International Catholic Center of Geneva’s (CCIG) third week long training session on United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms was held from 16-20 September 2013, in cooperation with UNESCO Etxea. The five day programme was composed of presentations by human rights experts and participation in the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC).

Participants from NGOs based in Spain were eager to learn more about human rights discourse, including right to water, environment and human rights and right to peace. A major goal for many was to better understand how the UN Human Rights Mechanisms work and develop an effective lobbying strategy within the UN, especially the Human Rights Council. The role of NGOs vis-à-vis treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special Procedures was a focus that many speakers touched upon, emphasizing that human rights mechanisms are only as good as the civil society members that monitor implementation. The open discussion and interactive presentations allowed participants to delve into topics they were most interested in or were currently working on in their own organizations, such as sustainability, education and cultural rights.

Amongst presentations and participation in the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council events, CCIG hosted a UPR practical exercise for participants, which helped in better understanding UPR language, format and the submission process for civil society actors. As NGOs can contribute multiple times within the UPR process, understanding how to make a submission was crucial for many organizations and also for UPR process as they are first-hand accounts and information that is not already available through United Nations resources.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process was a constant theme throughout most presentations, with the speakers often discussing how the UPR is a public mechanism for civil society’s participation, calling it the ‘first vehicle for human rights.’ Every four and a half years the UPR process begins anew with the examination of all UN Member States regarding domestic human rights situation and implementation of previous commitments.

The training programme is the latest held in collaboration with UNESCO Etxea, with the goal of helping organizations make a change for the better. The week’s activities also sought to help Human Rights Defenders better understand the framework they work in, while respecting their wealth of experiences, which were shared during the programme.