During HRC sessions – Geneva Courses

The 3-week Training Courses on the Human Rights Council, international human rights and humanitarian law, international procedures and diplomacy’ (‘Geneva Courses‘) are conducted by GHR at each ordinary session of the Human Rights Council.

What are the Geneva Courses ?

 The Geneva Courses are unique. Providing intensive and interactive training, they combine theory, working field experiences of the participants and the exposure to international human rights diplomacy. With its researchers, fellows and interns from a variety of universities, our Department of Human Rights Policy Studies (HPS) assists the trainees during the HR-Council’s session. 


Adrien-Claude Zoller has presented these Courses with different organisations since 1985. The outline and main objectives (needs from the regions; General Course and daily classes) were defined during the 1986 Course, organized with the OMCT. Since 2003 the Geneva Courses are conducted by GHR. With the creation of the HR-Council (2006), GHR elaborated specific teaching methods taking into consideration the new UN realities.


The strategic objective of the Geneva Courses is to empower NGOs, defenders, coalitions and networks from the regions to participate fully in the HR-Council’s deliberations. Geneva Courses are advanced Courses to train trainers and therefore based on the realities in the field. The programme of each Course is tailored to the thematic needs and priorities of the participants. Moreover, to close the information gap of defenders in the regions, the Geneva Courses teach the new UN orientations (UN Reform process, dialogue and cooperation with the States, OHCHR priorities).


The Courses start with a 3-4 days General Course during the first week of the UN session to teach the basic elements of international law, the UN structure, mechanisms and procedures, and international relations.


Then, during the entire session of the HR-Council, trainees participate in daily morning classes, to receive briefings on the main reports examined in the HR-Council and to analyze the debates and the main human rights issues. For each Course, HPS prepares a Documentation Kit for the trainees with all the relevant documents.


Each trainee receives a list of assignments, which includes drafting a communication to a thematic procedure, writing several summaries of the debates in the HR-Council and summaries of the morning classes, and submitting a brief note with the main patterns of human rights abuses in their country. Most of the summaries and draft letters to the Special Rapporteurs are read out and discussed during the morning classes. 


During the Course, there are also weekly tests on the teaching of the previous week. This enables the trainers to monitor the progress made by the trainees. The trainers correct and mark the tests. Those with a negative mark in the second test receive additional briefings.

Documents for the next Geneva Course

documents available soon here here


35th Geneva Course (GSC-35)

2 – 13 March 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 35th Geneva Course

conducted during the 28th session of the HR-Council

There were eleven defenders from the regions: from Cambodia (2), Taiwan, Philippines, West Papua, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, Guatemala, Uruguay. The other trainees were students from Australia , Finland, Italy, Switzerland, and the USA (2).

The General Course took place from 2 to 7 March, with the full-day class on Saturday 7 March. Special Courses were given on the work of the HR-Council; the Special procedures (and how to write to thematic mandate holders); women’s rights; religious freedom; the international human rights standards; the UPR; and treaty bodies.

During the second week, after the analysis of the reports submitted to the Council and of the Council’s debates, the trainers gave additional courses during the daily morning classes on human rights defenders and civil society; International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; Transitional Justice; and economic, social, and cultural rights.

The recapitulation of the course and GHR course on implementation in the countries were presented during the last class on Friday 13 March. The farewell dinner with the certificates took place on Friday Evening 13 March. All 17 trainees received a certificate.

During the Course, GHR trainers met individually with the trainees from Cambodia, Guatemala, the Netherlands, and Uruguay to discuss their specific follow-up initiatives. The participant from Uruguay attended several meeting on human rights and environment, and the one from Guatemala met with assistant of Special Rapporteur on transitional justice.

36th Geneva Course (GSC-36)

12 – 26 June 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 36th Geneva Course

during the 29th session of the HR-Council

The 17 participants included 4 defenders from the regions: Myanmar, India (2) and Sri Lanka. Other participants were students, nationals from Spain, Italy-Morocco, Italy, France (2), Norway (2), Switzerland-Korea, Switzerland-Portugal, Switzerland (2), and the USA.

The General Course started on Friday 12 June with an introduction to human rights standards. It continued on Monday 15 June with the opening of the 29th session of the HR-Council and the course on the tools of the Council. During this first week, the trainers gave special courses on the UN and Human Rights; the use of Special Procedures; the right to freedom of expression; the UN and Freedom of Religion and Belief; the UN and Women’s Rights; the UPR; and the OHCHR.

Additional Courses during Week-2 were given on business and human rights; International Humanitarian Law; country situations and strategies; transitional justice; and implementation inside countries.

All the trainees also participated in GHR Expert Seminar on religions and gender (18 June). The trainers had individual meetings with the trainees from Burma, Sri Lanka and India. All the trainees obtained the Course’s certificate.

