HRC 48: Item 8 General Debate statement on #EmptyChairs campaign

48th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 8 General Debate

Statement delivered by International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

Thank you, President.

I make this statement on behalf of the #EmptyChairs campaign.

In the Vienna Declaration, States committed to “the real and effective participation of the people in decision-making processes.”[1]

Yet, the UN often feels a million miles away from our lives and disconnected from the demands of the people. We are left asking ourselves: if it is not people’s lives and the public interest that inform the Council’s agenda and decisions - what or who is? All too often it seems that the Council is the domain of the elites and powerful, including when wealthy states treat issues such as access to COVID-19 vaccines, global economic inequalities and the impacts of colonialism as anything other than urgent and crucial human rights concerns.

During this pandemic, we have seen that the UN can change and create processes for better participation of all, including civil society. We have seen modalities evolve to allow for video statements and other remote modalities that had long been demanded by activists but were treated as impossible -- that is until States needed them too. But we have also seen the instrumentalization of the pandemic to restrict civil society space nationally and internationally, the UN’s budget crisis impact on its ability to fulfill its mandate, including with regards to civil society participation, delayed reports and other outcomes, and the drive for expediency leading to the renewal of ‘efficiency’ measures that obstruct rather than advance broad participation.

We cannot go back to business as usual. We must make sure that the human rights system is a system for all and that the needs of all people everywhere, especially those forced to the margins of society, are met and their rights fully realised.


[1] Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, operative paragraph 67.