News

19 Apr

Just last week, child rights advocate Dora L Mesa’s planned travel out of Cuba to attend the pre-session associated with the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Cuba was halted due to a travel ban imposed on her. This is not the first time Mesa has been restricted from travelling on account of her human rights work. We urge the government of Cuba to stop restricting the legitimate work of human rights defenders.

19 Apr

Authoritative new UN Principles and Guidelines on the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations provide clear and concrete guidance to States on implementation of the duty to respect, protect and support human rights defenders working in the field of migrant rights. 

16 Apr

More than twenty civil society organisations express their outrage at the latest death threats targeting the Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Bahey el-Din Hassan, as a result of his human rights work on Egypt. European States and the US must take measures to protect Egyptian human rights defenders, both at home and abroad.

16 Apr

Since the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, UN bodies have developed approaches to promoting the work of defenders and ensuring their protection.  However, this response has been insufficiently robust or coordinated. Twenty years on, the situation for defenders in many countries around the world remains grave. 

11 Apr

Human rights defenders in Bangladesh live in fear of attacks and reprisals that are often conducted with impunity. As part of the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh, ISHR and the Center for Social Activism call on the Bangladeshi Government to protect defenders and repeal legislation restricting their right to freedom of expression.

NGO Committee | NGOs blocked from delivering statement

29.01.2018

Today a group of NGOs sought to deliver a general statement  urging the Committee to embrace the principles of transparency, accountability and accessibility in its work to ensure its practice is fair, expeditious and apolitical.  

The ECOSOC NGO Committee reviews applications for accreditation, providing a gateway for NGOs into the UN.  It has been much criticised – by States, UN officials and NGOs – for practices including repeated questioning of applicants and multiple deferrals of applications for no good reason.   

The NGOs' attempt to speak was blocked.  

ISHR along with Amnesty International, Civicus, Conectas Diretos Humanos, Human Rights Watch, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists and Outright Action International came with two key calls for Committee and observer States, related to participation and membership.

1/  The NGO Committee must provide for remote participation by accredited NGOs:

ECOSOC recently requested the NGO Committee to institute regular meetings with accredited NGOs in regard to the ‘evolving relationship’ between NGOs and the UN. Despite the fact that these have been required since 1996, the meeting scheduled to take place in the next months, will be the first.

The NGOs urge that provision be made for remote participation by accredited NGOs unable to travel to New York for the meeting. 

‘Clearly, access to UN conversations should not be limited to those who have resources to travel to New York or Geneva or other major UN hubs.  A diversity of voices should be heard,' they note.  'We hope that States will ensure that the principle of accessibility to UN processes will be applied when defining working methods for the upcoming meeting.’

2/  States with good records on key freedoms should stand for membership of Committee:

Safeguarding civil society space at the UN is an essential component in the struggle to protect civil society space globally.  With this in mind, the NGOs call on all States with a commitment to defending the work of civil society to put themselves forward as candidates for the elections to the Committee in April. 

‘Action to defend civil society space at the UN starts here at this very Committee', say the NGOs. 

Uruguay invokes 'right to be heard' as statement is blocked:

In response to China and Russia's objections to the presentation of the NGO statement, Uruguay spoke forcefully in favour of hearing from civil society.  Opposition to the NGOs’ ‘right to be heard’ went against the principle of transparency in Committee practice, Uruguay said.  It also represented a step back by a Committee whose very mandate speaks to strengthening links between NGOs and the UN system.

‘Through their statement, civil society could provide insights that contribute to improving the work of the Committee,'  Uruguay noted. Hearing the statement 'would allow the Committee to understand civil society's ideas, experiences and expectations.'

The EU, UK and US also made statements of support.  These were not enough to overcome the opposition.  

 'As we were not permitted to deliver our statement to the Committee today, we shall now request a written version be circulated to all ECOSOC members,' said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw, reflecting on the morning's events.

'We shall also look into ways to ensuring NGOs can make general statements at the Committee in future.' 

 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: ISHR

NGO Committee | 10 years on and anti-discrimination network still blocked from UN consultative status

25.01.2018

Update:  India asked a further questions of IDSN, taking the total number to 83 questions over 10 years.  No State spoke up to challenge this or make any reference to the decade that this NGO has been on the books of the Committee. There was no intervention by observer Denmark, the country from which IDSN operates, or from the EU.    

The application for UN consultative status of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) has been blocked in the UN NGO Committee for 10 years. Working out of a small secretariat in Denmark, IDSN works for the elimination of caste-based discrimination, affecting the rights of 260 million people across the globe. IDSN works in full alignment with the principles and spirit of the UN, yet has the longest pending application in the history of the Committee.

In January 2008, IDSN applied for ECOSOC consultative status in order to facilitate the participation of Dalits in UN events and consultations - especially in relation to the UN Human Rights Council. The work of IDSN fully conforms with all requirements for the granting of UN ECOSOC status. Over the last 10 years, IDSN has received 82 questions all from one Committee member, India. A request for a written response to questions generally means the case is deferred to the following session of the Committee. Despite the fact that IDSN has answered all questions in full and in good faith, their application has been deferred over and over.

