At some point there was hope that the Council would be a place where states would answer for their actions and where people could seek remedy for human rights violations - but that hope has faded over time. During this pandemic, the UN’s international cooperation mandate has given way to States’ and corporate interests. Barriers to entering multilateral spaces including denial of visas, ECOSOC status requirements, unsustainable cost of travel, lack of translation, lack of access for people with disabilities, technology access and safety issues, and so-called efficiency measures that restrict civil society participation, all take away the nuance and expertise that civil society brings in pursuit of social justice and equality. All of this is symbolized by the empty chairs throughout the UN.
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.
A/HRC/28/63 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst
HRC40 - Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights