GSC Trainee having received their Certificate after a three weeks course during HR Council.


It is not easy for defenders in the regions to follow the UN negotiations and the trends in the UN Reform, the HR-Council, the special procedures, the treaty bodies, and the action of OHCHR. GHR Courses have to bridge these information gaps, to meet the needs and priorities of these defenders, and to enable them to adapt their work to these new realities.

GHR Global Training Department has set up three training programmes. The Geneva Courses and Seminars are part of the Programme on the HR-Council. The Experts Seminars are prepared by our HPS Department, which is composed of fellows and students from several universities. For its Geneva Courses and Seminars, GHR received in 2015 financial support from the Governments of Liechtenstein and the Netherlands.

 Programme No. 1    Participation of the Regions in the Human Rights Council’

Entitled: ‘Participation of the Regions in the Human Rights Council(PRE), the Programme aims at full participation of defenders from the regions in the work of the HR-Council and it mechanisms, and at the effective use of human rights special procedures. It has a variety of Courses and Seminars in Geneva and in the regions. In 2016, GHR received financial support from several foundations and from the Government of Liechtenstein.


Profile of the Geneva Courses

  • The Geneva Courses are advanced Courses to train trainers. They constitute a unique intensive and interactive training, combining the theory, the exchanges of experience between participants (field situations) and the exposure to the multilateral reality (in the HR-Council), which the trainees monitor.
  • Since its creation, GHR has realized this Course at each session of the Commission on Human Rights and its Sub-Commission, at sessions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and at each ordinary session of the HR-Council.
  • Each Geneva Course has two parts:

the General Course (Week-1) to introduce the international system (international public law; international relations; UN bodies; HR-Council and its mechanisms, including the UPR; special procedures; treaty bodies);

the daily morning classes (second part of the Course) each working day, from 08:15 to 12:00, to introduce the themes of the day on the agenda of the HR-Council, and summaries of OHCHR’ and Special Rapporteurs’ reports submitted to the HR-Council; and to analyze the proceedings of the HR-Council; each afternoon, the trainees attend the session of the HR-Council.

  • Conditions for the certificate

To obtain the Course’s certificate, trainees have to submit a note on the main patterns of human rights abuses in their country; several summaries of the debates in the HR-Council; summaries of the morning classes; and a draft communication to a UN thematic procedure on a case of grave human rights abuses. Many summaries and draft letters to the Special Rapporteurs are read out, discussed and improved during the morning classes.

The trainees also stand weekly tests on the teaching of the previous week. This helps the trainers to ensure that their teaching is well understood, and to monitor the level of each trainee. It incites participants to review the Course and read several reports. Those getting an insufficient mark in the first test receive additional (separate) briefings from the trainers.

Trainers in the Geneva Courses 2015-2016-2017

As in previous years, all GHR trainers worked pro bono. For the three Geneva Courses of 2015, the two full-time trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland, Vivat International) and Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland, GHR).

Four other experts lectured during these courses: Ms. Danica Finger (Germany), René Kosirnik (Switzerland), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka), and Rogier Huizenga (the Netherlands, IPU).

Themes of GHR Course

In all its Courses and Seminars, in Geneva and in the regions, GHR trains defenders on:

  • the fundaments of international law, international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law, including the tools of transitional justice);
  • the trends in international relations;
  • the inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) and the structure of the UN;
  • the UN structure and its main bodies (incl. ECOSOC’s thematic Commissions);
  • the Human Rights Council (‘HR-Council’) and its mechanisms;
  • the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the contribution of the civil society;
  • the Special procedures and the drafting and submission of communications;
  • the treaty monitoring bodies and the preparation of shadow reports;
  • the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), its priorities and field operations;
  • the preventative measures and strategies to protect human rights defenders;
  • the strategies to raise issues and situations at regional and international level;
  • the national implementation strategies: implementing all the UN decisions and recommendations (resolutions, Special procedures, UPR, concluding observations of treaty bodies); elaborating and realizing public policies and national plans of action and in the field of human rights; the national institutions.

GHR Courses and Seminars also focus on the concerns and priorities of NGOs and defenders in the regions, in particular humanitarian law; macroeconomic issues; impunity; the protection of defenders; indigenous peoples and violence against women.


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a crucial additional tool to implement human rights inside countries. GHR actively supported the creation of, a new documentation and communication tool for the stakeholders. GHR remains involved in this new mechanism. GHR elaborated a specific training scheme, covering all the stages of UPR, and highlighting the importance of bolstering the cooperation with the States, with the special procedures and the treaty bodies.

In all its Courses, in Geneva and in the regions, GHR explains the UPR, and sensitize on the potential NGO contribution at each stage of the UPR process (contribution to the State’s report; preparation of the ‘stakeholders’ reports; review of the country by the Working group; adoption of the report by the group, and then by the HR-Council; follow-up in each country). GHR teaches the long-term perspectives and the links between UPR and the process of implementation of all rights for all in each country. Obviously, each training on UPR has to address the specificity of the situation in each country.

As many NGO coalitions come to Geneva to attend the review of their country, since December 2008 GHR offers briefings and orientation at each UPR session.


Since 2006, GHR has a special Training Fellowship Fund for Defenders from the Regions to offer fellowships to be trained in the Geneva Courses. A fellowship for a defender from the regions covers the registration fees for the Geneva Course, the travel expenses to and from Geneva, and to the cost of living in Geneva.

GHR Executive Council and its Bureau award the scholarships following the recommendations of GHR advisors and partners in the regions. In 2015, UEM (Wuppertal), Bread for the World (Berlin), and Vivat International (Geneva) contributed to this Fund. Seven fellowships were awarded to trainees from Cambodia (2), Burma, Namibia, Guatemala, Tanzania and Armenia.


Lack of funding prevented GHR to conduct In-Country Courses in 2015. Planned Courses in Botswana, India, Nepal and Guatemala had to be postponed. The only course realized in 2015 concerned the animation of the ‘Women’s Institute on Peace and Security in Istanbul.

In the regions, GHR already conducted:

  • ten On-Demand Regional Courses in Africa, Latin America and Asia;
  • fifty-one In-Country Courses and Seminars in Latin America (15), in Africa (4), in the Russian Federation (7), and in Asia (25);
  • and, at the request of the Swiss and Mexican Governments, from 2004 to 2008, a comprehensive training and mediation program in Mexico to support the process of the national implementation Programme; a similar project was launched in Botswana.


Defenders and NGOs in the regions work under difficult conditions. Our 1997 consultation process with partners in the regions highlighted their demand for immediate implementation of the international standards, and their specific concerns for humanitarian law; macroeconomic issues (economic system as source of violations); the struggle against impunity; and the protection of defenders. Since then, other main concerns emerged in our working relations with partners: indigenous peoples’ rights and violence against women. All these issues are raised in all GHR Courses and Seminars.

To sensitize actors at the HR-Council on such issues, GHR convened since 2009  Expert Seminars in Geneva on Caste Discrimination (2009), International Humanitarian Law (September 2010, June 2011), Trends in the HR-Council (March 2011), Transitional Justice (September 2011), Minorities (November 2011), Enforced Disappearances (Nov. 2012, Nov. 2013, September 2014), Religious Freedom (December 2012, June 2015), Business and Human Rights (May and December 2013, December 2014, June 2015), the Anniversary of the World Conference (June 2013) International Criminal Law (May 2014),  Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression (March 2016), Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality (June 2016) and Religions, Conflicts and Minorities (Padova, September 2015 ) , Enforced Disappearances – Strengthening Prevention And Protection (March 2017),  On Indigenous Peoples – Implementing The Un Declaration (March 2017).