GA73 | Civil society can help you do things better, says Bachelet to States


In her first dialogue with the General Assembly’s human rights committee, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet placed the importance of civil society and their protection front and center. 

In her first exchange with States at the UN General Assembly's Third Committee session, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke repeatedly of the value of engagement with civil society as well as States' responsibility to ensure an environment conducive to their work. 

‘When civil society sits at the table, policies are usually more interesting and more sustainable,' she noted. 'Civil society can help you figure out how to do things better.' 

She added that threats, attacks and reprisals were not just unacceptable but self -defeating. 

 'Jailing critics does not make society safer, but rather deepens grievances,’ she noted. ‘We need to be recommitted to the protection of defenders.’

Engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with States was also a topic of debate. States repeatedly questioned OHCHR’s impartiality when it came to reviewing human rights situations.  Bachelet responded referencing the blocks put on OHCHR’s ability to monitor and report. 

‘Give OHCHR access to your country to assist you fulfil your human rights obligations,’ she added. 

Finally, how to better use the different parts of the UN system to avert human rights crisis was discussed.  In regard to OHCHR sharing information on human rights violations with the Security Council, Bachelet was clear that the early warning signs of conflict needed to be heeded and that different parts of the system needed to work together to prevent conflict. 

‘Prevention will be a core part of our work,’ she noted. 

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw

Photo: Michelle Bachelet Collection


  • Human rights defenders
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  • United Nations
  • UN General Assembly
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly