Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on procedures and practices in respect of civil society engagement with international and regional organizations

The Human Rights Council, in its resolution 32/31 paragraph 18, requested the High Commissioner to “prepare a report compiling information on the procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organizations, including United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, and the contribution of civil society to their work and challenges and best practices, and in that regard to continue to engage with and seek input from those organizations and entities, as well as the views of States, national human rights institutions, civil society and other stakeholders, and to submit the compilation to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.”  Read the resolution.

The report has been issued as document A/HRC/38/18.

The report recalls that the effective functioning of international and regional organizations is inexorably linked to civil society participation.  Civil society engagement ensures that international discussions and decisions are informed by what is happening on the ground, that a full range of perspectives are heard, and that relevant expertise and experience feeds into decision-making.

Where civil society engagement is restricted, responses to security threats, development challenges, environmental disasters and disease, among others, risk being ill-informed and weaker.

Existing practices within the UN and other international organizations are inconsistent, ranging from almost entirely closed to quite open.  Some entities, laudably, have explicit policies and institutional arrangements that recognize stakeholders’ rights to participation and to access information and clear rules regarding accreditation and predictable channels for exchange and for inputting.  Other positive examples include policies and processes that provide for compliance and accountability mechanisms. Similarly, in terms of access to information by civil society some allow civil society access to the same documentation as states, unless there are any compelling reasons for confidentiality.

Based on the findings, the report recommends clear, effective, human rights-based and gender-sensitive policies on and channels of, participation and engagement and strengthened transparency of decision-making processes.  With a view to ensuring the diversity of civil society participation, it calls on organizations to reach out proactively to underrepresented parts of civil society.  It also refers to the multiple submissions from different stakeholders that stressed the need to reform the procedures and practices of the Economic and Social Council Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.

To prepare the report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) requested inputs (through note verbale of 31 November 2016) from Member States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and international and regional organizations.  Inputs received from stakeholders are available below.  

Member States

National human rights institutions

Regional organizations

UN agencies and other international organizations

Civil society actors

Other stakeholders


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The Civil Society unit in OHCHR is dedicated to strengthening engagement between civil society and the United Nations human rights programme.

OHCHR Civil Society
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
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CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: + 41 (0)22 917 9656
Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org

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