HRC Side Event: The Human Rights Council for Newcomers

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.
Friday, March 1, 2013

The side event was organized by WFUNA, within the framework of the NGO Committee on Human Rights of CoNGO, and was chaired by Irene Martinetti, WFUNA's Director of Programs. The objective of the session was to share concrete advice on how NGOs can engage effectively with the Human Rights Council.

First to take the floor was Ms. Lidiya Grigoreva, from the Office of the High Commissioner’s Civil Society Section. She elaborated on the formal ways available for NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status that wish to engage with the UN Human Rights Council. Written statements can be submitted relevant to the agenda items of a given session. However, it is essential to send in the statement to the Secretariat at least two weeks prior to session.

NGOs also enjoy the possibility to deliver oral statements at the Council on agenda items. The speaking time is usually limited to two minutes per NGO. On certain items the speakers list tends to be very long and given the limited time allocated for NGOs not all NGOs from the speakers list may be able to deliver their statements. Ms. Grigoreva therefore suggested that NGOs may deliver joint statements.

Comprehensive guides on how to submit both written and oral statements as well as on how to organize a side event are available on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website www.ohchr.org.

Ms. Davinia Ovett Bondi, Senior Advocacy Advisor Child Rights, Save the Children, presented how the organization links its advocacy work to UN human rights mechanisms. When Save the Children engages with the Human Rights Council, their objective is to achieve policy change on both national and international level that favors the rights of the child. The Council is a strong tool and the Universal Periodic Review holds governments accountable for obligations and commitments made in the area of children's rights. Ms. Ovett Bondi said that an effective way of engagement includes linking Concluding Observations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child to the follow-up work of UPR recommendations.

She stressed the need for NGOs to be well prepared, be aware of their resources and clearly define their advocacy objectives prior to engaging with the Council. It is also useful to map stakeholders including both civil society organizations and States in order to find out which actors are interested in the same issues as your organization. This way you can cooperate with others when integrating international human rights mechanisms in national advocacy projects.

Ms. Ovett Bondi's Power Point-presentation can be found here.

Ms. Evgenia Beniatoglou, First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Greece, said that Greece always welcomes collaboration with NGOs. However, having a limited number of staff in Geneva, the Mission has to prioritize and she therefore urged NGOs to send e-mails well in advance of the Council’s sessions and to ask for bilateral communications. For the organization of side-events, an invitation should be sent approximately three months in advance. The same advice applies to NGOs who want to submit input to resolutions. Ms. Beniatoglou very much welcomed the engagement by NGOs and highlighted that it is beneficial for civil society to form coalitions with each other in order to mount support from States. She also stressed the importance for NGOs to engage with the Universal Periodic Review.

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