NGO Participation in the Human Rights Council

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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 sessions 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.

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;
  • 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

Information note for NGO engagement during the 48th session – Subject to change (updated as of 10 September 2021)

1. A practical guide for NGO participants (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.) Arabic - Chinese - English - French - Russian - Spanish. Before you request for accreditation to the HRC/UPR sessions and related meetings, please ensure that you have finalized the annual accreditation of your NGO with the United Nations Office at Geneva. For more information on annual accreditations, please consult the following website: www.unog.ch/ngo/accreditation.

2. Written statements of NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC shall be submitted through the online platform available at https://ngoreg.ohchr.org. The registration for NGO written statements for the 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council (13 September – 8 October 2021) will open on 9 August 2021, at 9:00 am (Geneva time). Deadline: 22 August 2021, at midnight(Geneva time).

IMPORTANT: Please make sure to get acquainted with the updated guidelines on the process and the platform of submission of NGO written statements (please see point 3 below).

3. Updated guidelines on the process and the platform of submission of NGO written statements (as of October 2021) can be downloaded here to assist: English - French - Spanish.

​4. Link to Oral Statement Registration for HRC 48. Download here the guidelines on how to use the online registration system for Oral Statements English - French - Spanish. The online system to register for oral statements will open on Monday 6 September at 14:00 (Geneva time). Please note that NGOs are requested to re-register, as credentials used for previous sessions cannot be brought forward. NGOs that have already registered for written statements will have to use the same credentials.

5. NGO joint-statement form - Oral Statement [Download]. NGOs can now co-sponsor other NGOs’ statements directly through the online registration system NGOREG. Please find additional instructions on this procedure in the Information note above.

6. NGO Events During HRC48

As a result of the current COVID-19-related restrictions, side-events cannot take place inside the Palais des Nations during the 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council (13 September- 8 October 2021).

For the sole purpose of information-sharing, external events that would be organized by NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC in parallel to the session (between 13 September and 8 October), could be listed on the OHCHR civil society webpage, under the News Section (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/CivicSpace/Pages/ProtectingCivicSpace.aspx).  A link to this webpage will also be published on the HRC Extranet

The list is being updated twice per week. In such cases, the NGOs should contact the Civil Society Team of OHCHR at OHCHR-hrcngo@un.org – providing the details of their event (date, time, title, online link, and contact person email). Please note that such NGO events will not be considered as official Human Rights Council events, and are held on the sole responsibility of the organizing NGOs, with the Secretariat bearing no responsibility whatsoever.

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

8. Participating in the Human Rights Council by video message: [Download]. For the specific modalities for HRC45, please refer to the information note. Practical guidelines on how to create captions.

9. Calendar and deadlines for registration: pending update

For further information or assistance, please contact the NGO Liaison team of the Human Rights Council Secretariat at OHCHR-hrcngo@un.org.


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