UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS at the UN Office in Geneva

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 sigrid.lipott.ATcivicus.org

UN Human Rights Council

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) | 34th Session (March 2017) | 35th Session (June 2017) | 36th Session (September 2017) | 37th Session (March 2018) | 38th Session (June-July 2019) | 39th Session (September 2018) | 40th Session (February-March 2019) | 41st Session (June-July 2019) | 42nd Session (September-October) | 43rd Session (February, March, June) | 44th Session (June-July)


CIVICUS and partners produce a number of advocacy statements at the UN Human Rights Council on issues concerning the rights of civil society. See below newsfeed for full archive.

Letters to governments and UN officials

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. See news feed below for latest letters.

Submissions for the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

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.


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)

Afghanistan | Algeria | Angola | Armenia | Australia | Bangladesh | Benin (FR) | Bahrain | Brazil | Burkina Faso (FR) | Burundi | Cameroon | Chad (FR) | Chile | China | Colombia (ES) | Cote d’Ivoire | Cuba (ES) | Democratic Republic of Congo (FR) | Djibouti (FR) | Ecuador | Egypt | El Salvador (ES) | Equatorial Guinea | Eritrea | Ethiopia | Fiji | France | Gabon (FR) | Guatemala (ES) | Honduras (ES) | Hungary | India | Indonesia | Iraq | Israel | Iran | Jordan | Kenya | Kuwait | Lao | Lebanon |  Macedonia | Madagascar | Malaysia | Malawi | Maldives | Mauritania (FR) | Mexico (ES) | Morocco | Mozambique | Myanmar | Nepal | Nicaragua (ES) | Niger (FR) | Nigeria | Pakistan | Paraguay (ES) | Peru (ES) | Qatar | Papua New Guinea | the Philippines | Poland | Oman | Russia | Republic of Korea | Rwanda | Saudi Arabia | Senegal (FR) | Serbia | Singapore | South Africa | Sri Lanka | Tanzania | Thailand | Togo (FR) | Timor Leste | Tunisia | Turkmenistan | Uganda | Ukraine (UK) | United Arab Emirates | Uzbekistan Venezuela (ES) |  Vietnam | Yemen | Zambia

UPR submissions from the 4th cycle (2022-2027)

Algeria | BangladeshBenin (FR) |  Brazil (PT) | Burundi | Chad | China | Colombia | Cuba | DjiboutiEcuador (ES) | Guatemala (ES)  | India | Indonesia | Malaysia | Nigeria | Pakistan | Peru (ES) | Philippines | Poland | SaudiArabia (AR) | Senegal | South Africa |  Sri Lanka  |  Tunisia | United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland | Zambia | United Arab Emirates


CIVICUS organises a number of events, workshops and panel discussions to coincide with the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. Here are our recent events:

Human Rights in the Philippines: Challenges on Civic & Democratic Space and Opportunities in the UPR

On the sidelines of the 41st session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), CIVICUS organised a joint event on the state of civic and democratic space in the Philippines. Ahead of Philippines' 4th UPR review, the panelists discussed the systemic attacks against and vilification of civil society actors and examined the country's present and future human rights perspectives under the new Marcos Jr. administration.

Defending land and protecting rights: Opportunities for South Africa UPR

Ahead of the 4th South Africa Universal Periodic Review (UPR), this side event co-sponsored by the International Service of Human Rights, Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH-WAHRDN), Habitat International Coalition and CIVICUS addressed the human rights situation in the country, focusing on challenges faced by human rights defenders in the exercise of their rights to land and housing.

Shrinking Civic Space in Zimbabwe: A Call to Respond to the Emerging Crisis and Prevent Escalation of Human Rights Violations

On the sidelines of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council, Defend Defenders, International Service of Human Rights (ISHR), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), and CIVICUS held an event on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. The event, which brought together human rights defenders and the Special R apporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, focused on the weaponization of the law to crackdown on human rights defenders; the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill (2021) and its impact on civic space; political violence and political rights violations in the pre-electoral period in Zimbabwe and on the Human Rights Council’s prevention mandate.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association in 2022 and Beyond: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities

CIVICUS, in collaboration with the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and World Movement for Democracy and with the co-sponsorship of the governments of the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico, United States of America, organised an interactive discussion on the role of the Mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association, on what challenges and opportunities revolve around these freedoms, and what role can the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur play in this regard.

Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests During Crises

CIVICUS, in a joint effort with numerous other organizations and with the co-sponsorship of the Swiss government, organised a discussion with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful Assembly and Association on his report to the UN Human Rights Council examining key challenges to peaceful protests in crisis situations, and highlighting the importance of peaceful protests in creating opportunities for inclusive, participatory and peaceful resolution of crises.

Equity and Inclusion of Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Minority Groups in Healthy Democracies

On the sidelines of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS, in collaboration with Howard University and the government of the United States of America, brought together civil society and member state representatives to discuss how the inclusion of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups strengthens democracy and public safety, as well as the importance of inclusion to the sustainability of democracies globally.

