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 susan.wildingATcivicus.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) | 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)
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 39th Session of the Human Rights Council (September 2018)
- Civicus Addresses the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Countries that require the attention of the UN Human Rights Council
- Civic Space Initiative statement on public participation guidelines
- Statement on alarming trends of reprisals and killings -- 38 UN member states implicated
- Turkmenistan at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of UPR
- Burkina Faso at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of UPR
- Djibouti at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of UPR
- Uzbekistan at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of UPR
Statements at the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council (June-July 2018)
- Wanted: Strong UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Outcomes & resolutions from UN Human Rights Council
- Response to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights update
- New Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association
- Civic space in Eritrea
- Civic Space in Egypt, Tanzania and Vietnam
- UAE: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
- France: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
- Israel: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
- Serbia: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
- Burundi: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report
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.
- 750+ organizations highlight the vital role of the UN High Commissioner in calling out violators
- Human rights monitoring needed in Democratic Republic of Congo
- Civic space restrictions in Cambodia
- Strengthen and renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
- Open Letter to ECOSOC regarding upcoming elections to the Committee on NGOs
- Addressing the pervasive human rights crisis in Ethiopia
- Renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea
- Human rights situation in the Maldives
- UN Member and Observer States must call on Bahraini authorities to free human rights defender Nabeel Rajab
- Joint NGO Letter: Call for Strong Action on Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council
- 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)
Afghanistan | Algeria | Angola | 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) | India | Indonesia | Iraq | Israel | Iran | Jordan | Macedonia | Madagascar | Malaysia | Mexico (ES) | Morocco | Nicaragua (ES) | Nigeria | Pakistan | Peru (ES) | Qatar | the Philippines | Poland | Russia | Republic of Korea | Saudi Arabia | Senegal (FR) | Serbia | South Africa | Sri Lanka | Tunisia | Turkmenistan | Ukraine (UK) | United Arab Emirates | Uzbekistan | Vietnam | Yemen | Zambia
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 upcoming meetings:
Events at the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council (March 2019)
- 1 March, 13:00-14:00 (Room XXVII) | The Role of Counter-Terrorism Laws in the Closing of Civic Space
- 5 March, 13.00-14:00 (Room XXVII) | Escazú and Beyond: Strengthening the Global Normative Framework on Protecting Environmental Defenders
- 5 March, 10:00-11:00 (Room XV) | The case for international action on Bahrain
- 6 March, 11:00-12:00 (Room XXI) | Right to Livelihood Award Foundation Women human rights defenders
- 8 March, 12:00-13:00 (Room XXVII) | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project - Human Rights in South Sudan
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.