Joint Statement: Informal Conversation on Implementation of HRC ‘Efficiency’ Measures (PRST/OS/13/1)

Published on December 03, 2020

Thank you, President.

We make this statement on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Center for Reproductive Rights. As States discuss how to make the Human Rights Council more ‘efficient’ by focusing on how to save money and time, we would like to challenge the notions of efficiency, necessity and rationalization on which this process is premised. States’ failure to pay their contributions, the systematic underfunding of OHCHR, and the existing barriers to civil society participation are the real impediments to the Council’s fulfillment of its mandate. This calls into question States’ commitment to human rights.

We know that in far too many contexts concepts such as “efficiency” and “rationalization” and the processes and outcomes that flow from them are not neutral and are a product of corporate managerialism, often used to obscure and justify exclusion and a range of human rights violations, including of workers’ rights. The increase of remote participation avenues during this pandemic has shown that barriers to remote participation were never necessary or ‘efficient.’ We have seen the ways in which these concepts are used to justify reducing or bi-annualizing initiatives on human rights issues related to gender, disability, racism or economic justice despite widespread violations that would warrant more scrutiny and meaningful action. We have also seen the ways these are used to justify reducing avenues and time for civil society participation, with a disproportionate impact on feminists and women human rights defenders, especially in the Global South. For instance, the cancelation of general debates during the June session, which is when many reports and discussions related to gender and women’s rights take place, has left many feminist groups without speaking slots to address the Council. This, in a pandemic context that has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing systems of oppression globally, as well as shrinking civil society space across the world and in this Council.

The General Assembly has mandated the Council to work in close cooperation with civil society.1 The Council will fail in its mandate if it restricts civil society contributions to its work. Instead of pursuing “efficiency”, it must center human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, accountability, participation, accessibility and access to information.

We urge States to:

● Adopt a human rights-based approach to these measures and the UN budget crisis, which would require a much more transparent, open, accessible and participatory process, also and especially for organizations based outside of Geneva and in the Global South.
● Ensure the Secretariat has the resources required to fulfill its mandate, including ensuring robust civil society participation and providing closed-captioning, sign language interpretation and other accessibility measures2 as well as webcasts in all UN languages for all Council meetings
● Preserve and expand civil society participation, including by reintroducing general debates for all HRC sessions, increasing the duration and amount of NGO speaking slots in other dialogues, keeping UPR outcome adoptions in HRC sessions, and maintaining and expanding remote participation modalities, even after the pandemic

We call on the Secretariat to:

● Regularly update and consult civil society on the ‘efficiency’ process and the UN budget crisis to mitigate their impact on participation, and publish all related information in a timely fashion on the OHCHR website and in the Civil Society Weekly Updates.
● Webcast all plenary meetings in all UN languages, live-stream informal consultations on draft resolutions and make recordings available for those in different time zones.