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Civil Society: UN Human Rights resources for NGOs, human rights defenders, and other actors in civic space

Every day in every part of the world, civil society contributes to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights.

Whatever they call themselves -- human rights defenders, human rights NGOs, bar associations, student clubs, trade unions, university institutes, bloggers, environmental rights activists, or charities working with discriminated groups – countless civil society actors work for a better future and share the common goals of justice, equality, and human dignity.

OHCHR's cooperation with civil society remains a strategic priority because it bolsters our shared objectives, reinforces partnerships, and supports the Office’s human rights mission and initiatives.

OHCHR is dedicated to building knowledge and skills about international human rights among civil society actors. It also seeks to promote civil society participation in both UN decision-making processes and UN advocacy on civic space.

Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society


Handbook for Civil Society cover This authoritative publication explains:
  • how the various UN human rights bodies and mechanisms operate
  • how civil society actors including NGOs can benefit from the work of these mechanisms, and
  • the opportunities for civil society to contribute to the UN’s work

Download the handbook: The handbook is available in all six official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian), as well as in Georgian, Nepali, Persian, Vietnamese.

Protecting Civic Space

A dynamic, diverse and independent civil society, able to operate freely, knowledgeable and skilled with regard to human rights, is a key element in securing sustainable human rights protection in all regions of the world.

One of OHCHR’s key tasks is strengthening the laws, policies and practices that apply to civic space. It also includes protecting people themselves – the human rights defenders and journalists who work to advance human rights. Though countries have the primary responsibility to protect civil society actors, OHCHR shares in the responsibility to support and protect them when their space, or they themselves, are at risk. 

Read about UN Human Rights initiatives to protect civic space and enhance participation.

Download OHCHR’s series of practical guides for civil society:

Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System - A Practical Guide for Civil Society Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System - A Practical Guide for Civil Society
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S
The Guide is also available in ArmenianAzeri  | Burmese | CreoleDari | Dhivehi | Italian | Japanese | Korean | Macedonian | Pashtu | Persian | Portuguese | Romani | Romanian | Serbian | SinhalaTagalogTamil | Tetun | Thai | Turkish | Vietnamese
How to Follow Up on United Nations Human Rights Recommendations - A Practical Guide for Civil Society src= How to Follow Up on United Nations Human Rights Recommendations - A Practical Guide for Civil Society
What you need to know about your contribution to the implementation of recommendations of human rights mechanisms
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S
The Guide is also available in: Armenian | Azeri | Dari | Dhivehi | Finnish | Georgian | Macedonian | PashtuSwedish | Tetun
United Nations Human Rights Council - A Practical Guide for NGO Participants United Nations Human Rights Council - A Practical Guide for NGO Participants
What you need to know about attending the Human Rights Council.
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S
United Nations Human Rights Council - A Practical Guide fUniversal Periodic Review - A Practical Guide for Civil Society Universal Periodic Review - A Practical Guide for Civil Society
What you need to know about attending the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S
The Guide is also available in: Dhivehi
Social Forum of the Human Rights Council - A Practical Guide for Civil Society Social Forum of the Human Rights Council - A Practical Guide for Civil Society
What you need to know about attending the Social Forum.
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S
Human Rights Funds, Grants and Fellowships - A Practical Guide for Civil Society Human Rights Funds, Grants and Fellowships - A Practical Guide for Civil Society
What you need to know about training and funding opportunities for human rights.
Available in A-C-E-F-R-S

Order your copies of guides and publications from publications@ohchr.org

Human Rights videos

What is it? Two Minute Introductory videos on human rights
[For subtitles in more than 15 languages, click on "cc" in the YouTube viewer.]

What is a Human Right?
An introduction to human rights, and the UN’s work to promote and protect human rights.
[Transcript in txt]

What is the Human Rights Council?
An introduction to the UN Human Rights Council.
[Transcript in txt]

What is a Human Rights Treaty Body?
An introduction to the UN human rights treaty bodies.
[Transcript in txt]

Quick links

 

CSO Net 


CSO Net - United Nations Civil Society Network
News - Calendar of Meetings - NGO Database - Best Practices
How to apply for ECOSOC status