FIDH’s areas of focus for 2022’s first UN Human Rights Council session

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As an international human rights organisation, FIDH’s mission includes influencing high-level decision makers on human rights. This advocacy work takes place on national levels — for example, urging the governments of individual countries to respect human rights — but also at the level of international organisations such as the United Nations. The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is tasked with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.

Since the establishment of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2006, FIDH’s office in Geneva has helped amplify voices of human rights defenders to put the issues they defend on the table. One of FIDH’s strengths lies in its unique role liaising between its 192 member organisations working at local levels and the UN HRC. The Council is thus made aware of the human rights struggles led by civil society organisations from Armenia to Zimbabwe. Thanks to its federative nature—uniting NGOs from over 100 countries—FIDH informs human rights protection bodies and diplomats about serious human rights violations. Advocacy is also used to influence decisions being made by the Council concerning specific countries or topics.

Of the Council’s three regular sessions held each year, the first one of 2022 takes place from 28 February to 1 April 2022. At this 49th Regular Session, FIDH’s advocacy work is focussing on situations in Afghanistan, Belarus, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Russia. Through events, reports, letters, speeches, and other actions, FIDH aims to push for better respect for human rights and for tackling some of the world’s most serious human rights violations, including persecution of human rights defenders and crackdowns on civil society.

What are the key issues addressed by FIDH at this session?

FIDH is advocating for a renewal of last year’s resolution on Nicaragua and the establishment of an international mechanism against impunity to address the worrying human rights situation in the country. Resolution 46/2 was adopted by the HRC in March 2021 to address the country’s “continuing sociopolitical and human rights crisis,”—including at least 113 extrajudicial killings analysed by FIDH and CENIDH and grave concerns about the so-called Foreign Agents Law and other repressive laws against civil society. Nevertheless, Nicaragua has continued to flout its human rights obligations. Council members must take bold steps to break the impunity cycle and lay the groundwork for future accountability: it is time for the Council to establish an international mechanism that investigates serious human rights violations in Nicaragua since April 2018, identifies the perpetrators, and preserves evidence.

In light of the unprecedented—and ever worsening—human rights crackdown in Russia, it is critical for the UN HRC to pressure Russian authorities to reverse this trend. Focus on human rights in the country must be maintained despite Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In a joint oral statement, FIDH alongside other NGOs, denounces “a fully fledged witch hunt against independent groups, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, [that] is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.” A joint letter co-signed by FIDH and other NGOs will further drive home this point. Late last year, Russian courts ordered the dissolution of FIDH’s Russian member organisation, Memorial, one of the country’s foremost human rights organisations—rulings appealed by the organisation.

FIDH is closely scrutinising developments in Sudan, where the situation is rapidly evolving and remains uncertain. FIDH held a briefing on Sudan for member states on priority issues of concern and is keeping the Council informed and ready to take further action if needed. The briefing session provided a platform to amplify the voices of Sudanese human rights defenders and ensure their voices are heard; FIDH plans to hold such briefings on a regular basis.

FIDH is urging the Council to renew its investigative mandate for Belarus and is working to achieve greater visibility for key issues for our member organisations, including the release of imprisoned human rights defenders who are among the leaders of FIDH’s Belarusian member organisation, Viasna. A year ago, the Council mandated an investigation into Belarus’ worrying human rights situation, which has since degraded even further—with arbitrary detentions and arrests; torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment; and unfair and closed trials. Ahead of the 49th session, FIDH co-authored a joint letter urging the Council to renew this mandate. FIDH will hold a briefing for member states and continue its joint work alongside other NGOs.

Ahead of local elections in Cambodia, FIDH is calling for HRC member states to ensure due scrutiny to the human rights situation in the country, and to collectively call on the Cambodian authorities to ensure the elections are free and fair. FIDH continues to provide information to member states, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and Special Procedures on the basis of information gathered by FIDH member organisations.

With regard to Afghanistan, where the Taliban violently seized power, women and girls, human rights defenders, journalists—and anyone daring to speak up for their rights—are in danger. In an attempt to forcefully suppress civil society and any form of dissent, the Taliban and its allies have carried out serious human rights abuses, from arbitrary arrests and detentions, to torture, violent beatings, and house searches. FIDH is closely monitoring developments in the country, with a particular focus on human rights defenders, and will issue a statement to keep the Council informed and ready to take further action if necessary.

Since the military seized power in February 2021, Myanmar has experienced a drastic degradation of the human rights situation, including over 7,000 attacks by security forces against civilians in 2021 alone. During this HRC session, FIDH aims to ensure that a focus on business and human rights is maintained in expected resolutions on Myanmar, where oil giants recently withdrew from the country.

FIDH’s advocacy to the UN Human Rights Council

The Council is made up of 47 member states elected by the UN General Assembly for three-year terms. To learn more about the UN HRC, check out a brochure detailing how the Council reviews countries’ human rights records, learns from experts on a range of human rights topics, conducts research, carries out fact-finding missions, and more.

FIDH’s advocacy is based on negotiations and informal meetings between NGO representatives and State representatives in Geneva, creating a channel for the transmission of written arguments: letters to the States and the UN institutions, advocacy notes, position papers, reports. Advocacy also entails speaking at briefings for UN experts, or before the UN Human Rights Council. This constitutes the core of the advocacy work that FIDH carries out with experts and diplomats the world over.

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