CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE
Promoting access to the United Nations (NGO Committee)
Civil society space in many countries is narrowing and human rights defenders face reprisals and intimidation for their engagement with the United Nations. NGOs operating on the ground can receive a global platform at the UN and call on governments to act, but they are often blocked from accessing the very mechanisms designed to support them. In its first pilot at the UN's NGO Committee in May 2016, HRLO showed that 62% of the new applications of NGOs working on human rights were deferred, compared to only 34% of the other NGOs.
Provided with concrete data and HRLO's unique analysis, diplomats are much more inclined to speak up in support of civil society. The information HRLO provides is actionable: when HRLO pointed out the delegations blocking the most NGOs, likeminded ambassadors reached out to their counterparts, and dozens of NGOs were spared in the following sessions; when HRLO informed diplomats of challenges faced by NGOs from their country, they could approach the relevant members of the NGO Committee directly, to address their concerns.
HRLO also consults NGOs directly in their application process to the NGO Committee. Drawing on diplomatic experience from membership and leadership in the Committee, we advise NGOs on how to navigate the Committee's political landscape, lobby its members and overcome controversy in addressing the questions from the Committee.
HRLO regularly collaborates with other human rights organizations. Their expert inputs enrich our own briefing notes while we complement their advocacy to Member States. Our briefing notes also fill gaps in information for NGOs, that they don't always have access to.
Training for NGOs
In addition to projects in the NGO Committee, HRLO in collaboration with academia could assist in training for activists to provide more effective advocacy to diplomats. Too often substantive inputs from NGOs fail to reach the right individuals, they are too lengthy, or they are not framed in language or format that diplomats need in order to use them in their deliberations at the UN.
Advocacy and research
Finally, HRLO regularly highlights the issue of reprisals against human rights defenders in its briefing notes. There is room for more substantive analysis, to map the situation of human rights defenders in their engagement throughout the UN system, the mechanisms accessible to them, and the reprisals they face in this context.