twenty years on, what real difference has the UN Declaration - and subsequent UN resolutions and recommendations - made to the lives of human rights defenders in Colombia and Tunisia?  A new report by ISHR and partners provides insights and proposals for change.

19 Jun

Respect for human rights – and a commitment to uphold these rights through multilateralism and the rule of law – is the only pathway to peace, security and sustainable development.

13 Jun

The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 18 June to 6 July 2018, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identiy, freedom of association, assembly, expression and women's rights. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Burundi, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Belarus among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.

Input requested on the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders


The 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders sets the scene for an assessment of its implementation - where challenges lie as well as good practices.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has put out a call for analyses and recommendations in regard to measures taken by States, the value of technical support to States, and an audit of the UN’s own work on defenders.  This is a follow up to the UN General Assembly 72nd sesssion resolution on human rights defenders.  

‘This is an opportunity for civil society analyses and recommendations from across the globe to contribute to increasing pressure on States to fulfil their obligations to human rights defenders,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy.

OHCHR’s call for input: 

OHCHR is requesting input on three main areas:   

  • Evaluating the UN’s work on human rights defenders, including in providing advice to States

  • Assessing the impact of technical assistance and capacity building provided to States in regard to fulfilling their obligations to human rights defenders

  • Making recommendations (to any relevant stakeholder) on how best to promote the Declaration and ensure its implementation 

The full calls for input by OHCHR are here:  



OHCHR have indicated that they will receive input in English and French.  The deadline is: 15 April 

‘The audit of the UN’s work on protection of human rights defenders is unique', noted McEvoy. 'We hope that this process of reviewing the UN’s work and – more generally – driving forward implementation of the Declaration will get active support from the highest levels in the UN.’ 

What happens after the OHCHR reports are written?

A high-level event will be held in New York at the end of the year, during the 73rd session of the General Assembly, where good practice, challenges and recommendations related to implementation will be shared. Civil society participation in that event has yet to be defined.

‘Meaningful participation by human rights defenders in a UN event on human rights defenders is a no brainer,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘We urge the current President of the General Assembly to work with the upcoming President to ensure such participation is enabled.’


Tess McEvoy:;  Eleanor Openshaw:

For more on the content of the Declaration on HRDs, see:

Photo: Flickr

HRC37 | Civil society presents key takeaways from Human Rights Council


Civil society groups welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council's 37th session, but regretted the Council's continued failure to address serious human rights violations in a number of countries, such as Cambodia, Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and China.

In delivering a joint statement, ISHR, DefendDefenders, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, CIVICUS, International Commission of Jurists, FIDH, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, and FORUM-ASIA, welcomed the adoption of the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in reaffirming that all approaches to development must comply with the State’s international human rights obligations.

The organisations highlighted that “cooperation and dialogue” are important for the promotion and protection of human rights and that States should fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, and ensure that all stakeholders are able to cooperate and engage with them without fear of reprisals.

“We must now be vigilant to ensure that the resolution on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation, which is lacking in balance, does not undermine other important parts of the Council’s mandate: to address human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies in specific countries” stressed Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate.

The organisations, having long supported the resolution on “protection of human rights while countering terrorism", expressed their appreciation to the efforts that led to the end of the separate and deeply flawed initiative on "the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights". They called on the Council to ensure that future versions of the "terrorism and human rights" resolution address the relevant issues exclusively and comprehensively from the perspective of the effective protection of human rights. 

The organisations welcomed the joint statement on Cambodia by over 40 States calling for further action if the situation does not improve in the lead up to the elections and for a briefing by the High Commissioner before the next Council session. However, they expressed their regret over the failure of the Council to take meaningful action to address the alarming situation on the ground.

The organisations also expressed their regret at the Council’s failure to establish a dedicated monitoring and reporting mechanism on Libya, given the gravity of the human rights situation on the ground and the lack of accountability for crimes under international law.

The 37th session demonstrated that the Council can respond in an agile manner to crises when it adopted a resolution after convening an urgent debate on Eastern Ghouta.

The session also presented steps forward towards accountability with the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, allowing it to continue its vital investigations and identification of perpetrators. The organisations also welcomed the co-sponsorship of the Myanmar resolution by groups of States from all regions, making a joint commitment to address the continuing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the country and support for the Special Rapporteur and Fact-Finding Mission to fulfill its mandate to establish truth and ensure accountability for perpetrators.

"These developments acknowledge the importance of accountability for serious human rights violations and crimes under international law, which cannot be understated" added El Hosseiny. 

The adoption of the resolution on drugs and human rights was welcomed by the organisations as the OHCHR report will provide human rights indicators related to the drug issue that would help in future policies.

The organisations also welcomed the Dutch-led joint statement on strengthening the Council, emphasising the importance of substantive civil society participation in any initiative or process and that the Council must be accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders and rights holders on the ground. They further called on the Bureau co-facilitators on improving the efficiency and strengthening the Council to closely engage with all Members and Observers of the Council, human rights defenders and civil society organisations not based in Geneva. 

Read the full statement here

Contact: Salma El Hosseiny, Human Rights Council Advocate, on or +41 (0)22 919 71 02 

Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré


NGO Committee | States must put commitment to civil society into practice at upcoming elections


On 16 April, ECOSOC will vote in the full 19-member NGO Committee, for the 2019 – 2022 term.  Now is the time for States to put themselves forward as candidates and – in the case of ECOSOC members – ensure they limit their votes to States they truly believe will fulfill the mandate of the NGO Committee and consider applications for accreditation fairly. 

In a joint letter several NGOs long concerned about the practice of the Committee, call on States to use the opportunity of the elections to shake up the NGO Committee.

‘Membership of the NGO Committee matters,’ say the NGOs, including ISHR.

The NGO Committee is mandated to recommend accreditation to NGOs ‘in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.  However, Committee members have used their membership to interrogate and malign NGOs, and block their entry into the UN.

‘The NGO Committee is much criticised for letting political interests of its members influence how NGOs’ applications are considered,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘Not surprisingly, human rights organisations have the hardest time getting accredited.’ 

Whilst there are no formal membership standards – as there are in the case of the Human Rights Council, for example – Human Rights Council resolutions on civil society space provide highly relevant criteria.  These include whether legal frameworks at national level are in conformity with international human rights standards; and whether or not a State takes decisive steps to prevent and address reprisals. 

On Friday 16 March at 11am in New York, ISHR, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will hold a press conference on the upcoming elections to the NGO Committee.  Join us by Facebook livestream at:

Watch the statement here: 


Read ISHR's statement delivered at the Human Rights Council here

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw


Photo:  UN



By Gigi Alford, Coordinator, Sport and Rights Alliance, Head of Sport and Human Rights, World Players Association, UNI Global Union

Human rights are universal, and sport is no exception. Next week in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid will host a public dialogue with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to discuss sport’s potential positive impacts and how to hold this sector accountable when it fails to live by its ideals.

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