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3. Your opportunities to engage

3.7 Country visits – Why are they useful?

You can engage with Special Procedures in all areas of their work – communications, statements and press releases, country visits, and thematic reports - and by following up on Special Procedures’ actions.

This and the next section focus on:

Country visits

When Special Procedures visit a country, they draw attention to human rights violations, to individual cases, to problems in laws and policies. They also make recommendations on what the government and other actors can do to improve the situation.

All of this can be used (and shaped!) by you in your advocacy.

Below you'll find questions to help you consider why country visits be useful to your advocacy, followed by some examples of how other human rights defenders have done so.

For more information on what they are, see ISHR Academy: Country visits – What do the Special Procedures do?


Reflection Questions

Reflection question thought bubble

Q1- How could a country visit by a Special Procedure be useful / advantageous to you?

A country visit offers the opportunity to:

  • Obtain a UN report with recommendations for your government (if it’s an official visit)
  • Let victims speak for themselves and engage directly with Special Procedure
  • Increase understanding by Special Procedures regarding a specific issue or case
  • Raise awareness of a human rights issue at the international level
  • Expose an issue in front of other States (especially once the report is presented to the Human Rights Council)
  • Build relationships with mandate holders for future action

Q2- Could it be harmful / disadvantageous?

  • Engaging with a Special Procedure during a visit could lead to reprisals by your government. See ISHR Academy: What to do if you face reprisals when engaging with the UN?
  • A strong report by a Special Procedure may reduce the chances of future visit
  • Unofficial visits require resources to convince Special Procedures to visit, to organise the event, and to cover the cost

Q3- Consider how country visits support / complement your existing advocacy strategies

Remember:

  • Reports on country visits can take up to a year to be published
  • Unofficial visits are also possible without a government invitation

Examples of using country visits

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Mexico – Shining a spotlight on a country visit

National NGOs in Mexico worked very closely with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to help prepare the agenda for his visit to the country in 2016. They provided him with information to help him identify priority topics, groups to meet with and locations to visit.

During the visit, the Special Rapporteur and NGOs drew attention to meetings he had with different communities and the sites that he visited, as well as comments he made at public events they organised for him to speak at.

At the end of the visit, the Special Rapporteur issued an end of mission statement that contained preliminary recommendations – rather than waiting until the country mission report was presented to the HRC. NGOs were able to immediately use these in their advocacy, and then take advantage of the presentation of the report months later to draw attention to the failure of the State to make progress on key issues.

Use of social media and articles to draw attention to meetings and the end of mission statement:


Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Republic of Korea – Using Special Procedures to increase credibility

The Republic of Korea was experiencing a regression in the protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Civil society had been attempting to raise the alarm on this issue, but were given insufficient attention.

They encouraged the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association to request an invitation to visit the country, and the government issued the invitation.

The Special Rapporteur visited the Republic of Korea in 2016, and subsequently released a report and a statement, which helped to draw attention to the situation, increasing the credibility of the claims. NGOs were able to rely on the public statements and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur to give greater ‘legitimacy’ to their advocacy.


Continue to the next section for tips on how to get a visit to your country.

Learn more

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