During UN HRC Sessions – ‘Geneva Course’ – GSC



On the occasion of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council


‘Course on the Human Rights Council, international human rights and humanitarian law, international procedures and diplomacy’

Hybrid Course, Geneva, from 19 September to 5 October 2022

Registration: info@gdh-ghr.org;
· On-line participation: link will be sent to selected trainees.
· In-person participation: in Conference Room Caecilia, 16 Rue Schaub, Geneva


The Geneva Course is an interactive and intensive training taking place ordinary sessions of the HR-Council. Trainees acquire basic knowledge in international human rights, humanitarian and criminal laws; transitional justice; inter-governmental organisations (IGOs); the UN, its structure, its reform and the role of its main organs; the trends in international relations; the functioning of the HR-Council and its mechanisms; the human rights standard setting process; and human rights treaty bodies.

With the wide training experience of its trainers in Geneva, GHR Geneva Courses are unique. They combine the theory, the exchanges on the experience of the participants (field situations) and the exposure to the multilateral reality, which the trainees monitor. Composed of its researchers and interns from different universities, GHR Department of Human Rights Policy Studies (HPS) assists the trainees during the HR-Council’s session.


The Geneva Courses are part of a Programme of GHR promoting a full and effective participation of defenders from the regions in the work of the HR-Council. Such participation is essential for the quality of the Council’s debates. Priority in the selection is given to defenders and NGOs from the regions. GHR also welcomes members of national and regional NGOs coalitions working at the HR-Council in Geneva, and trainees from international human rights organisations having their seat or representation in Geneva.
In view of the public restrictions due to the pandemic Covid-19, the 3-week Course will be conducted on-line. The programme and working methods have been adapted accordingly to enable trainees to benefit of a minimum of exposure to the ongoing debates.


The Course is divided into a General Course (Week-1) on the international system and the HR-Council; a Course on the proceedings of the Council (Week-2), to discuss the debates in the HR-Council, to learn drafting communications to the UN special procedures, and to analyze the reports submitted by the Experts and the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR). The last week is devoted to the conclusions of the Course.

Defenders in the regions find it difficult to follow the UN negotiations and the trends in the HR-Council, the special procedures, the treaty bodies, and the action of OHCHR. Our Courses have to bridge these information gaps, to meet the needs and priorities of these defenders, and to enable them to adapt their work to these new realities.

What are the Geneva Courses ?

The Geneva Courses are unique. Providing intensive and interactive training, they combine theory, working field experiences of the participants and the exposure to international human rights diplomacy. With its researchers, fellows and interns from a variety of universities, our Department of Human Rights Policy Studies (HPS) assists the trainees during the HR-Council’s session.

Adrien-Claude Zoller has presented these Courses with different organisations since 1985. The outline and main objectives (needs from the regions; General Course and daily classes) were defined during the 1986 Course, organized with the OMCT. Since 2003 the Geneva Courses are conducted by GHR. With the creation of the HR-Council (2006), GHR elaborated specific teaching methods taking into consideration the new UN realities.

The strategic objective of the Geneva Courses is to empower NGOs, defenders,  coalitions and networks from the regions to participate fully in the HR-Council’s deliberations. Geneva Courses are advanced Courses to train trainers and therefore based on the realities in the field. The programme of each Course is tailored to the thematic needs and priorities of the participants. Moreover, to close the information gap of defenders in the regions, the Geneva Courses teach the new UN orientations (UN Reform process, dialogue and cooperation with the States, OHCHR priorities).

The Courses start with a 2 to4 days General Course during the first week of the UN session to teach the basic elements of international law, the UN structure, mechanisms and procedures, and international relations.

Then, during the entire session of the HR-Council, trainees participate indaily morning classes, to receive briefings on the main reports examined in the HR-Council and to analyze the debates and the main human rights issues. For each Course, HPS prepares a Documentation Kit for the trainees with all the relevant documents.

Each trainee receives a list of assignments, which includes drafting a communication to a thematic procedure, writing several summaries of the debates in the HR-Council and summaries of the morning classes, and submitting a brief note with the main patterns of human rights abuses in their country. Most of the summaries and draft letters to the Special Rapporteurs are read out and discussed during the morning classes.

During the Course, there are also weekly tests on the teaching of the previous week. This enables the trainers to monitor the progress made by the trainees. The trainers correct and mark the tests. Those with a negative mark in the second test receive additional briefings.

‘Geneva Course’ Trainees & Fellows with their Certificate

Profile of the Geneva Courses

  • The Geneva Courses for defenders from the regions are advanced Courses to train trainers. They are a unique intensive and interactive training, combining the theory, the exchanges of experience between participants (field situations) and the exposure to the multilateral reality (in the HR-Council), which the trainees monitor. Since its creation, GHR has realized this Course at each session of the Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission, at sessions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and at regular sessions of the HR-Council.

Each Geneva Course has two parts:

  • the General Course (Week-1) to introduce the international system (international law; international relations; UN bodies; HR-Council and its mechanisms, including the UPR; special procedures; treaty bodies);
  • the daily morning classes (Week-2), every day, to introduce the themes of the day on the agenda of the HR-Council and the reports of OHCHR’ and Special Rapporteurs submitted to the HR-Council; and to analyze the debates in the HR-Council; every afternoon, the trainees attend the session of the HR-Council.

Conditions for the certificate

To obtain the Course’s certificate, trainees have to submit a note on the main patterns of human rights abuses in their country; several summaries of the debates in the HR-Council; summaries of the morning classes; and a draft communication to a UN thematic procedure on a case of grave human rights abuses. Many summaries and draft letters to the Special Rapporteurs are read out, discussed and improved during the morning classes.

The trainees also stand weekly tests on the teaching of the previous week. This helps the trainers to ensure that their teaching is well understood, and to monitor the level of each trainee. It incites participants to review the Course and read several reports. Those getting an insufficient mark in the first test receive additional (separate) briefings from the trainers.

Trainers in the Geneva Courses 2015-2016-2017

As in previous years, all GHR trainers worked pro bono. For the three Geneva Courses of 2015, the two full-time trainers were Edward Flynn(Ireland, Vivat International) and Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland, GHR).
Four other experts lectured during these courses: Ms. Danica Finger(Germany), René Kosirnik (Switzerland), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka), and Rogier Huizenga (the Netherlands, IPU).