NGO Participation in the UN Human Rights Council - 17th Session Links - Gender Advocacy

What is the Human Rights Council?

The Human Rights Council is the principal United Nations intergovernmental body responsible for human rights. It is composed of 47 Member States, which meets in at least three sessions per year in Geneva, Switzerland.

Its role includes addressing violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, the promotion of respect for human rights for all, and effective coordination and mainstreaming of human rights within the UN system.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is the secretariat for the Human Rights Council.

How does it work?

Elected for three-year terms, Member States of the Council discuss, take action and pass resolutions related to various items of a standing agenda:

1. Organizational and procedural matters.
2. Annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the UN Secretary-General
3. Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
4. Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
5. Human rights bodies and mechanisms
6. Universal Periodic Review
7. Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
8. Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
9. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
10. Technical assistance and capacity-building

During a given session the Council considers the activities of its subsidiary human rights procedures and mechanisms, and may organize panel discussions and special events to enhance dialogue and mutual understanding on specific issues.

Outside its normal sessions, the Council may also hold special sessions related to country-specific or thematic issues.

In addition to Member States of the Council, Observers, which include non-Member States, inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), may also participate in a session.

The Council’s session are broadcast live via webcast. Past sessions are archived.

How to participate in a session of the Council?

Only NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions as Observers.

Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 of July 1996.
Check your NGO in the ECOSOC NGO database.
For information on how your NGO can apply for ECOSOC consultative status.

As Observers, NGOs are able, amongst other things, to:

- Attend and observe all proceedings of the Council with the exception of the Council deliberations under the Complaints Procedure
- Submit written statements to the Human Rights Council;
- Make oral interventions to the Human Rights Council’s;
- Participate in debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions and informal meetings; and
- Organize “parallel events” on issues relevant to the work of the Human Rights Council.

Quick links:

  1. A practical guide for NGO participants (i.e. about accreditation, attending the session, access to the public gallery, requesting a room for a parallel event, making an oral statement, documentation and resources, and participation in general, etc.) [Download].
  2. NGO Written Statement Submission Form [Download]. Deadline 16 May 2011.
  3. Link to Oral Statement Request Form [Open 8am, 30 May 2011].
  4. Co-sponsor Form – Oral Statement [Download].
  5. Link to NGO Side-Event Room Request Form. Deadline 16 May 2011.
  6. Documentation - Links to the Programme of Work, Agenda, Annotated Agenda, Order of the Day, Bulletin of Informal Meetings, Council reports, NGO written statements, HRC Extranet (information on daily programme updates, draft documentation, copies of oral statements as delivered by States and other stakeholders, and draft resolutions, etc.).
  7. Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: Handbook for Civil Society.

For further information or assistance, please contact the NGO Liaison Team of the Human Rights Council Secretariat at civilsociety@ohchr.org.