Aim of our Geneva Advocacy Programme (GAP) is to contribute to NGOs advocacy, both in the UN system and at domestic level. This programme responds to our partners’ requests. It also helps GHR to identify many situations of massive violations and patterns of large scales of abuses, which are still neglected by the regional and global bodies. When needed, GHR Executive Council and Senior Management Team may launch a new implementation project on such situations and themes.


As a training organisation specialized in international procedures, GHR cannot remain silent in front of the attempts of a growing number of hardliner states to weaken the UN human rights system. GHR therefore joins NGOs efforts to strengthen this system, or at least to limit the damages caused by a proliferation of negative proposals. The replacement of the former Commission on Human Rights by the Human Rights Council (2006) also implied the suppression of the former Sub-Commission. Not surprisingly, the Special procedures became immediately the next target of hardliner delegations. Adopting its institution-building package (June 2007), the new Council added in a separate resolution a Code of Conduct to be respected by the Rapporteurs. Proposed by Algeria and imposed by the African Group, this Code highlights States’ sovereignty. It is a tool to reinforce the authority of the States and of the Council on the independent experts. Obviously, a code would have been more useful for those States systematically violating human rights…

Since 2006, false allegations, attacks and threats against Special Rapporteurs rapidly increased. Many countries accuse them of not respecting the code. The Russian delegation is very active in this offensive. In the Council, it tabled a draft resolution on the ‘methods of work of the Consultative Group’ preparing the selection of the mandate-holders (February 2020). In New York, the Russians had taken the lead for a review process to ‘strengthen the treaty monitoring bodies’. Special procedures and treaty bodies are also affected by states’ initiatives to reduce the funds available for their work.

In 2019, GHR initiated a brainstorming process on the worrying trends in the HR-Council, challenging the special procedures and shrinking the space for NGOs. GHR convened a Brainstorming Seminar (19 August 2019), followed by GHR Workshop on human rights in the 75th year of the UN and the future of Special procedures (12 December 2019). GHR participates in a core group of NGOs and supports letters and statements regarding the Special procedures and treaty bodies. GHR co-signed the joint civil society letters on the UN Human Rights Treaty Body reviews (2020 and October 2022). In 2022, GHR co-signed joint NGOs letters to member States calling for the renewal of the mandates of the Special procedures on South Sudan, Eritrea, Burundi.


The highest number of defenders trained by GHR come from Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Turkey, Russia, India, Nepal, Tibet, Xinjiang, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, West Papua, Philippines. As many former trainees submit communications to the UN after their course, these countries became naturally our country priorities. GHR has two implementation programmes, for Botswana and West Papua.

Still, other states with negative human rights records are not on the agenda of the HR-Council. For such forgotten and neglected situations, GHR continued to support initiatives of coalitions and networks.


Over the last two decades, basic human rights standards regressed around the world. In counter-terrorism, some forms of torture were suddenly justified again. Kidnappings and arbitrary killings of those falsely accused of ‘terrorists’ became common. The most severe attacks concerned sexual orientation and women’s rights. UN debates on racism and religious freedom led to unduly limitations to the freedom of opinion and expression. Increasingly, amendments were inserted in HR-Council resolutions, limiting other rights to the domestic legislation, with little concern for cases where the domestic law is contrary to international obligations of states. Many delegations still refuse to see in the economic system a source of violations. As several GHR Expert Seminars highlighted, a key challenge is to make soon significant progress in the eradication of extreme poverty.

            Where we have expertise, such as on the rights of NGOs, the protection of defenders, enforced disappearances, indigenous peoples, freedom of religion, GHR has launched special implementation projects. For other issues where international action is needed, GHR supports coalitions. Thus, on climate change, GHR is a member of the Geneva Climate Change Consultation Group (GeCCco). On migration, GHR introduced the issue as a transversal concern (in its Seminars on indigenous peoples and enforced disappearances).

GHR also assists coalitions in their efforts to get new issues on the UN agenda. Thus, since 2019, GHR supports the campaign coordinated by GHR trainer Edward Flynn to promote a human rights approach in the fight against obstetric fistula. GHR co-sponsored several Expert Seminars and joined NGOs oral statements to the HR-Council. In 2022, we provided advice on the creation of a legal entity for this coalition. Nicolas Zoller participated in the team of the Fact Finding Mission visiting Madagascar (November 2022).


As it was clear that those in the margins would suffer the most from the pandemic, GHR board launched in March 2020 a study project on the Covid-19 (health and social) crises to promote a human rights approach in the fight against the pandemic. Highlighting solidarity with the victims, commitment for human rights and hope for a better future, our message of 24 March 2020 to all those involved in the HR-Council and to our partners and former trainees in the regions [1], recalled the international community’s commitment to eradicate extreme poverty, expressed deep concern for the fate of the most vulnerable, and urged all GHR partners to monitor states policies and submit reports on cases of violations. GHR received many detailed reports on violations and transmitted them to the Special procedures. GHR also drafted the joint letter to the HR-Council’s President to propose concrete paragraphs to be included in her President Statement on the pandemic [2]. In 2022, GHR continued to monitor the debates in the UN regarding the impact of this crisis.



The full participation of defenders and NGOs from the regions is crucial for the work of the HR-Council. However, with every year three ordinary Council’s sessions, three UPR sessions, meetings of Working groups and Forums on major issues, practically the HR-Council meets permanently in Geneva ! As NGOs and defenders from the regions cannot each time afford the (expensive) trip to (and stay in) Geneva, their effective participation necessitates a permanent presence in Geneva. Since its creation, GHR actively promoted the presence in Geneva of NGOs from the regions.

In 2022, GHR continued to support these partners from the regions in Geneva, and provided advice and orientation to several coalitions from the regions wishing to establish an Office in Geneva.



[1]Spread of COVID-19: GHR Message of Solidarity, Commitment and Hope’, 24 March 2020, sent to to all those involved in the HR-Council and to our partners and former trainees in the regions, in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian and Tamil languages.

[2] Dated 22 April 2020, this joint letter was co-signed by 20 NGOs in consultative status including by the main international human rights NGOs, 29 non-status NGOs, from 29 countries.