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.

NGO Committee | NGOs blocked from delivering statement


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

Photo: ISHR

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








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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