Empowering Collaboration: Highlights from HRC55 and Beyond

Marides Santos SSpS

Advancing Human Rights

The 55th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC55) convened in Geneva from 26 February to 5 April 2024 as a crucial platform for addressing global human rights issues. Member states engaged in dialogues on pressing concerns, including conflicts in Myanmar, Syria, and Yemen and human rights challenges in Belarus and Afghanistan. Discussions emphasized the importance of accountability for violations and the need for collective action to combat systemic abuses.

Gender equality and the fight against discrimination were central themes, with a focus on advancing women’s rights, protecting LGBTQ+ individuals, and addressing racial injustice. Intersectional approaches were advocated to recognize and address the diverse forms of discrimination marginalized groups face. Calls for strengthened legal frameworks and practical measures to ensure universal human rights protection resonated throughout the session.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights, particularly its disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations, was also addressed. Member states discussed equitable access to vaccines, healthcare, and socio-economic support for refugees, migrants, and those in poverty. The session concluded with renewed commitments to upholding human rights principles and fostering international cooperation to address existing and emerging challenges comprehensively.

Urgent Call for Global Financial Reform: Addressing Inequality, Debt, and Climate Challenges

In his address at the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero underscores the deficiencies of the current global financial architecture in fostering inclusive growth and supporting developing countries, as outlined in the Trade and Development Report 2023. He highlights concerns regarding extreme inequality, unsustainable debt burdens, and the worsening of climate-related challenges. Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis’s teachings, he advocates for a new multilateral governance approach that prioritizes the common good of humanity and ensures the inclusion of the voices of poorer nations in decision-making processes. Balestrero urges UNCTAD, Member States, and stakeholders to tackle these structural weaknesses and calls for solidarity and innovative approaches to support the least-developed countries’ development and climate adaptation efforts.

Navigating UPR: Strategies and Advocacy for Human Rights

The UPR Platform Meeting, convened on February 7, 2024, via Skype, brought together representatives from diverse organizations to deliberate various aspects of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. Discussions revolved around updates and planning for UPR submissions across sessions, with meticulous attention to deadlines and country-specific reports. Participants shared insights from UPR Info 46th pre-sessions, including attendance plans and concerns regarding hybrid participation due to UN instructions. Deliberations also centered on preparations for oral statements at the upcoming Human Rights Council session, focusing on advocating for UPR outcomes. Additionally, strategic considerations such as the Advocacy Assessment Tool and monitoring plans for UPR recommendations were discussed, with a commitment to convene future meetings to delve deeper into these topics and ensure effective implementation. A tentative schedule was set for the next UPR Meeting in May 2024, aligning strategically with the conclusion of the UPR session and preceding the Human Rights Council session.

Shaping the Future: Collaborative Efforts in Preparing for the Summit of the Future

In an exchange between Michèle Griffin, Director of the Summit of the Future, and representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) accredited at the UN Office in Geneva, the preparations for the upcoming Summit of the Future, scheduled for September 22-23, 2024, were thoroughly discussed. Griffin underscored the Summit’s pivotal role in addressing global challenges and revitalizing multilateralism, emphasizing the need for active NGO engagement. Key points included the structure of the intergovernmental Pact for the Future, outlined to encompass sustainable development, peace and security, technology and innovation, youth empowerment, and global governance. The release of the Zero Draft of the Pact marked a crucial milestone, inviting constructive feedback from stakeholders. With an upcoming United Nations Civil Society Conference in Nairobi and the Summit in New York, civil society’s involvement is paramount in shaping the agenda and ensuring a robust outcome.

Timeline and Opportunities for Engagement: Summit of the Future

The NGO Liaison Unit has outlined the timeline for the Summit of the Future, emphasizing key dates and opportunities for engagement. The Zero Draft of the Pact for the Future was released on January 26, 2024, initiating intergovernmental discussions to adopt an ambitious and action-oriented pact. Informal consultations and a presentation of the Zero Draft were broadcast on UN Web TV on January 29, 2024. Stakeholders can provide feedback on the draft during a virtual consultation on February 21, 2024, and through written submissions from February 21 to March 6, 2024. The United Nations Civil Society Conference in Nairobi on May 9-10, 2024, will precede the Summit, allowing civil society organizations to offer perspectives and feedback. The Summit itself is scheduled for September 22-23, 2024, in New York City, with opportunities for NGO participation in interactive dialogues alongside plenary meetings. NGOs are encouraged to engage actively and enrich the Summit preparations with their input.

CINGO Forum Advances Human Rights Agenda in Geneva and Beyond

The CINGO Forum (Catholic Inspired NGOs of the Working Group on the Right to Development) convened on February 15th, 2024, with representatives from various organizations discussing key agenda items. The meeting began with the selection of new coordinators, with Mara Rossi appointed as Coordinator and Sister Sarah as Vice-Coordinator. Participants then shared their planned initiatives for the forthcoming 55th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), covering a range of topics from Myanmar to Colombia, climate change, education, and cultural rights. Updates were provided on the working groups, including efforts to advocate for the adoption of the draft international covenant on the Right to Development (RtD) and coordination on education issues. Briefings were also given on the recent regional platforms meeting held in Rome, focusing on enhancing collaboration among regional platforms and establishing means of communication for sharing information.

Additionally, participants discussed future initiatives to be undertaken collectively by the Geneva Forum. The meeting emphasized collaboration, with representatives sharing their planned actions for the upcoming HRC session and working together to advance various human rights and social justice causes. The discussions highlighted the participating organizations’ commitment to promoting human dignity, the common good, and peace within Geneva and on a global scale.

Marides Santos, VIVAT New York

(based on information provided by Kachi Adindu, VIVAT Geneva)