In 2016, the Human Rights Council requested that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a report compiling information on procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organizations, including United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, and the contribution of civil society to their work, challenges and good practices. CESR made a submission to the High Commissioner, which was referenced in the eventual report.
CESR's submission focused on civil society space in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), in particular CESR’s and partners’ experience of participation in the HLPF and the Voluntary National Reviews in 2016 and 2017, and in studying the follow-up and review procedures for the 2030 Agenda.
The High Commissioner's report reflects several of CESR's concerns about the HLPF, including the limited channels for civil society assessments of the countries' Voluntary National Reviews'. For example, the High Commissioner writes:
"There were reports of obstacles relating to the submission of independent contributions from civil society. For example, the High-level Political Forum process, including voluntary national reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals, reportedly did not provide adequate space for civil society submissions and, where provided for, the contributions were allegedly treated with tokenism."
The Commissioner's report highlights the important role played by civil society in terms of advocacy, expertise and implementation in its engagement with regional and international organizations. It summarizes good practices adopted by some of those organizations in terms of civil society participation, including in relation to accreditation, access to information and accountability mechanisms. The report also identifies the challenges that civil society encounters in its engagement, such as reprisals, lack of transparency and access and limited diversity in civil society representation. On the basis of international human rights norms, the report recommends that regional and international organizations establish clear and effective channels for meaningful and equal civil society participation and engagement.