News

19 Jun

The withdrawal of the United States from the UN Human Rights Council is further evidence of the Trump Administration's retreat from a commitment to human rights, multilateralism and a rules-based international order.

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.

UPR boosts cooperation between States and civil society

26.07.2012
 

A workshop held this month in Liberia has shown the potential of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism for increasing cooperation between government, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and human rights defenders for the advancement of human rights.

 

The training took place in Monrovia from 9 to 12 July. It was organised by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), in collaboration with the Liberia Coalition for Human Rights Defenders, and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network.

The workshop brought together government officials, national human rights institutions and human rights defenders from Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia to examine their countries’ human rights progress. There was a particularly focus on recommendations made to States under the UPR, and also on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Manager of ISHR’s regional human rights defenders programme, Clement Voulé says he was greatly encouraged by the cooperative dynamic between civil society, NHRIs and ministries of justice and human rights.

‘All the participants seemed to have an open approach to one another, together with a desire to advance human rights by seeing UPR recommendations implemented in their countries.

‘There’s the sense that the UPR has boosted the priority of human rights at the national level. It’s also been a catalyst for encouraging the government, NHRI and civil society to work together toward this common goal.’

He says it was interesting that all the participants of the workshop were already familiar with the UPR mechanism, even if they had never been exposed to other UN human rights mechanisms, such as the treaty bodies.

‘While it’s a good thing that the UPR has managed to garner such a high profile, this does present the threat that UPR recommendations will be prioritised over recommendations made by other human rights mechanisms.

‘It will be important therefore that UPR recommendations support those made by these other mechanisms, such as the treaty bodies or special rapporteurs, by referring to the action points identified by them and, certainly, never contradicting them.’

Mr Voulé says Guinea had taken a proactive approach to the UPR and is in the process of finalising a draft action plan on how it intends to implement its UPR recommendations. The meeting in Monrovia provided the ideal forum for the government, civil society and NHRI to work together to develop this further.

‘National action plans that implicate all government ministries are absolutely essential for the implementation of UPR recommendations because otherwise any “commitments” are just rhetoric. The necessity of developing and implementing national action plans is one of the recommendations that the participants identified in an end of session statement.

‘It was excellent to see Guinea using the workshop as an opportunity to further develop its plan, and Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire using the opportunity to get discussion going about how such a plan would be put together when the participants returned to their respective countries.’

A more disappointing observation was the currently low level of investment in or engagement by NHRIs in many of the countries represented. ‘One of the greatest opportunities for NHRIs is to play a role of convenor of the process at the national level – helping to bring together State and civil society,’ he says.

The NHRI of Sierra Leone was a good example of the role these institutions could play in their countries. ‘Sierra Leone’s NHRI has worked with its government and offices of the United Nations to raise awareness of the UPR process and to link UPR recommendations with other government processes in the country.’

 

Participants recommended that each country create a core group – encompassing civil society, NHRI, State and other stakeholder representatives – to monitor the implementation of UPR recommendations.

Another important recommendation related to a severe lack of country reports submitted the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Liberia currently has 15 reports outstanding, Sierra Leone 14, Cote d'Ivoire 10, and Guinea 7. Without the submission of these reports to the African Commission, many serious human rights situations have never been able to benefit from the Commission’s input.

The workshop participants recommended that all overdue reports be submitted to the African Commission.

You can read the participants’ full end of session statement and recommendations in English and French. The workshop was made possible by the support of Irish Aid and Diakonie.

Mark International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day by sharing your experience

22.11.2012
 

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa is seeking input for a report on the challenges faced by women defenders in Africa and their protection needs. And with International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day just around the corner (29 November), now is an opportune time to provide your feedback.

If you are a woman activist working alone or in association with others to promote and protect human rights, and/or you’re someone who works on women’s rights or sexual rights, including issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity, then please do complete this questionnaire (English). It is also available in FrenchArabic and Portuguese. It is open to those working at the national, regional or international levels.The deadline for submitting responses is 31 December 2012.  

The report comes at a time of growing attention by the international and regional human rights systems to the challenges and protection needs of women human rights defenders. In 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders produced a report on women defenders, which was followed earlier this year by the first ever Human Rights Council panel discussion on the same issue, held on the UN’s Annual Day of Discussion on Women’s Rights.

The study on women human rights defenders in Africa was initiated by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) in a resolution passed just last month at the Commission’s 52nd Ordinary Session (also available in French). The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa is spearheading this process, and is preparing a report that she will present to the African Commission at its next session, in April 2013.

The report is anticipated to provide recommendations for several stakeholders, including States, regarding the protection of women defenders and the promotion of their work. These recommendations will help to bring domestic standards and practice in line with regional and international human rights standards, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. This will be the first time that the African Commission provides such a focus on the situation of women defenders.

Take action!

Civil society engagement is crucial to ensure the report reflects and analyses the situation of women defenders working in different areas of human rights across the continent.

Please take the time to complete and return the questionnaire above if it is relevant to you, and also forward it onto colleagues and partners. Given that not everyone has email or responds to questionnaires, any way you can actively encourage women defenders to provide information would greatly assist the process.  The deadline for submitting your responses is 31 December 2012.

Currently all the sub-regional human rights defenders’ networks and several other national, regional and international organisations that regularly engage at the African Commission are actively encouraging women defenders to provide information about their experience.

For more on the challenges faced by women human rights defenders and their specific protection needs, see Claiming Rights, Claiming Justice, a handbook developed by the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.

ISHR celebrates Human Rights Day in Liberia

10.12.2012
 

Human rights defenders in Liberia are today marking Human Rights Day (10 December) and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is pleased to be celebrating with them.

The Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (LICHRD) in collaboration with the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) and the Ministry of Gender and Development are holding a week-long series of events, to raise awareness of this year’s theme ‘My Voice Counts’.

The events, being held in Monrovia, have included the first annual National Human Rights Book Fair, awareness-raising activities through schools and community groups, radio talk shows, and a Human Rights Day parade.

ISHR is supporting this event through distribution of its publications to human rights defenders through a Human Rights Day books and resources event.

Jarwlee Tweh Geegbe, of the LICHRD, says the events are taking place to raise visibility for the human rights issues pursued by the Coalition, international partners and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights. He says the organisers are also leveraging the theme ‘My Voice Counts’ to help break the silence on the problem of child rape in Liberia.

In addition to the LICHRD, INCHR, and the Ministry of Gender and Development, the events around Human Rights Day also count on the involvement of the United States Ambassador to Liberia, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia, other UN agencies, government officials, and civil society organisation representatives.

Manager of ISHR’s regional human rights defenders programme, Clement Voulé says ISHR is pleased to be among the international human rights organisations represented at the events, and for the opportunity to support local human rights defenders in their Human Rights Day activities.

53rd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

01.05.2013
 

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is an expert body established by the African Union to monitor, promote and protect human rights in African States. The 53rd Ordinary session of the Commission was held in Banjul in The Gambia from 9 to 22 April. It was preceded by a three day NGO Forum (5 to 8 April) which brought together human rights defenders from across the continent and beyond. The Forum aims to bring human rights concerns to the attention of the Commission in a bid to increase the protection and promotion of rights through the mechanism.

Key developments

Commission fails to take necessary steps to protect human rights defenders from attacks and reprisals

For the first time at an opening ceremony of the Ordinary session of the Commission, the Chair publically condemned reprisals against those that cooperate with the mechanism. However, NGO calls for the Commission to show greater resolve and establish an effective institutional mechanism to prevent and respond to reprisals against human rights defenders were not heeded.

Reprisals against those engaging with the African Commission have long been reported by individual human rights defenders. The experience and fear of reprisals is deterring human rights defenders from engaging with the mechanism. ISHR is aware of human rights defenders who decided the risk was too high, having been allegedly threatened both during the last Ordinary Session, and upon their return home. With the Commission regularly acknowledging the importance of the contribution of human rights defenders to its work, including at this session, its unwillingness to attend to their protection is discouraging.

Reprisals against those engaging with the Commission are just one example of the broader insecurity experienced by human rights defenders across the continent. The lack of protection for human rights defenders is frequently highlighted by activists during statements made to the Commission. In its 2011 resolution on human rights defenders in Africa, the Commission itself drew attention to the raft of violations experienced by human rights defenders across the continent, as well as the impunity frequently enjoyed by perpetrators of violations - including reprisals. The Commission acknowledged its responsibility and the opportunity it has to challenge attacks against defenders. However, so far its response has remained largely rhetorical and ad-hoc.

