Joint civil society letter calling to ensure live online modalities of participation for UN human rights bodies and mechanisms

Photo: United Nations, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence (https://flic.kr/p/9sKFdF) Photo: United Nations, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence (https://flic.kr/p/9sKFdF)
Author: 
Various

His Excellency,  Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Her Excellency, Ms Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UN Geneva)

His Excellency, Ambassador Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva and President of the Human Rights Council

cc: His Excellency, Mr Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Re: Ensuring live online modalities of participation for UN human rights bodies and mechanisms

Excellencies,

The undersigned civil society organisations are writing to express our great concern regarding issues of access and participation at the UN Human Rights Council, Treaty Bodies and related mechanisms. We recall the letter signed by 40 civil society organisations on 23 June 2023 welcoming the agreement between the Secretary-General and the President of the Human Rights Council for the 17th cycle to maintain hybrid modalities of participation throughout 2023 and urging the competent bodies to create a mandate that would allow for the consolidation of said modalities.

We deeply regret, however, that the 5th Committee of the General Assembly and its relevant subsidiary bodies in New York failed to provide the required mandate and legislative framework upon which such modalities could have been permanently adopted for 2024. We regret further that, in the recent UPR 45th session, the United Nations Offices at Geneva (UNOG)  did not provide modalities for live online participation, as it maintained that it has no mandate for providing hybrid services. Similarly, we are extremely concerned by the negative impact that these measures are having on the functioning of those Treaty Bodies that are currently in session or that will soon begin their sessions, as the online participation of numerous civil society representatives that were scheduled to interact with Treaty Bodies have been cancelled, while hybrid and online meetings are still allowed for States upon request.

We join States in Geneva in expressing our deep concern about the significant negative impact of the lack of provision for live online participation tools on the inclusivity and universality of all UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, UPR and Treaty Bodies. Civil society organisations have long demanded effective means for remote participation, due to the glaring obstacles faced by rights holders and victims and survivors of violations, as well as people from marginalised and vulnerable communities, in accessing multilateral spaces, including, but not limited to, denial of visas, resource challenges, travel costs, environmental considerations, security concerns and accessibility for people with disabilities. 

For the past four years, the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms in Geneva have set an excellent example for the UN-wide system and strengthened their work through live online interventions and pre-recorded videos, coupled with in-person interventions. These interventions have improved diversity and accessibility and brought defenders and victims of violations closer to the UN human rights system, in turn making the UN more relevant to rights holders. It is disheartening that we now face discontinuation of best practices rather than adoption across the UN mechanisms.

As illustrated by the High Commissioner’s landmark report A/HRC/51/13, “the recipe for effective crisis response and for trust and resilience is a more systematic investment in meaningful, safe and inclusive participation at all levels, coupled with effective measures to protect access to information and an enabling environment for debate as well as the security and holistic protection of those who speak up”.

Additionally, as we have emphasised on different occasions, Geneva is the central hub for human rights conferences at the UN level, and urgent action should be taken to mitigate its contributions to the climate crisis. While in-person meetings are necessary, the possibility of intervention through online participation allows the UN to align its practices with the urgency of reducing carbon emissions. With the HRC sessions getting longer, and the unmitigated planetary crisis, sustainability must be a priority. Ensuring modalities for remote participation also contributes to building greater engagement and ownership of norms and standards. 

The undersigned organisations respectfully urge you to:

  • Similarly to 2023, ensure that the necessary provisional arrangements are put in place to allow the UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms as well as the Treaty Bodies and other mechanisms, to continue to make live online participation available through Zoom, WebEx or other tools in all in-person meetings, both formal and informal, in all its sessions throughout 2024, until mandated otherwise, following the good practices consolidated during the business continuity scheme and the previous arrangements between the Council’s Presidency and the Secretary-General.

  • Ensure that UNOG and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have the budget and mandate to provide all stakeholders engaging with the UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as the Treaty Bodies and other mechanisms, with the necessary channels to participate in meetings via  Zoom, WebEx or other relevant platforms.

  • Insofar as is necessary and appropriate, address these challenges with the 5th Committee and relevant subsidiary bodies to ensure that the framework and technical requirements for hybrid and virtual services are put in place permanently for the effective participation of all stakeholders, in particular the beneficiaries of the UN system, including human rights defenders, and civil society organisations.

Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration.

  1. ABC Nepal (Agro-Forestry Basic Health and cooperative Nepal)

  2. ABC TAMIL OLI

  3. Acceso a la Justicia

  4. Acción Solidaria

  5. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

  6. ACTION SRI LANKA

  7. ADALAH- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

  8. AJIS Association Jeunesse Insertion Solidarite

  9. Akahata – Equipo de trabajo en sexualidades y géneros

  10. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

  11. Alana Institute

  12. Albinism Society of Eswatini ASESWA

  13. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man

  14. All Survivors Project

  15. Amazon Watch

  16. Amnesty International

  17. Anti-Slavery International

  18. APLE Cambodia

  19. Aquarius Supervivientes

  20. ARARTEKO. OMBUDS OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY

  21. Arisa

  22. ASSOCIATION BHARATHI CENTRE CULTUREL FRANCO-TAMOUL

  23. Association caritative étudiante pour la jeunesse

  24. ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE DES TAMOULS EN France

  25. Association de Défense et de Promotion des Droits de l’Homme (ADEAGE)

  26. Association de Developpement et de la promotion de Droit de l’Homme

  27. Association des étudiants tamouls de France

  28. Association des jeunes femmes pour la culture et le développement D’Haiti

  29. ASSOCIATION DES JURISTES SPECIALISES EN DROITS ETRANGERS (A.J.S.D.E.).

  30. ASSOCIATION DROIT ET TALENTS DE FEMMES

  31. Association for emancipation solidarity and equality of women – ESE

  32. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

  33. Association Humaniste de France

  34. ASSOCIATION LUTTE CONTRE LA VIOLENCE FAITE AUX FEMMES

  35. Association Pour La Diffusion Des Droits De L’homme Dans L’universite De Lyon

  36. Association Pour la Solidarité Internationale

  37. Association pour le Droit de l’Homme et Le Développement Durable

  38. ASSOCIATION POUR LE DROIT DE L’HOMME ET LE DEVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

  39. ASSOCIATION THENDRAL

  40. AsyLex

  41. ATD Fourth World

  42. Austrian League for Human Rights

  43. AYTAÇ VISUAL IMPAIRED VILLAGE

  44. Boutokaan Inaomataia ao Mauriia Binabinaine Association (BIMBA)

  45. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

  46. Caleidoscopio Humano

  47. Caribbean Association for Youth Development (CAYD)

  48. Center for Human Rights Defenders and Justice (CDJ)

  49. Center for Migration, Gender, and Justice

  50. Center for the human rights of children, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

  51. Central Union for Child Welfare, Finland

  52. Centre for Child Law

  53. Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre)

  54. Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDD)

  55. Centre for Human Rights and Development

  56. Centre International de Conseil, de Recherche et d’Expertise en Droits de l’Homme (CICREDHO)

  57. Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia)

  58. Child Rights Connect

  59. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)

  60. Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town

  61. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law

  62. CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality

  63. CIVICUS

  64. Civil Liberties Union for Europe

  65. Civilis Derechos Humanos

  66. Clean Air Action Group (Hungary)

  67. Clima21

  68. CNAPE

  69. Colectivo Artesana

  70. Collectif des Ligues et Associations de Defense des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda ”CLADHO”

  71. Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)

  72. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

  73. Conectas Direitos Humanos

  74. Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI)

  75. Convention Against Enforced Disappearances Initiative (CEDI)

  76. Corporación Programa La Caleta

  77. CRCA/ECPAT Albania

  78. Defence for Children International

  79. Defence For Children International Canada

  80. Défenseurs plus

  81. Derechos Digitales · América Latina

  82. Državljan D / Citizen D

  83. Due Process of Law Foundation

  84. Edmund Rice International

  85. Egyptian Coalition for Child Rights

  86. Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions (DCI EGYPT)

