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3. Your opportunities to engage

3.11 Following up with Special Procedures

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 section focuses on

Following up with Special Procedures

There are a number of ways you can follow up on Special Procedures’ activities. Examine them below, and then use the reflection questions to think about how you could follow up on action already taken.

Media outreach

One of the most effective ways of following up is to get news coverage of action taken by Special Procedures. This can help bring attention to the issue in your country and put pressure on the government to respond in some way. This is work you can do regularly, even if the Special Procedures have only acted once.

For example:

  • You can share the text of a communication or a press release, or even provide summaries of recommendations from reports of Special Procedures

  • You can write an article to mark six months since a communication was sent and highlight what the government has done or failed to do

Meetings with Government or other actors

You can organise meetings with your government or the government of the country or other actors (e.g. corporations) that are the subject of your submission, to discuss issues and cases raised by the Special Rapporteur and try to agree on steps to be taken.

Following up on a communication

Once a communication has been made and a government reply requested, it may seem that the process is out of your hands, but there are a number of ways in which you can follow-up:

  • If a government response is received by OHCHR, it is published it in the communications database, and you can send any further comments to the OHCHR.

  • The communication and any government response (or non-response) can be used in your domestic advocacy to press the government to live up to promises it made to the Special Procedures, or to highlight misleading claims. The government could also be encouraged to respond, and its failure to do so could be publicised.

Top Tips

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Defining your own timeline

  • You don’t have to wait till a communication has been published by the Special Procedures to publicise the information that they are considering a case or situation.

  • You can use the fact that you have submitted information as the basis for a campaign, which means you can time the moment for publicity.

  • For example, human rights defenders did this in the Philippines, publicising a complaint they submitted, emphasising how serious the situation had become, that they had been forced to turn to the UN.

Following up on country visit and thematic reports

After the publication of a report by a Special Procedure, you can raise awareness by publicising the content of the report, including recommendations, in a variety of ways.

For example:

  • While full reports from a country visit may not be published for many months, Special Procedures always issue a press release and make a statement at the end of a visit, sometimes including detailed preliminary observations – so you can start to publicise this immediately

  • You can use infographics, images on social media, or other materials to summarise, simplify and disseminate the content of the reports

  • You can interview the Special Procedure and national experts about the report and recommendations for videos or media article

  • You can invite the Special Rapporteur for (unofficial) follow-up visits to your country

  • You can submit information to the Special Procedure related to issues raised in the reports to show how the situation has changed (or not)

Support to Migrants Rights Defenders: Interview on a report of the Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders (2018)

Defender Story

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Sri Lanka – Increasing pressure for Government action

In Sri Lanka, the government was claiming that it was not bound by the recommendations of a particular Special Procedure.

Advocates used those statements to explain why such claims are incorrect, to draw more attention to the recommendations made by the mandate holder and other mechanisms, and to increase pressure on the government to implement the recommendations.

Examples of media coverage:

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Australia – Improving draft laws

In Australia, a draft bill was introduced that would give companies the right to sue protesters and advocates for defamation, which would have severely restricted their ability to speak out about any abuses by the companies or negative impacts on communities and the environment.

Civil society sought to increase pressure on the government and parliamentarians to withdraw the bill, and submitted information to the Special Procedures. The Special Rapporteurs sent a communication and statement, which were used by civil society to support campaigns to defeat the law.

These interventions resulted in the improvement of some of the worst elements of the bill before it became law, and were later used in successful strategic litigation to have the law declared unconstitutional.

Media coverage of action by Special Procedures:

Reflection Questions

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  • Where does follow up fit into your existing advocacy strategies?
  • What steps can you take to ensure that you are doing this as safely as possible?

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