13 Jun

In a joint submission to the UN Expert focused on the rights of LGBT persons, a group of NGOs call on States to fulfill their obligations to ensure that those who defend the rights of these individuals are protected. 

08 Jun

ISHR joins a group of 34 human rights organisations in calling on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arrested in the past two weeks who were detained solely for their support of women’s rights or other peaceful human rights work in Saudi Arabia. 

13 Jun

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

11 Jun

As civil society meets unprecedented challenges and restrictions globally, its right to participate in UN processes becomes ever more important. In a new report the High Commissioner for Human Rights released calls on the UN to protect civil society, and expand participation rights at the UN. 

04 Jun

ISHR's flagship Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme begins on Monday 11 June, with 14 inspiring human rights defenders from around the globe travelling to Geneva to learn about strategic engagement with the UN mechanisms for even greater impact on the ground.

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


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

Photo: Jakob Carlsen/ IDSN






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


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,; Eleanor Openshaw,

Photo: ISHR



Ecuador | Victory for NGO as arbitrary decision to force its closure is reversed


Lea el artículo en español aquí.

With the reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama, a four-year injustice has finally been righted. Following years of lobbying by members of the organisation, the Ministry of the Environment finally announced that the decision to close the Foundation’s offices and dissolve their legal status had been reversed.

‘This is a historic victory for civil society and the indigenous and environmental movement in Ecuador, which has worked tirelessly for the protection of human rights,’ said Juan Auz, Executive Director of the Fundación Pachamama and former ISHR trainee.

What happened in 2013?

Fundación Pachamama is dedicated to the respect of the rights of indigenous peoples and the conservation of Amazon ecosystems.

It was closed in 2013 by Executive Decree - a much criticized instrument - after the then President Rafael Correa used the platform of his weekly TV and radio programme to call for the foundation to lose its right to operate. Fundación Pachamama was provided no opportunity to challenge the accusations made against it or the decision.

Four years attempting to reverse the decision began, with very limited available options at national level.

‘It was almost impossible to get an Ecuadorian Court to give us a hearing and acknowledge that our constitutional rights had been violated. We saw that only through lobbying at the international level would we get our voice heard,’ said Auz.

Members of the organisation looked to the regional and international human rights mechanisms to raise awareness of the violations experienced in their case and seek redress.

Example of a widespread problem

The experience of Fundación Pachamana is not unique in Ecuador or elsewhere in the region. A string of closures of other Ecuadorian NGOs have been condemned by several UN experts.

‘Dissolving groups is the most severe type of restriction on freedom of association,’ said the then Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai.

Closure of NGOs is aimed at silencing critics and forcing human rights defenders to commit their resources to legal and administrative processes rather than their core work.

‘Gaining back civic space is incredibly time-consuming and exhausting for organisations,’ said Juan Auz. ‘In particular for those working at local level that don’t have large budgets, or have access to possible required expertise. They need to move from defending rights, to permanent self-defence.’

‘In the case of Fundación Pachamama we had to focus on our survival.’

Adapting to survive

To continue the work of Fundación Pachamama and organise its defence, a new organisation, Terra Mater, was founded.

‘This was very important as government-backed extractive projects were spreading across the ancestral lands in the Amazon,’ said Auz. ‘We adapted to survive and to continue the work we’d been doing for 20 years alongside local communities.’


The reinstatement of Fundación Pachamama comes with a change in government in the country and a change of approach.

‘The new government proposed a national dialogue in which various collectives, including national indigenous collectives, and a wide spectrum of civil society organisation participated. In this context, we had our voices heard.’

The Ministry of the Environment agreed to re-consider the case, accepting that errors and irregularities that had led to the dissolution of the organisation were a clear violation of the right to freedom of association.

Call for a new law

With this victory under their belt, the Fundación is calling for legislative changes to guarantee the rights of human rights defenders.

‘We urge the government to establish a participatory process to define a law guaranteeing the rights of civil society organisations and protecting the work of human rights defenders and those working to defend the environment,’ said Auz.

Fundación Pachamama is committed to keeping up its work in the Amazon, with the mission of protecting the Sacred Headwaters of the Napo and Marañón Rivers and strengthening the processes for the defence of collective, territorial and environmental rights.

For more information see the Fundación Pachamama press release #SeguimosEnPie 




Photos and Video: Fundación Pachamama and ISHR



By Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch. ISHR has also commissioned a piece by FIFA on its new human rights defenders policy, which is available here.

As always, the 2018 World Cup will undoubtedly produce heroes — players and teams whose football talent and field heroics dazzle. But the true legacy may be a Russia more aware and respectful of the migrant workers who built or renovated the Russian World Cup stadiums under unacceptable conditions and the human rights defenders and journalists who exposed them. 

Browse our articles:






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


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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


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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