Respect, Protect and Fulfil: Guaranteeing Access to Resources as a State Responsibility

CIVICUS, in the framework of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, organized an event - in collaboration with Forum Asia, ARTICLE 19, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and World Movement for Democracy - to discuss the debilitating impact of restrictions on access to resources on civil society, and inevitably on the promotion and protection of human rights, humanitarian response, and development. Panelists discussed how such restrictions are implemented, identified commonalities and differences, and made recommendations to address these challenges.

Civil society: Key to building stronger democracies post-pandemic 

On the sidelines of the 4th session of the UN Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, CIVICUS participated in the panel of the event organised by the Community of Democracies to discuss the key role civil society plays in building more robust and resilient democracies post-pandemic. CIVICUS contribution focused on the good practices in civil society responses during the pandemic and on opportunities for civil society’s engagement post-pandemic, in helping to address democracy and human rights issues.

Human Rights in the Philippines

Ahead of the Philippines’ 4th cycle UPR outcome adoption at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, Filipino human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders reflected on the state of civic and democratic space less than a year into the Marcos Jr administration, on the prospective narrative and responses during the upcoming adoption of UPR outcomes and on what lies ahead on issues of justice, accountability and protection of human rights. The panelists then discussed the role of the international community and, in particular, of the Human Rights Council and of the UN Joint Programme in ensuring accountability and access to justice for victims.

Breaking the Cycle of Repression against Activists and Protestors through Accountability

CIVICUS organised with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Geneva Academy an event on advancing accountability and ending impunity for serious human rights violations related to the exercise of peaceful assembly and association, in the margins of HRC53. The event highlighted specific challenges related to ensuring accountability for serious abuses against those exercising their fundamental freedoms, from different contexts, and explored the role of the international community, including regional bodies and the United Nations to close the accountability gap.

Workshop on building the resilience of civil society

On 27 June 2023 CIVICUS moderated an event organized by Canada in its capacity as President of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies (CoD) and co-sponsored by the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law. Governing Council members of the CoD and civil society organisations were invited to attend the workshop, which consisted consisted of a panel discussion on “Building the Resilience of Civil Society,” with opening remarks from Canada and the U.S., expert presentations, and interactive discussions. The panelists discussed the proliferation of restrictions to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, civic spaces, and civic freedoms.

Papers & Resources

Enhancing the effectiveness of the UN Universal Periodic Review: A civil society perspective
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.

Consultation Report: How to Create and Maintain Civil Society Space. What Works? Sub-Saharan Africa
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.

Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Civil Society Space Report
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.

Reporting human rights violations to UN Special Procedures: An introductory guide
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.

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

This Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders focusses on the challenges faced by women human rights defenders (WHRDs) working in conflict, post-conflict, and crisis-affected settings. It also informs the report of the Special Rapporteur to the UN General Assembly on WHRDS, Peace and Security by providing recommendations on protection strategies and risk mitigation measures.'

Our intervention at the 40th Child Rights Connect Conference

CIVICUS in the context of the 40th Anniversary Conference of Child Rights Connect, intervened on "children and civic space: enabling the exercise of civic and political rights". Recommendations were provided to child rights organisations, as well as national governments, and UN bodies. 

Civil Society Support for General Comment No.38
On 19 July 2023 CIVICUS organised in collaboration with Amnesty International, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law and ISHR a briefing with the Human Rights Committee on the prospects and value of developing a General Comment on Article 22 (right to freedom of association).

Submissions to treaty bodies

The UN human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties. Each State party to a treaty has an obligation to take steps to ensure that everyone in the State can enjoy the rights set out in the treaty. CIVICUS regularly submits reports to the Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by its States parties, highlighting the main civil and political rights violations and providing specific and targeted recommendations. Below are our latest submissions:

China - 135th CCPR session |   Phillippines - 136th CCPR  |  Kyrgyzstan - 136th CCPR  | Sri Lanka - 137th CCPR | Peru - 137th CCPR 

September 27, 2023

Shrinking civic space in Bangladesh, the Philippines and India continues unabated

in Geneva

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council  General Debate Item 4 Delivered by Róisín Dunbar , CIVICUS Thank you, Mr…
September 26, 2023

Myanmar: UN must take action to prevent refoulement and end brutal campaigns against Rohingya

in Geneva

     Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights CouncilInteractive Dialogue on written update of the High Commissioner on the human rights…
September 22, 2023

Burundi: Despite easing of some restrictions media and civil society continue to face repression

in Geneva

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council Interactive Debate with the Special Rapporteur on Burundi Delivered by Agnès Ndirubusa  Thank…
September 21, 2023

Ethiopia: The Human Rights Council must ensure independent monitoring continues

in Geneva

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council Interactive Debate on the report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts…
September 13, 2023

#UDHR75: Global deterioration of civic space puts States' commitment to human rights in question

in Geneva

Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council Statement at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council General Debate…


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