Two hundred human rights defenders gathered at the NGO Forum and unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Commission to ‘to establish a reporting and follow-up mechanism to receive, document, analyze, report and follow-up on allegations of reprisal and intimidation reported in relation to cooperation with the ACHPR and its mechanisms.’ This echoes initiatives within the UN system, where a means to document, report on and follow up on cases of reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN has been set up. Whilst a great deal remains to be done at the UN to effectively prevent and respond to reprisals, it does provide a model for the Commission to consider.

With no particular response from the Commission to the NGO demands, it is unclear what reservations the Commission might have. NGOs have acknowledged the under-resourcing of the Commission’s activities, but consider that taking steps to track and follow up on reprisals should not be resource intensive.

NGOs noted that by moving to systematize its response to reprisals, the Commission would show itself to be serious about preventing attacks against human rights defenders with whom it partners. The Commission has a responsibility to do so given that many engage with the mechanism precisely because space to claim and defend rights at the national level is so limited. Ultimately, the Commission should consider an attack against anyone engaging with the African Commission to be an attack against the Commission itself, and act accordingly.

No State reports presented during the session

A worrying precedent was set during this African Commission Ordinary Session by the lack of any review of a State’s human rights record. The African Charter requires State parties to submit a periodic report every two years, and the Commission, in accordance with its own rules of procedure, to hold a dialogue with States to establish their compliance with their human rights obligations. When no interactive dialogue is held between a State party and the Commission a rare opportunity to hold the State to account for its human rights record is wasted.

The Commission gave no official reason for the lack of reporting – despite the periodic report of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic being available on the Commission website ahead of the session.

At this session several States, including Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia and Malawi committed to submitting their periodic reports in time for the next session. A couple of these same States have made the same pledges at previous sessions without reports being forthcoming. Overall 11 State parties never having sent in reports to the Commission, and countless others are behind in submitting their reports.

With no State reporting, all those who rely on the Commission as a means to try to effect human rights change at the national level, are let down.

In its statement under item 6, ISHR suggested the Commission establish a realistic schedule for State reporting to the Commission on their obligations under the African Charter and relevant protocols. This should be made public to enable civil society to hold States to account for the production of reports and to press States where reports are overdue or not forthcoming. In the case of a State’s repeated failure to send a delegation to present its report or non-submission of reports, the Commission should consider the State in its absence.

Limited response by African Commission to NGO calls

The NGO Forum, held in the days ahead of the Commission session, provides an opportunity for human rights defenders to debate means to advance a range of human rights concerns, including through the African Commission. At this Forum, NGOs pushed the Commission to introduce a human rights perspective to those issues to which it had not yet paid attention.

The NGO Forum called upon the African Commission and other regional and international human rights bodies ‘to integrate terrorism (and) transnational organized crime in its agenda’, recommending that research be carried out on the root causes of terrorism and transnational organized crime, and their implications on human rights and democracy in Africa. The Commission did not respond to this call directly. However, it did pass a resolution related to illicit capital flight from Africa, an issue compellingly brought to the attention of the human rights body in NGO statements during the Commission session itself. The resolution asked ‘the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa and the Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations in Africa to undertake an in-depth study on the impact of illicit capital flight on human rights in Africa.’

NGOs have long pushed the Commission to fulfill its mandate to protect and promote rights, by considering both new areas of concern and improving its ways of working. Recommendations made during the 25th Anniversary of the Commission last October included several related to the transparency and efficiency of the ways in which the Commission works. Reforms would maximise the Commission’s use of NGO experience and expertise. During its statement under Item 6, ISHR called on the Commission to produce a road map for the implementation of the recommendations it accepts and supports, and provide an explanation when rejecting recommendations. However, whilst the Commission deliberated on these recommendations during its private session, there is as yet no road map for their implementation.

