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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 55th session – Subject to change (updated as of 14 February 2024)

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. Please note that this practical guide might contain information that is no longer relevant or accurate. For the most updated information, please consult the Information note above. 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.ungeneva.org/en/engage/civil-society.

2. Written statements for the 55th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC55) by NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC: NGOs with ECOSOC status may submit written statements through the online platform (https://ngoreg.ohchr.org).

IMPORTANT: The following schedule of opening and closing dates for the online submission of NGO written statements will be implemented at HRC55 on a pilot basis:

  • Registration of NGO Written Statements for General Debates under all Agenda Items of the 55th session will open from Monday22 January 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time until Monday 29 January 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time.
  • Registration of NGO Written Statements for the other debates under Agenda Items 1, 2, 3 and 4 (excluding General Debates) of the 55th session will open from Monday 29 January 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time until Monday 5 February 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time.
  • Registration of NGO Written Statements for the other debates under Agenda Items 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (excluding General Debates) will open from Monday 5 February 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time until 12 February 2024, at 12 pm (noon), Geneva time.

Furthermore, each NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC will be able to submit up to five documents per session. Please note that each linguistic version of a written statement will count as one document.

IMPORTANT: Please make sure to get acquainted ahead of time with the updated guidelines on the process and the platform of submission of NGO written statements (please see point 3 below). Failure to comply with the admissibility requirements and procedures in place will result in the inability to process the respective written statements.

For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OHCHR’s Civil Society Team at: [email protected]

3. Updated guidelines on the process and the platform of submission of NGO written statements (as of January 2024) can be downloaded here to assist: English - Français - Español.

​4. Link to Oral Statement Registration. Download here the guidelines on how to use the online registration system for Oral Statements English - Français - Español. The online system to register for oral statements for HRC55 will open on Tuesday 20 February at 14:00 (Geneva time - CEST). 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. All participants are advised to test their credentials before the opening of the system.

5. NGO joint-statements. NGOs can now co-sponsor other NGOs’ statements exclusively through the online registration system NGOREG. Please find additional instructions on this procedure in the Information note above. Co-sponsorship forms are no longer accepted.

6. NGO Side Events During the 55th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC55)

As implemented since the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, the Secretariat will allocate some space for side events at a reduced level compared to the pre-COVID-19 period due to the ongoing renovations under the Strategic Heritage Plan and their impact on the availability of meeting rooms at Palais des Nations. Hence only a reduced number of side events may be organized, as a result of which it may not be possible to accommodate all requests. Rooms will therefore be allocated according to availability and should only be requested online. Please note that to accommodate as many requests as possible, a maximum of one side event per NGO may be requested. Each side event will last a maximum of one hour.

IMPORTANT: On a pilot basis, the platform to request an NGO parallel event (https://ngoreg.ohchr.org/) for HRC55 will open from Monday 15 January 2024 , at 12:00 pm (noon), Geneva time until Monday 22 January 2024, at 12:00 pm (noon), Geneva time. For any questions please do not hesitate to contact OHCHR’s Civil Society Team at: [email protected]

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 HRC51, please refer to the information note available under “Quick links”. 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 [email protected].

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