On video: UN mechanisms can provide a drumbeat for civil society

During a week of training and practical experience of UN human rights mechanisms in Geneva, women lawyers spoke of the ways in which civil society actors can use these mechanisms to strengthen advocacy efforts.

As part of a project supported by the German Mission to the United Nations in Geneva the ICJ invited two groups of women lawyers to Geneva to attend training workshops that took place during the course of the June and September ordinary sessions of the UN Human Rights Council.

Participants spoke about their experiences with the interplay between UN mechanisms and domestic changes.

Lebanese lawyer Nina Abdallah noted the limitations of these mechanisms when States do not accept mechanisms that allow for individual complaint. As Lebanon has not yet become party to the Optional Protocol of the CEDAW Convention this means that individuals cannot access the CEDAW Committee to seek a remedy for violations and against that State’s failure to meet obligations under the Convention.

However, she explained that although this limits the accessibility of certain mechanisms, civil society can still play an important role in raising rights issues, calling for removal of reservations and acceptance of complaint procedures for specific Conventions through other mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review reporting process.

Maria Sol Taule, a lawyer from the Philippines working for human rights NGO Karapatan, noted that it is difficult for UN mechanisms to address individual cases when there are so many issues to deal with. However, she said that these mechanisms do still serve as an “effective tool to use as a platform to drumbeat our issues that haven’t been heard by our respective governments.”

Civil society participation in the Human Rights Council, State reporting processes for Committees and the UPR provide an occasion to highlight the human rights difficulties faced within specific countries. Ms Taule said this kind of engagement also offers the opportunity to enhance international solidarity with other organizations from other countries that are dealing with similar rights issues.

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