Focus by international and regional mechanisms on Eritrea prompts State response

The human rights situation in Eritrea received some attention during both the NGO Forum and informal meetings held around the African Commission session. Eritrean human rights defenders spoke of the depth and breadth of human rights violations experienced by those living in country, including torture, arbitrary detention, and systematic discrimination against women. In response, the NGO Forum passed a resolution calling on the Eritrean government to engage with regional and international mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur. The UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Ms. Sheila Beedwantee Keetharuth, who attended the African Commission session, further reiterated her call to the Eritrean State to meet with her. This call, allied with NGO demands, prompted a faintly positive response from the Eritrean State. An ad-hoc meeting was held between the Rapporteur and State parties, and the Commission later reported a meeting with the Eritrean delegation at their request. However, the long-sought after request by the Rapporteur to visit the country continues to be denied. The Special Rapporteur will now visit neighbouring countries to hear the evidence of those who have fled from Eritrea, ahead of presenting her first report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.

Other NGO Forum country-specific resolutions - on Angola, Kenya, Sudan and Swaziland - all called upon the Commission to urge States to protect human rights defenders from acts of intimidation or attack. Upcoming or recently completed electoral processes - where the risks faced by human rights defenders can be heightened - were noted in resolutions on Swaziland and Kenya respectively, with calls for respect of rights to fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Regrettably, the Commission did not make any particular reference to any of these NGO calls, or reflect any particular concerns on these country situations, in its final communiqué.

Commission’s response to Mali indicates potential for greater response to conflicts

At the end of the Ordinary session, the Commission announced its intention to send a fact-finding mission to Mali in early June 2013. This comes at a time when the observer mission to Mali, headed by Commissioner Alapini-Gansou, continues as part of the African Union’s response to the situation in the country.

The nature of the role the Commission might play in African Union responses to conflict within the continent was part of an NGO line of enquiry during the NGO Forum. The Forum approved a resolution on Sudan calling on the Commission to coordinate with African Union bodies, such as the Peace and Security Council, to define an effective response to the situation in-country. As part of that coordinated response, the NGO Forum urged the Commission ‘to carry out an urgent protection mission’ to gather information on the human rights situation in different parts of the country. Such calls for proactivity by the Commission speak to the fact that NGOs see potential for the Commission to be far more of a player in terms of proposing and executing responses and preventative strategies to conflict.

Chairperson condemns violence and discrimination on any grounds

The NGO Forum called upon the Commission to condemn discrimination and violence against people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation, and to call on State parties to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of such violations.

The Commission did not respond directly to this call. However, in an important development, the Chair of the Commission in a video address to the Oslo International Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – which ran in parallel to the Commission session – affirmed that the African Commission ‘denounces violence committed against individuals based on their sexual orientation as part of its mandate to protect individuals from all forms of violence.’

The Chair speaks of the Commission as an ‘innovator’ in human rights

With the launch of two new Commission documents – The Model Law on Access of Information in Africa, and the General Comments on Article 14 (1) (d) and (e) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa –  the Chair characterized the Commission as ‘an innovator’ in the development of human rights standards. Both of these developments in the articulation and interpretation of Charter obligations are firsts for the Commission, and the role of NGOs in providing energy and expertise to the process was acknowledged by relevant Commissioners.  

Reflecting another emerging area of focus for the Commission, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa spoke of her report on women human rights defenders, due to be completed by the next Ordinary session in October. It is hoped that through this report, the Commission will provide detailed recommendations regarding the specific protection needs of women human rights defenders in Africa.

ISHR advocacy

ISHR calls for Commission to step up its response to attacks against defenders

ISHR called upon the Commission to show it is serious about ending reprisals against those who cooperate with the mechanism. In a statement on reprisals, ISHR urged the Commission to establish a means for systematically recording, reporting on and following up on cases of reprisals.

Mindful of the fact that reprisals against those cooperating with the Commission are one manifestation of the failure of States to adequately protect individuals in their legitimate human rights engagement, ISHR called the Commission’s attention to the increasing phenomenon of the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders. Criminalisation of defenders includes the enactment of laws that restrict or deny the rights of human rights defenders, as outlined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. These include laws restricting NGOs from receiving foreign funding, proposed criminalisation of ‘homosexual propaganda’, and laws that limit freedoms of expression, association and assembly on discriminatory grounds. The misuse of the judicial process is another example of criminalisation. Costly court cases initiated and perpetuated with the purpose of hindering or paralyzing a defender’s work, are known tactics: such criminalisation and stigmatization of human rights defenders facilitate and constitute human rights violations.

ISHR called upon the Commission to urge states to refrain from the criminalisation of human rights defenders, as part of their overall engagement with State parties regarding obligations to create and sustain an enabling environment for the defense of rights.

ISHR welcomes Commission initiative focusing on the situation of women defenders

ISHR welcomed the initiative on women defenders by the Special Rapporteur, and noted that it would play its part in supporting the work of the Commission by disseminating the Commission’s recommendations, and demanding that member States fulfill their obligations to ensure women defenders across the continent can work without harm or hindrance.

Commission must improve its ways of working to hold States to account

The Commission must amend its ways of working to enable NGO engagement with the mechanism, with the overall objective of holding States to account for their human rights obligations under the African Charter.

Delays in States submitting periodic reports to the Commission, and a lack of any State reporting whatsoever at this session, make the need for a doable and predictable schedule for reporting even more pressing. NGO engagement in the process - including submitting shadow reports - relies on this.

‘Whilst we agree that the reporting process should be centred on constructive dialogue, with certain flexibility where States are unable to report in exceptional circumstances, ultimately the process cannot allow for member States to avoid their responsibility altogether.’ said Clement Voulé, ISHR Head of Advocacy at the African Commission. ‘With no clear sense of which country is due to report, NGOs are thwarted in their efforts to push their States, or provide the Commission with information in a timely way.’

In a statement, ISHR also reminded the Commission about recommendations made to it during its previous Ordinary Session. Several of these recommendations related to improving the ways the Commission works. The Commission should produce a road map for the implementation of those recommendations it accepts and supports, and provide an explanation in the case of rejecting any recommendations.

With a mind to the challenges faced by the Commission, however, Mr Voulé added that ‘without resources, the Commission is thwarted in its efforts to do the work it has been mandated to do by State parties to the Charter. If States are serious about guaranteeing and respecting human rights, this includes providing adequate resources for the human rights mechanisms they created to assist them to meet those commitments.’

Commission must demand the highest standards in national institutions

To encourage the development of the overall human rights system in the continent, ISHR called upon the Commission to ensure that it only permits national human rights institutions (NHRIs) of the highest caliber to participate at its sessions. ISHR noted that whilst 22 NHRIs are accredited to speak during the Commission session, only 15 NHRIs across the continent are fully compliant with principles of independence, impartiality and transparency (known as the ‘Paris Principles’). ISHR called upon the Commission to put in place a periodic review of the status of NHRIs, allowing for suspension of those that don’t meet the grade.

‘Ensuring that only those NHRIs fully compliant with the Paris Principles are afforded the privileges of accreditation with the Commission will send a strong message to States for the need for reform,’ said Mr Voule, ISHR Head of Advocacy at the African Commission.

Other UN Bodies

22.11.2007
 

In this section, we provide information and analysis on human rights-related developments and outcomes in the United Nations (UN) bodies other than the Treaty Bodies as well as the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms and procedures.  

Most of these 'other' UN bodies undertake their work in New York at the UN headquarters, including the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Human rights defenders can also find information on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in this section.

UN Secretary-General calls for submissions to report on reprisals against human rights defenders

08.05.2013
 

(New York - 8 May 2013) - The UN Secretary-General has called for contributions to his annual report on reprisals and intimidation against human rights defenders. The report will focus on attacks and retaliation against persons for their cooperation or attempted cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms or representatives.

“Reprisals against human rights defenders undermine human rights and the rule of law,” said Madeleine Sinclair of the International Service for Human Rights.

ISHR urges human rights defenders to submit cases of reprisals to the UN.

“By making cases of reprisals public, the Secretary General’s report can provide protective publicity and contribute to the fight against impunity,” said Ms Sinclair.

“Public accountability with regard to reprisals and intimidation against human rights defenders for cooperation with the UN assists to curb these unacceptable practices,” Ms Sinclair said.

The call comes on the heels of disturbing reports of reprisals against human rights defenders in Russia for cooperating with the UN. The charges have been brought by Russian authorities against the NGO Anti-Discrimination Centre (Memorial ADC) in retaliation for submitting a report on torture and ill-treatment in Russia to the UN Committee Against Torture. Memorial ADC has been charged with breaching a controversial new law requiring groups that carry out ‘political activities’ and receive international funding to register as ‘foreign agents.’

“A very real concern about cases such as that of Memorial ADC is the chilling effect on human rights defenders’ engagement with the UN,” Ms Sinclair said.

“The UN human rights system relies on accurate information from civil society and non-government organisations to fully understand and respond effectively to the human rights situation on the ground. Unfortunately those who expose human rights abuses often face retaliation from governments intolerant of criticism. In this way, reprisals against those seeking to hold governments accountable at the UN amount to an attack on international human rights, the rule of law, and the UN itself,” said Ms Sinclair.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has asked for submissions by 15 June 2013 to reprisals@ohchr.org. The Secretary-General’s report will cover the period from 15 June 2012 to 15 June 2013 and follow up information on cases included in the 2012 and 2011 reports.

To provide first-hand information about cases of reprisals or intimidation for cooperating or attempting to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms, download the Reprisals questionnaire. For more information see ISHR’s new manual on preventing and redressing reprisals against human rights defenders available here.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Manager and Legal Counsel, International Service for Human Rights at m.sinclair@ishr.ch or +1-212-490-2199.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

06.12.2007
 

ISHR has been closely monitoring discussions and developments at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues since its first session in 2002. With the release of our new Human RIghts Monitor Quarterly in 2010, we will now publish our analytical overview of each session of the Permanent Forum in that publication.

Latest reports and news stories:

  • ISHR's article on the 9th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues the evolution of a hybrid organ in the UN's human rights system, 19-30 April 2010. The article charts the evolution of the Permanent Forum into a hybrid organ within the UN's human rights system. It argues that the UN treaty body system and special procedures have heavily influenced the working methods of the Permanent Forum, as shown by the Permanent Forum's interactive dialogue with the Governments of Bolivia and Paraguay at its 9th session. These dialogues enabled members to follow-up on their official visits to both countries in 2009 to investigate forced labour and servitude in indigenous communities in the Chaco region. The effectiveness of these visits was increased by the inclusion of the relevant UN country teams, as well as specialised UN organisations like the International Labour Organisation and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This has added a new and potentially far-reaching dimension to the way the Forum will work with States and the UN system in the future.
  • ISHR's news story entitled NZ and US Governments rethink their opposition to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which was filed during the 9th session of the Permanent Forum (last updated 23 July 2010).
  • The eighth session  of the Permanent Forum on Indigneous Issues was held from 18 to 29 May 2009 at UN Headquarters in New York. Please click here for our full report.
  • For ISHR's reports on all sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues prior to 2009 (8th session), please visit our PFII archive.

Background information

Created in 2000, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the ECOSOC and is composed of 16 independent experts, eight nominated by governments and eight by indigenous peoples. It addresses indigenous issues in the areas of economic and social development, environment, health, human rights, culture, and education. According to its mandate, the Permanent Forum provides expert advice to ECOSOC and to UN programmes, funds, and agencies; raises awareness about indigenous issues; and promotes the integration and coordination of activities relating to indigenous issues within the UN system.

 

Further reading

More information is available on the UN's webpages on the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

18.02.2008
 

ISHR has been closely monitoring discussions and developments at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues since its first session in 2002. With the release of our newHuman RIghts Monitor Quarterly in 2010, we will now publish our analytical overview of each session of the Permanent Forum here.

Latest reports and news stories:

  • ISHR's article on the 9th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues the evolution of a hybrid organ in the UN's human rights system, 19-30 April 2010. The article charts the evolution of the Permanent Forum into a hybrid organ within the UN's human rights system. It argues that the UN treaty body system and special procedures have heavily influenced the working methods of the Permanent Forum, as shown by the Permanent Forum's interactive dialogue with the Governments of Bolivia and Paraguay at its 9th session. These dialogues enabled members to follow-up on their official visits to both countries in 2009 to investigate forced labour and servitude in indigenous communities in the Chaco region. The effectiveness of these visits was increased by the inclusion of the relevant UN country teams, as well as specialised UN organisations like the International Labour Organisation and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This has added a new and potentially far-reaching dimension to the way the Forum will work with States and the UN system in the future.
  • ISHR's news story entitled NZ and US Governments rethink their opposition to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which was filed during the 9th session of the Permanent Forum (last updated 23 July 2010).

