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.

Flyer Test

NGO Committee | Will the UN benefit from full participation of NGOs expert on North Korea?


Update: the NGO Committee voted against recommending accreditation to the Committee on Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) by 9-5, with two abstentions and three members absent. In calling for the vote, the US noted that the organisation had responded in good faith to questions from the Committee, several repeated, and that it was time to bring the case to a head.  Several Committee members stated that they still had further questions to ask the NGO. 

With the consensus adoption of another UN General Assembly resolution on North Korea a month ago, the States restated their concern about ‘the grave human rights situation, the pervasive culture of impunity and the lack of accountability for human rights violations’ in the country. UN monitoring of the situation on the ground in the DPRK has been made deeply challenging through the DPRK refusal to cooperate with UN mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council’s 2013 Commission of Inquiry and the Council’s Special Rapporteur on North Korea.

Means to monitor the situation on the ground have relied on the work of NGOs, including the Committee on Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). 

HRNK describes its work as making 'use of satellite imagery analysis, escapee testimony, expert analysis, and open source research to paint an accurate picture of the Government’s systematic abuses.'

These methods have made HRNK an authority on the human rights situation in the country. The group has worked closely with the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK and has been cited as an expert voice, in a report by the Secretary General.

HRNK seeks UN consultative status 

HRNK seeks to participate as fully as possible with UN processes, and as such applied for UN accreditation. 

‘HRNK is seeking accreditation in order to increase its effectiveness in implementing its one and only mission: documenting the status of DPRK compliance with fundamental human rights standards embedded in UN treaties and documents, and sharing that information with relevant actors, in particular UN agencies and Member States’, explains Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu.

However, their application for accreditation has been repeatedly deferred since it was first considered by the UN's NGO Committee in May 2016. 

HRNK has faced questioning from a small group of countries. Committee member Russia has asked HRNK whether it had reported North Korea’s successful human rights practices, particularly in education and healthcare.  Russia and China have both questioned the group’s independence and sources of financing.

Whilst the NGO Committee has an important job in assessing an NGO’s compliance with the spirit, principles and purposes of the UN, Committee members are known to go beyond the Committee mandate and use their position on the Committee to block NGOs who they fear will challenge their interests. 

“These sorts of questions can be used by member States of the NGO Committee to block access or malign the organisation,” says Eleanor Openshaw of ISHR. ‘They keep the NGO in limbo in regard to their accreditation.’

Given the depth of the challenge faced by the UN in addressing the human rights situation in the DPRK, the obstruction of an eminently qualified human rights organisation by one of the UN's own Committees, is deeply troubling.

‘NGOs operating in line with the UN Charter have a right to engage with the UN for a reason - the cooperation of NGOs is immensely valuable.  There are few human rights situations where expert assistance could be of more help to the UN than that of the DPRK.’ said Openshaw.  ‘The UN cannot afford to allow critical and constructive voices to be sidelined.’  

Tomorrow HRNK's application will be considered once again by the NGO Committee. 


Contact:  Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: ISHR





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.

Browse our articles:






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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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