37th Geneva Course (GSC-37)

14 – 25 September 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 37th Geneva Course

conducted during the 30th session of the HR-Council

Thirteen defenders came from the regions: from Bosnia Herzegoniva, Namibia, Tanzania (2), Mali, Philippines (2), West Papua, Armenia (2), Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia. The other participants were students and members from partner organisations from Austria, Ireland, Romania, and Hungary.

The General Course took place from 14 to 18 September, with the full-day course on Tuesday 15. The special courses concerned enforced or involuntary disappearances; the OHCHR; the use of the special procedures; and the UN and women’s rights.

Additional Courses were given during the second week on the UPR; transitional justice; the UN and indigenous peoples; country situations in the HR-Council; Sri Lanka (Commissions of inquiry and OHCHR); International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; and Human Rights Treaty Bodies.

Geneva Course GSC-29
(25 February – 15 March 2013)


The 29th Geneva Course took place during the 22nd session of the HR-Council from 25 February to 15 March 2013.


Participants in the Geneva Course GSC-29

24 trainees attended the 29th Geneva Course. Amongst them, 14 trainees came from the regions: Colombia (2), Chechnya (Russia), Sri Lanka (3), Egypt, Congo DRC, Chile (3), Uganda, Russia, Turkey. Two others (from France and Ireland respectively) were members of partners, Franciscans International and Vivat International. The other participants were fellows of GHR, graduate students from Congo DRC, Ireland (2), Germany, the United States of America (3), and Switzerland.


Resource persons

Trainers and resource persons for this 29th Geneva Course were:

  • the 3 full-time trainers: Edward Flynn (Ireland, Geneva Representative Vivat International), Sébastien Coquoz (Switzerland, GHR member), Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland, Course Director);
  • 5 experts who introduced morning classes: René Kosirnik (Switzerland, Legal Advisor GHR), Suhas Chakma (India, Director Asian Center for Human Rights, Dehli, GHR Executive Council member), Ms. Penny Parker (Human Rights Advocates, GHR Executive Council member), Ms. Aileen Diez-Bacalso (Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, AFAD, Philippines) and Ms. Anna Dobrovolskaya (head of International Youth Human Rights Movement’ (IYHRM) in Voronezh, Russia, former trainee in the Geneva Course);
  • and GHR support staff: George D’Souza (India, GHR Advisor), Nicolas Zoller (Switzerland, GHR IT Officer), and Ms. Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Spain, Coordinator Department Human Rights Policy Studies, HPS).


Proceedings of the 29th Geneva Course

  • General Course (25 February – 2 March 2013)

On the first day, the trainees attended the opening the HR-Council and received a general briefing on access to the HR-Council (documentation, annotated agenda, programme of work, of the year and of the session, order of the day). The Course on Day-2 started with the confidential session. Trainees explained the situation in their countries, highlighted their needs and priority issues for the Course, and exchanged on the situations in several countries. The trainers introduced the special procedures.

On Day-3 (Wednesday 27 February) the trainers summarized the opening session of the HR-Council and introduced the question of women’s rights in the UN. On Day-4, René Kosirnik gave the Course on international humanitarian law (IHL). On Day-5, the trainers made a synthesis of the general debate in the HR-Council and of the reports prepared by UN Secretariat (Secretary General and High Commissioner).

The General Course concluded on Saturday 2 March with the full-day Course on the international system. Trainers introduced in the morning the international human rights, humanitarian and criminal laws, international relations, IGO’s, UN structure, organs and programmes, including the Commissions of ECOSOC, the former Commission on Human Rights, and the HR-Council and its mechanisms. Themes of the afternoon were the human rights standards (civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, concept of violations – by action and by omission – non State actors), justice in period of transition, the UN Reform process (in particular the Millennium Development Goals) and religious freedom. The day ended with the Dinner of the General Course offered by GHR. Anna Dobrovlakaya told her experience in Russia.

  • Course on the proceedings of the HR-Council (4 – 15 March 2013)

During the remaining two weeks, trainees attended GHR morning classes (each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) before monitoring the HR-Council’s session. Each class opened with the summaries by the participants of the debates in the HR-Council. To learn how to use the Special procedures, trainees were also assigned to draft a communication to the thematic procedures, and the drafts were read out and commented during the classes.

The following themes and reports were introduced by the trainers during these classes: (recapitulation on) international law, UN structure, mechanisms of the HR-Council; the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); transitional justice; special procedures’ reports on torture, enforced or involuntary disappearances, human rights defenders, right to food, adequate housing, religious freedom, and minority rights; reports and debates on country situations (Syria, North-Korea, Burma, Iran).

During extended morning classes, courses were given on: indigenous peoples’ rights in the UN (by Suhas Chakma); enforced disappearances (by Adrien-Claude Zoller and Ms. Aileen Diez-Bacalso); and treaty bodies (by Ms. Penny Parker).

