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A new OHCHR handbook for civil society is now available

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights this week unveils its new guide for civil society actors - Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society.

Members of the National Network of Indigenous Women for Peace work with OHCHR in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, discussing the right to education. © OHCHR PhotoThe new user-friendly guide explains how the different United Nations human rights mandates and mechanisms work, and how members of civil society, such as human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions, can engage with them most effectively.

“Today, civil society’s views, practical knowledge and scholarship are as crucial to the human rights movement as ever in the pursuit of justice and equality for all,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay writes in her foreword to the Handbook.

The Handbook includes sections on the Human Rights Council, the human rights treaty bodies, the special procedures, the universal periodic review mechanism and the various complaint procedures.

Each chapter, accessible as a stand-alone reference on specific mechanisms or mandates, provides entry points for members of civil society and best practice examples of their initiatives and contributions.

The Handbook also promotes collaboration between civil society and OHCHR. It introduces the role and activities of OHCHR, publications and resource materials, fellowship and training programmes, and funds and grants.

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, meets with representatives from human rights non-governmental organizations in Ivory Coast. © UN Photo/Ky ChungThe High Commissioner welcomes the Handbook’s release as an opportunity to emphasize “civil society’s transformative capacity”.

“One cannot over-estimate the contribution that civil society at large has made towards the development of international human rights standards, their advocacy, and the functioning of human rights mechanisms.

“It is my hope that this Handbook will be used to facilitate civil society actors’ understanding of and access to the United Nations human rights system. It is a modest but significant resource in our joint endeavour to make human rights, dignity and equality a universal reality,” she says.

The Handbook, now available in English, will shortly be available in Arabic, Russian, Spanish and French. It may be downloaded in full or on a chapter by chapter basis from the OHCHR website, and can be ordered from OHCHR’s Publications Desk by contacting publications@ohchr.org.

February 2009