IDSN is a highly respected network whose international associates include numerous UN-accredited global human rights NGOs. The UN’s ex-Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and assembly, Maina Kiai, criticised the NGO Committee’s blocking of IDSN’s application on many occasions, calling it ‘clearly unacceptable, wrong and unfair,’ and using it as an example of a particularly troubling case of the silencing of human rights organisations that expose human rights abuses.

IDSN was founded in 2000 by Dalit organisations based in caste-affected countries and by key international human rights organisations in order to gather international-level solidarity and support for their struggle for equal rights and justice and to hold States accountable to their human rights commitments.

At the core of IDSN’s operations is the principle that Dalits represent themselves in international fora and present their concerns with their own voice. In order for IDSN to put Dalits forward on speakers' lists and in other capacities at the UN, it is vital to have ECOSOC status – without it, they will have to have their voices mediated by other organisations, as their ‘guests’.

Caste-based discrimination is often referred to as a hidden apartheid, because it is based on a system of social segregation designating some caste groups as being worthless or even being ‘untouchable’ or polluted, and therefore not attaining the same rights and privileges as others.

Access to justice is a key challenge for Dalits across caste-affected countries. This, coupled with the social, economic and cultural marginalisation faced by Dalits, make this group particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses including slavery, rape, and violence. It also creates serious obstacles to education, decent employment, proper health care and other key services. Dalit women are particularly marginalised as they face multiple discrimination. It is vital for IDSN that their voices are heard at the UN without filter or mediation.

As a small organisation without significant financial or political capital, IDSN has not been able to break the deadlock at the NGO committee and needs the support of ‘human rights friendly’ countries who believe in the right of those affected by human rights abuses to speak for themselves at the UN.

Find more information on IDSN’s 10-year struggle for UN consultative status on www.idsn.org/ecosoc

Photo: Jakob Carlsen/ IDSN

 

 

 

 

 

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criteria SR FoAA

UNGA72 | Human rights funding takes a hit but key mandate reaffirmed

04.01.2018

In his proposed budget for 2018-2019, the UN Secretary General requested eleven new posts to support treaty bodies in dealing with backlogs and with the expected increase in individual communications and State reports. The General Assembly Plenary, accepting the recommendation made to it by its budgetary committee – the Fifth Committee – approved five. The final decision represents a compromise between providing no resourcing for extra posts – a position advocated by China – and the full request of eleven. 

The Secretary General’s request for the posts was based upon a 2014 decision taken by the General Assembly to ensure funding for treaty bodies. Whilst his request was not met in full for this biennium, the Fifth Committee did reaffirm the 2014 decision, thereby establishing a mandate for future resource requests. 

‘The failure to meet the request for support of treaty bodies is frustrating,’ said ISHR’s Tess McEvoy. ‘The General Assembly has already decided greater funding for treaty bodies is required to deal with systemic problems and future challenges.’

‘The percentage of the UN budget directed to support the human rights pillar is already tiny. To then carve off funding for posts already agreed as essential, makes no sense,’ she added. ‘The General Assembly ignores the fact that investing in human rights protection is a smart choice.’

Cut to human rights defenders’ post

The funding for a post to carry out an audit of the UN’s work to support human rights defenders, was also cut, from a 6 month position, as requested, to a 3 month one. 

‘This outcome is reflective, at least in part, of the lack of understanding by diplomats working on UN budgets of the importance of the tasks the funding is required for,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. 

‘However, the report will be written, and it will be up to all concerned – including civil society – to encourage relevant UN bodies to engage with the process,’ she added. ‘The report is needed to figure out how to maximise the impact of the UN’s work with human rights defenders.’  

Decisions directly affecting human rights activities were caught up in a powerful push – particularly by the US – for deep cuts to the proposed biennium budget. The approved UN regular budget for 2018 -2019 of $5.397 billion, is almost $200 million below what the Secretary General had sought, and 5% less than the budget approved for 2016-2017. 

The GA Plenary takes action on Third Committee recommendations

Earlier in December, the General Assembly plenary took action on resolutions adopted by the Third Committee at the end of November. Consensus resolutions were rubberstamped. Where texts had been contentious at the Third Committee stage, in many cases similar arguments were repeated during the plenary. Sudan called for two votes related to references to the International Criminal Court in Third Committee resolutions. 

Country resolutions that were voted on saw no major shifts from voting patterns at the Third Committee. Resolutions on the DPRK  (North Korea)and Myanmar were not voted on. The DPRK, China, Russia, Cuba and Iran dissociated themselves from the consensus on the former. 

Archived footage of the Fifth Committee open session and General Assembly plenary meetings can be found at UN Web TV.

Contact: Tess McEvoy, t.mcevoy@ishr.ch; Eleanor Openshaw, e.openshaw@ishr.ch

Photo: ISHR

 

 

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Mechanism

1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders