The United Nations system in Geneva includes a large number of intergovernmental organisations, specialised agencies, programmes, funds, offices and research institutes as well as related organisations. Two thirds of the activities of the United Nations system takes place in Geneva, making it a key centre of international co-operation and multilateral negotiation. CIVICUS’ main focus currently concentrates on the human rights mechanisms, most notably the Human Rights Council and its subsidiary bodies such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special Procedures, but also on the Treaty bodies. CIVICUS also works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
For more information on our line of work at UN Headquarters, please contact renate.bloemATcivicus.org or tor.hodenfieldATcivicus.org
The UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) is the United Nation’s preeminent human rights body. Established in 2006, it is mandated to address all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention and make recommendations on them. The UN HRC, which is seated in Geneva, holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year including in March, June and September.
Operating under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review requires the examination of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every 4.5 years. Using international human rights law including the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties to which the State is party as its benchmark, the primary objective of the UPR is to support States to improve the human rights situations in their country.
During UN Human Rights Council sessions, CIVICUS and its partners make and support interventions to address a diverse range of thematic and county specific recommendations to advance the causes and health of civil society. CIVICUS further organises a number of thematic and country specific side events to draw attention to acute restrictions on civil society, human rights defenders and fundamental democratic freedoms. In addition, CIVICUS issues several oral statements and advocacy letters calling on the Council to address persistent violations of basic human rights.
24th Session (September 2013) | 25th Session (March 2014) | 26th Session (June 2014) | 27th Session (September 2014) | 28th Session (March 2015) | 29th Session (June 2015) | 30th Session (September 2015) | 31st Session (March 2016) | 32nd Session (June 2016) | 33rd Session (September 2016)
CIVICUS and partners produce a number of advocacy statements at the UN Human Rights Council on issues concerning the rights of civil society. Below is a breakdown:
Statements at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council
- Statement on right to privacy
- Statement on climate change and the rights of the child
- Statement on Annual Report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Statement on Burundi
- Statement on South Sudan
- Statement on Eritrea
- Statement on the global state of civic space
- Statement on Universal Periodic Review Results in Venezuela
- Statement on Adoption of Uganda´s Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
- Statement on Adoption of South Sudan´s Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
- Statement on Adoption of Zimbabwe´s Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
Statements at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council
- Joint statement on the Panel on Youth and Human Rights
- Joint statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia
- Joint statement on the report of the Independent Expert on Somalia
- Statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Statement on the mission of Independent Experts to Burundi
- Statement on the report of the Independent Expert on Sudan
- Statement on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- Statement on the right to participate in public and political affairs
- Statement on the UPR adoption of Hungary
- Joint statement on the UPR adoption of Swaziland
- Statement on the opening remarks of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Statement on unwarranted limitations on civic space in Cambodia, Egypt and Syria
CIVICUS leads and supports joint letters urging the Council to take concerted action to address pressing civil human rights issues. These letters, typically endorsed by a broad range of national, regional and international groups, represent a crucial avenue to mobilize the Council to respond to pressing human rights concerns.
- 93 CSOs call on the Council to renew mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders
- 15 CSOs urge the Council to address the escalating human rights crisis in Ethiopia
- 12 CSOs urge the Council to adopt a resolution on human rights situation in Cambodia
- 36 CSOs and individuals urge the Council to adopt a resolution on Sudan
- Implement resolutions on civil society and freedom of association and assembly
- 244 NGOs call on the Council to support resolution on protecting civil society space
- UNHRC: Reject attempts to weaken resolution on human rights and the internet
- Bahrain: End reprisals against HRDs and release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab
CIVICUS’ joint and stand-alone UN Universal Period Review (UPR) submissions on restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and persecution of human rights defenders (HRDs). The submissions, on over 60 countries, also provide a number of substantive recommendations to support the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.
-Pre-Universal Periodic Review consultation toolkit: Strategies for civil society advocacy, research & coordination
-Post-Universal Periodic Review consultation toolkit: Strategies for civil society advocacy, research & coordination
UPR submissions from the 2nd cycle (2012-2016)
Azerbaijan | Afghanistan | Bangladesh | Belarus | Bolivia | Burundi | Burkina Faso | Cambodia | Central African Republic | China | Colombia | Cote d’Ivoire | Democratic Republic of Congo | Egypt | Ethiopia | Eritrea | Honduras | Hungary | Iran | Israel | Jordan | Liberia | Kenya | Kuwait | Malawi | Malaysia | Maldives | Mauritania | Mexico | Mozambique | Myanmar | Nepal | Nicaragua | Niger | Nigeria | Pakistan | Qatar | Oman | Russia | Rwanda | Serbia | Sierra Leone | Singapore | Somalia | Sudan | Swaziland | South Sudan | Syria | The Gambia | Tanzania | Thailand | Togo | Turkey | Turkmenistan | Uganda | United States of America | Uzbekistan | Venezuela | Vietnam | Yemen | Zimbabwe
UPR submissions from the 3rd cycle (2017-2021)
CIVICUS organises a number of events, workshops and panel discussions to coincide with the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. Below is an overview of meetings that have recently taken place:
21 November 2016: Widening Space by Young Human Rights Defenders | Palais des nations, Room XXIII
Events at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council
- Strategies to address shrinking space for civil society
- Civil society participation in intergovernmental organisations
- Universal Periodic Review in Uganda: Opportunities and pitfalls
- CSO participation in political affairs in Africa
- Cambodia in crisis: Human rights under siege
- Journalists at risk in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain
- Preventing an entrenched crisis in Burundi
Events at the 32nd Session of the Human Rights Council
- Ending violence against women and ensuring an enabling environment for Women HRDs
- National implementation of practical recommendations for the management of assemblies
- Persecution of civil society and restrictions on freedom of assembly in Ethiopia
- Eritrea: Crimes against humanity and next steps
- Comparing technical cooperation programs in Bahrain
- Saudi Arabia’s midterm UPR assessment
- Under fire in Yemen: human rights defenders, journalists and civilian causalities
CIVICUS examines the experiences of civil society groups from across the world in engaging with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report, based on interviews with civil society leaders operating in diverse regions of the globe, provides a number of substantive recommendations to strengthen the UPR process to support the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society to promote and protect human rights.
As part of a series of regional consultations on the space and environment for civil society, CIVICUS, under the auspices of the Civic Space Initiative (CSI), convened a civil society consultation with a diverse coalition of civil society representatives from 26 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This submission includes CIVICUS´ view of how civic space can be enabled, created and maintained; a brief summary of some positive developments and trends related to civic space; some examples of how CSOs operate when space is limited.
Civil society representatives and human rights activists can interact directly with UN Special Procedures by: submitting individual cases of human rights abuses; providing information and analysis on specific concerns; working locally to advocate, disseminate and follow up on the work of UN Special Procedures; working closely with other civil society actors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the ground.