HRC 55: Joint statement to Item 3 General Debate

Published on March 15, 2024


Item 3: General Debate

Statement by Akãhatã - Equipo de trabajo en sexualidades y géneros

Friday 15 March 2024


Akãhatã makes this joint statement on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), and Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS).

The participation of corporations in multilateral fora undermines the protection of human rights in UN discussions and decision-making.[1] While some UN fora consider corporations as “partners”, such as the many fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP28,[2] civil society is facing restrictions. These demonstrate the incoherence between the UN’s rhetoric on civil society participation and its practices.[3] The High Commissioner has remarked upon limited civil society participation in UNFCCC,[4] CND[5] and WHO.[6]

This Council had set an example for the UN but is now discontinuing its best practices.[7] Remote participation is crucial, due to the obstacles faced in accessing multilateral spaces, including discriminatory visa and resource requirements, environmental and security concerns and accessibility. At this Council session, civil society organisations are required to pay to use live online services if they wish to organize hybrid side events. The extra cost to utilise WebEx puts a disproportionate burden on organisations with limited budgets to engage with the HRC. The justification provided is reportedly the liquidity crisis. But we should not pay for States’ failure to pay their contributions and the chronic underfunding of the UN human rights pillar.

We call on States to adequately fund the human rights pillar and ensure that UNOG and OHCHR have budget and mandate to ensure inclusive modalities, including timely access to information, hybrid and remote participation for civil society, and accessibility for persons with disabilities. We call on states to reinstate General Debates in June sessions, and maintain unrestricted General Debates. 

Thank you.



[1] ESCR-Net input to the Working Group on Business and Human Rights on corporate capture and corporate political engagement.

[2] For example, the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition reported “at least 2456 fossil fuel lobbyists have been granted access to the COP28 summit in Dubai, signalling an unprecedented presence at crucial climate talks from representatives of some of the world’s biggest polluters.” Kick Big Polluters Out: “Release: Record number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28.” 

[3] Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Civil society space: engagement with international and regional organizations. A/HRC/44/25, 20 April 2020.  

[4] The High Commissioner noted that “in 2021, civil society actors were concerned about participation modalities in the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, owing to lack of online participation at the beginning of the negotiations and to technical glitches in the new online platform, which allegedly made access a logistical nightmare.” Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Civil society space: COVID-19: the road to recovery and the essential role of civil society. A/HRC/51/13, 30 June 2022., para. 36.

[5] The High Commissioner reported instances of limited civil society participation in United Nations processes, including the CND: “At the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, its first session online, the Commission substantially reduced the number of civil society representatives in its proceedings, including in negotiations on resolutions in the Committee of the Whole. Some reported that, as a result, there was a lack of opportunities for civil society representatives to interact with State delegates.” Ibid., para. 36.

[6] The High Commissioner noted: “in respect of the WHO process to develop a convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, concerns were expressed about, inter alia, how the results of virtual public hearings with interested stakeholders would be used.” Ibid., para. 36.