  87. Enfants Solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde (ESAM)

  88. Equipo Decenio Afrodescendiente- España

  89. ETUDIANTS POUR UNE SOCIETE DURABLE PARIS

  90. European Network on Statelessness

  91. EuSouEu A Ferrugem

  92. FEED

  93. FIAN International

  94. FIAN Norway

  95. FIDH

  96. Fondation « Zanmi Timoun

  97. Freer Press Unlimited

  98. Fundacion Aguaclara

  99. Fundación Cónclave Investigativo de las Ciencias Jurídicas Y Sociales (CIJYS)

  100. Fundación Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo

  101. Fundacion Nuevas Bandas

  102. FundaRedes

  103. Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra

  104. Global Alliance against Traffic in Women

  105. Global Detention Project

  106. Globe International Center

  107. Greek Helsinki Monitor

  108. Haïti débout pour les droits des enfants

  109. Háttér Society

  110. Hivos

  111. “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center

  112. Hochstrittig.org

  113. Hong Kong Committee in Norway

  114. Human Rights Center for Citizens of Mongolia, NGO

  115. Human Rights House Foundation

  116. Human Rights Watch

  117. Humanists International

  118. Hungarian Helsinki Committee

  119. IFEX

  120. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

  121. ILGA World

  122. IMPETUS

  123. Independent academic & migration-health justice advocate

  124. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

  125. International Catholic Child Bureau

  126. International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents

  127. International Commission of Jurists

  128. International Disability Alliance

  129. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights

  130. International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

  131. International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA)

  132. International Play Association – Canada Branch

  133. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

  134. International Social Service – General Secretariat

  135. International Tibet Network

  136. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)

  137. Irídia – Center for Human Rights

  138. Irish Council for Civil Liberties

  139. JEUNESSE ETUDIANTE TAMOULE

  140. Justiça Global

  141. Justice & Peace

  142. Justicia Encuentro y Perdón

  143. Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children

  144. Laboratorio de Paz

  145. LE CONSEIL INTERNATIONAL POUR LES DROITS DE L’HOMME

  146. LE PONT

  147. Les Caribous Libérés

  148. LGBT CENTRE MONGOLIA

  149. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)

  150. Methoria

  151. Molo Songololo

  152. Mongolian Women’s Employment Supporting Federation NGO

  153. Monitor de Derechos Humanos

  154. MOSCTHA

  155. MOVIMIENTO MOVILIZANDONOS por una cultura de DERECHOS DE NIÑOS, NIÑAS Y ADOLESCENTES EN CHILE

  156. National Secular Society

  157. Netherlands Helsinki Committee

  158. NGO for Children Confederation

  159. Norwegian Helsinki Committee

  160. Norwegian Peoples Aid

  161. Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund – SAIH

  162. ONG Synergies & Développement (SYDEV)

  163. Oyu Tolgoi Watch

  164. Paradigm Initiative

  165. Peace Brigades International

  166. People Forum for Human Rights(people Forum)

  167. Plan International

  168. Plataforma de Infancia

  169. Polish Foster Care Coalition (in Polish: Koalicja na rzecz Rodzinnej Opieki Zastępczej)

  170. POURAKHI Nepal

  171. Presentation Sisters in Ireland & England

  172. Privacy International

  173. PROMEDEHUM

  174. QADER for Community Development

  175. Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice

  176. Red para la Infancia y la Familia – Peru

  177. REDE DE MULHERES NEGRAS DE PRNAMBUCO

  178. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Elections en Guinée – ROSE

  179. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition

  180. Rural Reconstruction Nepal

  181. Rutgers

  182. SAMAAP

  183. Save the Children

  184. Save the Children South Africa NPC

  185. Sexual Rights Initiative

  186. Shakti Samuha

  187. Sisters Trust

  188. South African Child Rights Coalition

  189. Steps Without Borders NGO

  190. StopIGM.org / Zwischengeschlecht.org

  191. TAMIL UZHAGAM

  192. Tamil-Style

  193. Tanzania Child Rights Forum

  194. TB-Net

  195. Terre des Hommes International Federation

  196. The Advocates for Human Rights

  197. The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  198. The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM Norway)

  199. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara

  200. The Norwegian Tibet Committee

  201. Tibet Justice Center

  202. TOURNER LA PAGE

  203. Transbantu Association Zambia

  204. Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University

  205. UN Program, Occidental College

  206. UNICEF Ireland

  207. Vicaría de Derechos Humanos de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas

  208. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

  209. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

  210. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

  211. World Uyghur Congress

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