Trainees also prepared two self-made dinners. This facilitated working relations between them and offered good opportunities to deepen issues raised during the Course. The dinners took place on Thursday 7 March and on Thursday 14 March.

  • Conclusion of the Course

The dinner of 14 March was the final dinner of the Geneva Course. 17 trainees received the Course’s certificate. On Friday morning 15 March, the trainers presented a recapitulation of the entire Course and they presented the strategies to contribute to human rights implementation in the countries (national plans, public policies regarding human rights, national institutions, technical assistance programmes, coalitions and networks). The Course concluded with an evaluation by the participants. The trainers also held separate meetings with trainees from Sri Lanka, Colombia and Egypt to discuss their future strategies.


Geneva Course GSC-30
(27 May – 14 June 2013)


The 30th Geneva Course took place during the 23rd session of the HR-Council, from 27 May to 14 June 2013.


Participants in the Geneva Course GSC-30

Amongst the 24 trainees, 15 came from the regions: Dominican Republic, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (4), Algeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India-Singapore. The other trainees were graduate students and GHR fellows from Hungary, Sweden, Italy, and the United States of America (3), and three observers from Ireland, Rwanda and Nigeria.


Resource persons

Trainers and resource persons for this 30th Geneva Course were:

  • the 3 full-time trainers: Edward Flynn, Sébastien Coquoz, Adrien-Claude Zoller;
  • 2 experts who introduced morning classes: René Kosirnik (Legal Advisor GHR), and Ms. Alice Mogwe (Botswana, Director DITSHWANELO);
  • and GHR support staff: Nicolas Zoller and Ms. Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera.


Proceedings of the 30th Geneva Course

  • The General Course took place from 27 May to 1 June 2013. Additional themes were rape of women in war time, business and human rights, and religious freedom.
  • The Course on the proceedings of the HR-Council (‘morning classes’) was conducted from 3 to 13 June. Trainers introduced the reports the UN Secretariat, the High Commissioner and special procedures (trafficking, foreign debt, extreme poverty, judiciary, freedom of assembly, and freedom of opinion and expression, reports on countries), the UPR; justice in period of transition, treaty bodies, criminal law, racism and racial discrimination; and the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. The Course on human rights implementation in countries was given by Ms. Alice Mogwe who shared her experience in Botswana.
  • The last two days (13 – 14 June) focused on follow-up and evaluation. The trainers presented the recapitulation of the Course, with comments on follow-up strategies. 15 trainees received the Course’s certificate. The trainers had also individual follow-up meetings with participants from Malaysia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Santo Domingo, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sri Lanka. It was the first time GHR welcomed in its Geneva Course trainees from the UAE.


Geneva Course GSC-31
(9 – 27 September 2013)


The 31st Geneva Course took place during the 24th session of the HR-Council, from 9 to 27 September 2013.


Participants in the Geneva Course GSC-31

Twenty human rights defenders attended. 13 trainees came from the regions: Sri Lanka (2), Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya (observer), United Arab Emirates (3), Indonesia (2, incl. one from Papua), Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Brazil. The others were one member of AFEDEM (DRC-Congo) and graduate students and GHR fellows from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the United States and Switzerland.


Resource persons

The two full-time trainers for this Course were Edward Flynn and Adrien-Claude Zoller.

René Kosirnik gave the Course on international humanitarian law. Ms. Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera gave the Course on treaty bodies. The other resource persons for the Course were, Ms. Agnès Gràcia Corberó (Project Officer) and Nicolas Zoller.


Proceedings of the 31st Geneva Course

  • General Course (9 – 14 September 2013)

Special classes were held during the General Course on access to the HR-Council,  the mechanisms of the HR-Council, women’s rights, the geopolitical aspects of the Syrian conflict, justice in periods of transition, international humanitarian law , and the (the full-day Course) on the international system.

  • Course on the proceedings of the HR-Council (16 to 27 September 2013)

During Week-2 and Week-3 of the Course, the trainees attended every day the morning class before monitoring the HR-Council’s debates. The trainers gave them briefings on reports submitted to the HR-Council (children in war, children of parents sentenced to death, democratic order, mercenaries and private security companies, access to water, and toxic wastes) and Courses on UPR, treaty bodies, indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights defenders’ protection and reprisals against NGOs, racism and UN technical assistance. The group prepared the meeting of some of them with the Rapporteur on internally displaced persons.

  • Conclusions of the Course (26 and 27 September)

The (extended) morning class of 26 September was devoted to the recapitulation of the Course and the implementation strategies inside countries. 19 trainees received the Course’s certificate. The last class of Friday 27 September analyzed the first resolutions adopted by the HR-Council and the decision-making process.