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3. Your opportunities to engage

3.12 How to influence Government statements

In this section you'll find practical advice on how to lobby Goverments to make statements on an issue.

Government statements

Steps and Strategic Tips

  • Attempts to influence either joint or national statements of governments must be made well in advance of the Human Rights Council session. First, you must identify States that might be supportive, present them with evidence and information to convince them that a statement is necessary, and also why it is important to make this statement with a group of other States (if aiming for a joint statement).

  • You need to engage with States either through embassies or through partners in Geneva. The capitals give the green light for going ahead with a joint statement or approving the content of a national statement, and so you need to engage with States early enough to give them time to get approval from capital.

  • Getting a national statement is easier than a joint statement because there is only one government that needs to be convinced and that needs to agree on the language.

  • For a national statement, you do not need to engage with the capitals, but rather the embassies in your country or in Geneva. You should begin to engage with them weeks before the statement is due to be delivered at the Human Rights Council session.

  • For a joint statement, you will need to engage with the capitals and find a State that is willing to lead no matter how much push back they get from other States. Once you find the State leader, you can start to garner support (co-sponsors). This needs to be done months ahead of the session, especially if it is on a sensitive country, such as China, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.

  • If you intend to bring up the statement under agenda Item 4, then you need to make your case of how Country X is committing gross and systematic human rights violations and so it warrants targeting that agenda item. Item 4 is seen as "the bad place" for States because they are being classed under ‘human rights situations that require the Council’s attention’, which is more focused on accountability for serious human rights violations.

  • States prefer to make statements about other countries under Item 8 (‘Follow-up an implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action’) or Item 10 (‘Technical assistance and capacity-building’) because they are seen as being less confrontational, focusing on how to improve a situation through cooperation and dialogue.

Top Tips

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Arguments to help push for a Government Statement

  • One argument to get States to lead on a joint statement, is to identify and approach the States that signed or endorsed the “objective criteria” statement (which sets out considerations when assessing whether a situation or specific issue merits the attention and response of the Human Rights council), and make your case of why your country meets the objective criteria and therefore warrants Council action. As Council members who committed to applying objective criteria, they should take action to hold other Council members accountable.

  • The “objective criteria” statement was originally led by Ireland, then endorsed by a group of States in a Dutch-led statement, then supported again in a joint statement led by Australia.

  • If your country is a Council Member, you can also argue that they should be held to heightened scrutiny because they are members. You can refer to the GA resolution 60/251 which created the Council and says that Council members should uphold the highest standard of protection and promotion of human rights.

  • When a State has made a UPR recommendation on a particular human rights issue, especially directed at the country that you want included in a government statement, this shows that the State making the recommendation considers those issues to be a priority. You can use this to encourage that same State to raise those issues in a statement at the Council, outside the context of the UPR.

It's not always possible to come to Geneva to advocate, so in the next section we'll explore the different ways you can engage without travelling.

Learn more

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