Archived reports:

Below please find our related New York Updates, from 2002-2009, in reverse chronological order:

  • 8th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations, New York, 18 to 29 May 2009
  • 7th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations New York, 21 April to 2 May 2008
  • 7th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: implemetation of the Declaration New York, 21 April to 2 May 2008
  • 7th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: climate change New York, 21 April to 2 May 2008
  • Adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Issues, New York 13 September 2007 (extract from the chapter on standard setting, Human Rights Monitor 2007)
  • New York Update on the status of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples New York, 25 May 2007
  • New York Update on the 6th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Special Theme: Territories, Lands and Natural Ressources New York, 14 to 25 May 2007
  • 4th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations, New York, 16 to 27 May 2005
  • 3rd session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations, New York, 10 to 21 May 2004 (Also available in French)
  • 2nd session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations, New York, 12 to 23 May 2003
  • 1st session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: key outcomes and recommendations, New York, 13 to 24 May 2002

Peacebuilding Commission

06.12.2007
 

Latest news

ISHR's second edition of the Human Rights Monitor Quartery (June 2010), provides an overview of the  five-year review of the Peacebuilding Commission. It includes the d'esired outcomes' of the review which were prepared by the three co-facilitators that were appointed by the President of the General Assembly to undertake the review (Ireland, Mexico, South Africa).

The co-facilitators presented their report entitled “Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture”, in July 2010.

The Security Council and General Assembly considered the report on the five-year review and each adopted resolutions on 29 October 2010. The UN News Centre also issued a press release.

For meetings of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) this month at United Nations (UN) headquarters, see the calendar on the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission website.

For this month's latest PBC news, see PBC Update, a NGO-run website tracking PBC developments at UN headquarters and in the field.

Background

The PBC was set up by the Security Council and General Assembly in 2005 as an inter-governmental advisory body that focuses on the transition of States from conflict to sustainable and lasting peace.   

The  main purposes of the PBC are:

  • To bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery

  • To focus attention on the reconstruction and institution-building efforts necessary for recovery from conflict and to support the development of integrated strategies in order to lay the foundation for sustainable development

  • To provide recommendations and information to improve the coordination of all relevant actors within and outside the United Nations, develop best practices, help to ensure predictable financing for early recovery activities, and to extend the period of attention given by the international community to post-conflict recovery

It is not an operational body and does not have an enforcement mechanism. It will not undertake peacebuilding activities itself. Rather, its aim is to produce advice for the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and engage all actors involved in the peacebuilding process, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The PBC intends to bring together the UN's different experiences, as well as the actors involved in a particular peacebuilding process to devise comprehensive strategies aimed at achieving sustainable peace and development. Its main focus is therefore on 'improving coordination and reducing duplication' among actors involved in a post-conflict country, including governments, civil society, external development actors, donor countries, and international financial institutions.

Further reading

  • ISHR's report on human rights developments in the Peacebuilding Commission in 2008: Human rights emerges as key element in the PBC's work, but concrete results are spotty across countries. In this report, the PBC's mandate, its position within the UN system, and its key outputs are reviewed in the light of the human rights dimensions of its work. This review looks at developments in 2008, although it will also refer to some key documents drafted by the PBC in 2007 when necessary.  Successes and challenges are highlighted, in particular those that relate to civil society and human rights defenders.

    The PBC update website provides updates about PBC meetings, what's happening in the countries on the PBC's agenda and how civil society is making a difference

  • The Peacebuilding Initiative website shares knowledge within the peacebuilding policy community and supports information management efforts within the United Nations and the peacebuilding community at large

  • The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission website provides comprehensive  information on the UN peacebuilding architecture

  • ISHR's Guide to the Peacebuilding Commission, available in French and English

Guide to the Peacebuilding Commission

18.02.2008
 

The below guide explains in simple terms how the Peacebuilding Commission was established, what it is, what it does, and how civil society can participate.

Pages

Opinion:

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:

Region

Country

Topic

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