October 1, 2015
On 24-25 September 2015, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), together with Oxford University Associate Professor Fiona McConnell and Tibet Justice Centre, ran a workshop entitled “Gaining Access and Preparing an Advocacy Strategy”, in which participants from 14 different unrepresented nations discussed their advocacy possibilities at various UN bodies, guided by a team of trainers and facilitators, including Susan Akram (Boston University) and Joshua Cooper (University of Hawaii). The workshop, the first of the larger programme “Training Diplomats from Unrepresented Nations: Capacity Building for Effective UN Lobbying”, was funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, 2015-2016.
From over one hundred applicants, 17 participants representing the Acheh, Ahwaz, Baloch, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Crimean Tatar, Haratin, Iranian Kurdish, Nagorno-Karabakh, Ogaden, Oromo, Palestinian, Somaliland, Tibetan and West Papuan communities, were selected to participate in the workshop, which took place in the premises of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR).
After discussing why it is useful to lobby the United Nations, the first afternoon was dedicated to the different UN bodies working on human rights and especially the concept of periodic reviews of UN Member States, to which NGOs and other interested parties can actively contribute. The participants also compared their advocacy experiences at the UN, including difficulties and bureaucratic impediments they have had to face, mainly deriving from bullying and blocking techniques of several UN Member States. The discussion highlighted the existence of a pattern of episodes of restricted access to UN buildings and activities, often unjustified or ascribed to technical problems or miscommunications.
On the second day, the participants looked into the concept and usefulness of having ECOSOC status, as well as alternatives for organizations who do not manage to obtain it due to blocking by one or several states. The facilitators also explained the importance of developing an advocacy strategy, rather than contributing to UN activities through scattered meetings or roundtables. The group then compared their views and experiences of drafting alternative reports and press releases, as well as of the media and social media campaigns that should accompany all activities. In the final session, after a short exercise to guide participants in the use of UN websites, UNPO facilitators explained how to prepare a side-event at the UN, highlighting the formal requirements, but also including a few substantial tips to take into account.
Susan Akram, Clinical Professor at Boston University School of Law, was at the forefront in leading the workshop. Also Joshua Cooper, lecturer at the University of Hawaii and Geneva Coordinator for the US Human Rights Network Universal Periodic Review gave important input to the two-day programme. Fiona McConnell, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford and main coordinator of the training programme; Iona Liddell from Tibet Justice Centre; and Johanna Green and Tommaso Nodari from UNPO facilitated several sessions of the workshop, drawing on their personal and professional skills and backgrounds. The workshop also saw the participation of ISHR's Michael Ineichen, UPR Info’s Francesca Piccin and Laurel Townhead from the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva, who illustrated the functioning of their respective organisations putting emphasis on how the participants could effectively use their services and materials.
To read more about the project, please visit the Training Programme’s website.