Representing the humanist movement, advocating on its behalf, and promoting humanist values at the United Nations and other international bodies is a core role and function of Humanists International.

Our work focuses on those rights that are threatened, abused or undermined by harmful traditional, cultural and religious practices. We have a specific concentration on freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, the rights of women, LGBTI equality and the rights of the child. We also speak out against forms of discrimination based on race and nationality.

Humanists International is an international NGO with: Special Consultative Status at the United Nations in Geneva, Vienna, and New York (including General Consultative Status at UNICEF); observer status at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul); General Consultative Status at the Council of Europe (Strasbourg), and a partner in human rights with UNESCO (Paris).

We also engage with the European Commission, European Parliament and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Advocacy at International Institutions

United Nations (Geneva)

At the UN in Geneva, Humanists International delegation engages with the UN Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review and Committee work. We deliver oral and written statements, make submissions to UN consultations, engage at meetings, as well as network with states, experts and other civil society organisations.

Humanists International’s director of advocacy is vice chair of the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Geneva.

United Nations (New York)

At the UN in New York, Humanists International monitors and engages with the work of the General Assembly, Third Committee, ECOSOC committee, Commission on Population and Development and Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). We also also have an active role within a number of UN NGO Committees, with bureau members in the following: the Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations and NGO-CSW.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Humanists International engages primarily with two of UNESCO’s programme areas: communication and information, where we focus on UNESCO’s project for the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press; and education. We do this by attending meetings in Paris, making statements and submissions, and by working with its conference of internationals NGOs.

Council of Europe

Humanists International engages with the Work of the Council of Europe (a 47-nation international organisation tasked with monitoring and upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law) primarily via two channels: lobbying the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is the parliamentary arm of the Council; and through membership and participation with the Conference of International NGOs.

We attend PACE and INGO committee meetings, follow and draft amendments on reports and resolutions, and meet individual parliamentary delegates. We also work particularly closely with a small group of progressive NGOs, focusing on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) issues, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and LGBTI equality.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Humanists International engages with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), a quasi-judicial body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights and collective (peoples’) rights throughout the African continent as well as interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and considering individual complaints of violations of the Charter. We attend and speak at its Ordinary Sessions in Banjul and elsewhere, communicate with its Special Rapporteurs, monitor the implementation of its members’ duties under the African charter and work with the NGO Forum on the ACHPR.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Humanists International engages with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), particularly in the area of  human rights and democracy. The OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its 57 participating states range from Central Asia to North America. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections. Every autumn, it holds a meeting on human rights and their implementation in the OSCE region; Humanists International representatives attend these, and deliver oral statements and submit written contributions. Throughout the year we also lobby, meet and brief decision makers in the OSCE and its participating states.

Engaging with the Universal Periodic Review

As part of our advocacy, Humanists International engages with the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and encourages its Member Organizations to do so too. The UPR is a great way for Humanists International members, and civil society more broadly, to highlight human rights issues in their home countries and to bring a sharper focus on the plight of so many free thinkers globally.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an opportunity for every state to be examined on their human rights record, with both other states and civil society feeding in.

This is a democratic and truly multilateral approach, and with all States and more than 800 non-state actors are involved, a lot of pressure can be exerted.

How can Humanists International members get involved?
Most important: Download our full briefing on the process below

In addition, organizations can:

  • Encourage your own state, before its review, to organize national conferences so that you and other NGOs and Human rights defenders have the opportunity to bring flaws to its attention.
  • Submit a report to the UN on human rights situations of concerning in your country. This information will be processed and included the review.
  • Lobby reviewing States to ask specific questions and specific recommendations.
  • Take action to ensure governments live-up to their commitments in between reviews.
  • Other possible actions: organizing side-events, spreading information, publicizing, encouraging wider involvement in the process.

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