Quick Search: go

3. Your opportunities to engage

3.5 Statements and press releases – 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:

Statements and press releases

Special Procedures regularly make public statements on specific human rights issues – for example, to mark a date, or to share observations from a country visit.

For human rights defenders, sometimes a press release or statement is crucial for work by the Special Procedures to have the greatest impact and for you to be able to get the most media attention.

Below you'll find questions to help you consider why statements an press releases might 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: Statements and Press Releases – What can Special Procedures do?

Reflection Questions

Reflection question thought bubble

A statement or press release offers the opportunity to:

  • Draw attention to a communication and build pressure for action by your government
  • Get media interest in an issue or case
  • Raise awareness of a human rights issue at the international level
  • If your government believes that you are the source of the information for the press release, it could lead to reprisals by your government. See ISHR Academy: What to do if you face reprisals when engaging with the UN?
  • A communication from a Special Procedure might make your government ‘dig in their heels’ an d keep using a harmful practice or support dangerous laws, etc


  • Press releases will be published relatively quickly, and if they are connected to a communication, the communication will be published at the same time
  • Press releases may impact (positively or negatively) on any other work being done to encourage a country to invite a Special Procedure to visit.

Examples of using statements and press releases

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Poland – Resisting a restrictive law

In 2018, a draft bill was introduced entitled ‘Stop Abortion’, which aimed to severely restrict sexual and reproductive health rights in the country. Civil society needed to create international pressure to counteract strong conservative groups in Poland who were lobbying parliamentarians.

They sent information to the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice. The Working Group sent a communication – and issued a press release – calling on the Polish parliament to reject the draft bill, stating that it risked violating Poland’s international human rights obligations. The communication was issued the same week that the draft bill was due to be debated, helping NGOs to influence the outcome of the vote.

At time of this publication, the vote on the bill had been stalled for almost a year due to the widespread pushback. Concerned by the situation in Poland, the Working Group sought and was granted an invitation to visit the country in December 2018.

Media coverage of the communication and press release:

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Handling sensitive issues

Even in the mid 2000s, many States would attempt to prevent any discussion of sexual orientation at the UN. Civil society engaged with the Special Procedures to try to ensure the issue was included in their reports in order to push for progress within the UN. A former Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Paul Hunt, asserted on numerous occasions that sexual orientation is amongst the prohibited grounds of discrimination under human rights law, and that sexual rights include the right to express one’s sexuality as one sees fit.

Some States criticised him for these positions. Yet, as he pointed out,

Being a Special Rapporteur is not a popularity contest. Whether controversial or not, it is my job to explain, apply, promote and protect the right to health in the context of international human rights law. We must never lose sight of the fact that millions of men and women are persecuted – and many are killed – on account of their sexual orientation.

Civil society was able to use these statements in discussions with States in the UN and at the national level, to increase the legitimacy of their arguments in the eyes of diplomats, and to push for progress. They were also able to build on these recommendations in their advocacy with the Special Procedures and the future Special Rapporteur on the right to health, pushing them to take up a broader range of issues related to violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics.

Reports of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health:

Go to the next section for tips on how to get Special Procedures to issue press releases or make public statements.

Learn more

Module content
Module content