Civil Society in Action for Human Rights: Session II

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.

GENEVA - From 16-20 September 2013, we welcomed 14 participants from a total of 10 different UNAs to the Second Session of WFUNA's capacity-building program Civil Society in Action for Human Rights (CSAHR). Following-up on a great first session that took place from 28 January to 1 February 2013, the second training focused on the work of and with the Human Rights Council and the effective use of media in promoting human rights.

Day I - 2013-09-16

After a cheerful reunion of our UNA representatives in Geneva, Irene Martinetti, WFUNA's Director of Programs, officially opened the second session of our CSAHR training by recalling the program's design and objectives. Essential part of the CSAHR program is to empower UNAs to implement effective human rights projects at the national level. UNA representatives left the first training earlier this year with the objective to design and carry out a human rights project with their respective UNA. Together with the expertise of WFUNA in human rights advocacy, the CSAHR group presented individual progress on projects through a peer review exercise

This session was followed by an expert briefing on the Human Rights Council in the afternoon. Emma Reilly from the Human Rights Council Branch of the OHCHR and Heather Collister from the International Service for Human Rights shared first-hand insights into the active engagement of civil society with the Human Rights Council. They sensitized participants on how important and effective NGO advocacy work can be. Nonetheless, they stressed that continuous and persistent follow-up is key to achieve change.

The group was then introduced to a WFUNA-designed Role Play on the Human Rights Council and got assigned to roles of country- and civil society representatives. In the role play, participants simulate the discussion and adoption of a resolution in the Human Rights Council.

The training day ended with an invitation of H.E. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe to a reception at the US mission. After a very inspiring speech by Mrs. Donahoe, participants had the opportunity to network with diplomats, UN staff and other NGO representatives. 

Day II - 2013-09-17

The second day of our CSAHR II training started with a panel discussion of NGO representatives on the challenges and opportunities of advocacy work in the Human Rights Council. Budi Thjajono from Franciscans International, Leon Saltiel from UN Watch and Davinia Ovett Bondi from Save the Children explained how NGOs and civil society can engage with the Human Rights Council. They identified obstacles but also opportunities and shared success stories of effective participation. 

This session was followed by the attendance of the Side Event on Femicideorganized by WFUNA in collaboration with the UNA of Spain and the Small Arms Survey in the framework of the second CSAHR session. Four distinguished speakers informed government, UN and NGO delegates about the problems and challenges of Femicide: Anna Alvazzi del Frate (Small Arms Survey), Veronica Birga (Human Rights Officer at the Women's Rights Development Division of the OHCHR), Marta Vilardell Coma (Special Ambassador for Humanitarian and Social Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain), and Emilo Gines (President of the Spanish Federation of Human Rights).

The second day concluded with the continuation of the HRC role play in form of informal consultations as part of the drafting process of the resolution.

DAY III - 2013-09-18

The third day of the training started with a high-level panel of diplomats to talk to the participants about how they, as state representatives, assess and value the work of civil society in the Human Rights Council. In the panel we had Emmanuel Bichet from Switzerland, Salvador Tinajero from Mexico, Masataka Nagoshi from Japan and Yaprak Alp from Turkey. While stressing that NGO engagement in the Council is vital to the work of national delegations, they also reminded our participants that NGO proposals to states need to be concisely drafted, specific, realistic and well-explained. Furthermore, advocacy at UN level must be accompanied by engagement on national level and needs to be followed-up continuously over a long period of time.


Participants then attended the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council, which, at the time, discussed the rights of Indigenous Peoples.


In the afternoon, Theodor Rathgeber from the German Forum for Human Rights, came to speak to the group about the performance of the Human Rights Council, its assets and shortcomings. As an expert on the field, he elaborated upon the shifting dynamics of politicization and the role of regional groups in the Human Rights Council.

The training day was concluded by successful, final session of the Role Play, in which the earlier drafted and heavily discussed resolution was adopted by majority.

DAY IV - 2013-09-19

The 4th day of the training was dedicated to the effective use of media. WFUNA had invited Caroline Tosti from the NGO School of Management, who sensitized our participants on successful media strategies. In her day-long workshop, participants reflected on their UNA's media channels, their tools of conveying specific messages and on their target groups. Revising each other's UNA media strategies, participants indentified strengths as well as weaknesses of their communication methods.

UNAs also revised their project logframes for their communication and media components in order to enhance their advocacy activities. Tips and recommendations will be brought back home and will increase the UNA's effective media outreach in the future. 

DAY V - 2013-09-20

"It is an old saying that knowledge means power. The better informed you are, the greater our chances for success" - Kofi Annan

Following this quotation, the fifth and last day of WFUNA's CSAHR training was led by Francesca Piccin from the Gmedia Center in Geneva. She provided our participants with useful advice on how to make effective use of social media in their UNA projects.

The training of Mrs. Piccin was enriched by an inter-active dialogue with L.E. Wendy Lubetkin, Media Officer at the US Mission. She shared great insights into the daily work and challenges of the US Mission's Press and Media department and provided our participants with useful advice on how to approach journalists and how to make use of good timing. The afternoon focused on developing a convincing media campaign, enabling UNAs to increase their visibility in the future.

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