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3. Your opportunities to engage

3.3 Oral statements – Why are they useful?

You can engage with the Human Rights Council in different ways - including delivering an oral statement, planning a side event, meeting with States, negotiating resolutions, and pushing for government statements. This section focuses on delivering an oral statement.

What is an oral statement?

An oral statement is a two-minute statement made by civil society organisations during regular sessions of the Human Rights Council. It is made in the Council plenary room, in front of all Member States of the Council and Observers (including States, UN agencies, NGOs, and press), and is recorded live and archived on the UN Web TV.

ISHR's statement on Burkina Faso delivered by Thérèse Kama on 20 September 2018 at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council.

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Australia – Amplifying voices

Oral statement on Australia’s treatment of children in indefinite detention delivered at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council (June 2018).

When Australia became a member of the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Law Centre began to engage with the Council (they did not before) and use it as a place to monitor Australia’s foreign policy. Through the Council, they are able to raise major concerns (e.g., the detention of migrants in Nauru), and put pressure on the government back home (through the media). This was produced through strategic partnership with Getup, a media platform, and reached an unprecedented number of views for an oral statement at the Council.

Examples of Oral Statements:

  • Joint statement on the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Venezuela delivered on 19 September 2018 at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council. This statement draws attention to a serious crisis, highlighting efforts by States, and making specific requests of the Human Rights Council.

  • ISHR’s statement on reprisals delivered at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council.

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Honduras and Colombia – Immediate impact of a statement

Joint Statement on human rights defenders in Honduras and Colombia. This statement points to specific facts and statistics, highlights priority issues of civil society, and sets out clear asks of the Council and the States involved.

At the last minute the statement was changed to welcome the fact that Colombia had granted accreditation to the new representative of OHCHR – this was done because Colombia had been informed that different NGOs were going to make statements about the delay in granting accreditation at the Human Rights Council – thus showing impact before even being delivered!

A Note on Written Submissions

You can also prepare and submit a written submission to the Human Rights Council. Information is available here

Example of a joint written submission:

ISHR, in collaboration with other civil society organizations, prepared and submitted a joint written statement on State obligations to protect the rights of LGBTI defenders, for the 38th session of the Human Rights Council (June 2018). This was used as a basis for several oral statements prepared and delivered by the organizations during the Council session.

Reflection Questions

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An oral statement can:

  • Be an opportunity to hear directly from the victims themselves- they may not have an opportunity to speak at national level.
  • Raise awareness of a human rights issue
  • Expose an issue in front of other States
  • Thus, putting pressure on your government
  • Build the profile of your NGO

Think about:

  • Exposure of you and/or your organisation at this public event could lead to reprisals by your government. See ISHR Academy: Security.
  • All oral statements presented during the Human Rights Council sessions are recorded and uploaded to UN WebTV, including the name of the person and organisation delivering the statement, which cannot be deleted.

Find out how to prepare a great oral statement in the next section.

Learn more

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