About Us

Geneva Course – Briefing on International Strategy for Independence ,
by HE Ramos HORTA, Peace Nobel Price, former President Timor Leste


2016 marked some major human rights milestones, including the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants –on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and on Civil and Political Rights, the 10th anniversary of the creation of the UN Human Rights Council, and the extension of the mandates of several other UN procedures dedicated to human rights.

However despite the many important human rights principles, declarations, and conventions adopted by the UN and other inter-governmental organizations (such as the International Labour Organisation and UNESCO), and despite many useful monitoring mechanisms and procedures, the international human rights system still has a major weakness: a lack of effective implementation. There are still significant gaps between UN standards and the realities on the ground, between UN decisions and their follow-up. It is time for a significant increase in implementation activities. And we all know that this must be done at the country-level itself. This is why we must continue to work on projects to better develop national capacities.  This is why Geneva for Human Rights continues to focus on training and outreach in its activities.

The human rights movement achieved some key successes in 2016, such as the Human Rights Council’s new mandate on the discrimination against sexual minorities, and the General Assembly’s decision to create a special team to begin collecting, analyzing and preserving evidence of war crimes committed in Syria.

But 2016 was not a better year for victims, witnesses, human rights organizations and defenders in the field. They continued to work under very difficult conditions. As never before civil society organisations have been harassed and repressed. They need our help more than ever. It is a call for more effective implementation of the international standards that were designed to protect their human rights.

January 2017

Adrien-Claude Zoller, President

Through training, study and protection, GHR aims to bridge the gap between international standards and realities and to empower all those involved in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Our Global Training Department conducts each year dozens of Courses and Seminars in Geneva and in the regions.
All GHR training activities are designed to contribute to Human Rights implementation in the countries. Moreover GHR has specific country programs.
Our Department of Human Rights Policy Studies monitors UN human rights meetings. It studies the main trends in the multilateral negotiations, and constitutes a basic support to our training activities. The department also convenes regularly experts seminars on priority issues for Human Rights defenders from the Regions.



Defenders in the regions find it difficult to follow the UN negotiations and the trends in the HR-Council, the special procedures, the treaty bodies, and the action of OHCHR. Our 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. Our Global Training Department has three Programmes: on the Human Rights Council (PRE), on Implementation in the Countries (INP) and for Specific Stakeholders (TSS).

In-Country and In-Region Courses regularly take place in the field. They are prepared together with partner organizations, and focus on the mandates, proceedings and developments in the Council and its mechanisms, the special procedures, the UPR, the Treaty Bodies, and the strategies. These Courses address the specific local, national and regional situations.

GENEVA COURSE – Human Rights Council 

GHR conducts Geneva Courses at each session of the Human Rights Council, and In-Country Courses in-between the Council’s sessions (on the proceedings and procedures of the Council and on implementation strategies in the countries).

The Geneva Courses for defenders from the regions are advanced Courses to train trainers. They are 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.


Our Global Training Department conducts each year dozens of Courses and Seminars in Geneva and in the regions. Since December 2008, GHR also conduct training courses and briefings during each session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an important additional tool to implement human rights inside countries. GHR elaborated a specific training scheme, covering all the stages of UPR process: contribution to the State’s report; preparation of the stakeholders’ reports; review of the country in the Working group; adoption of the report by the Group, and then by the HR-Council; follow-up in each country. GHR also actively supported the creation of UPR-Info, a documentation and communication tool for the stakeholders.

In its Courses, GHR explains the potential NGO contribution. It teaches the long-term perspectives, the cooperation with the States, the use of the recommendations of the special procedures, treaty bodies and UPR, to implement all rights in each country. Obviously, each UPR Course on 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, GHR offers briefings and orientation at each UPR session.


GHR has also a specific program to contribute to the realisation of human rights inside countries. Entitled ‘Strengthening national empowerment to facilitate the implementation of human rights at national level’, this programme’s main objective is, through training, mediation, advisory services and teaching strategies, to contribute to the national implementation process.

GHR has a special programme to promote the implementation of human rights in specific countries through training, mediation, advisory services and teaching strategies. GHR has launched three new projects have been launched in 2016.

GHR New study project on implementation

On the proposal of Prof. Bertrand Ramcharan, GHR General Assembly of 15 March 2016 discussed the weak implementation of the UN human rights programme. The Assembly decided to launch a study project on the contribution of UN institutions, mechanisms and procedures to the strengthening of the domestic human rights protection mechanisms.

Our staff members Isabelle Galino and Thomas Harris drafted the outline and a questionnaire, sent to GHR partners and former trainees to assess the impact in their country of UN human rights programme, and the interaction between Government and civil society. The questionnaire is short. The study covers the period 2000 – 2015. Priority countries were selected, where GHR partners and former trainees are involved in human rights work:

  • Latin America: Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico;
  • Africa: Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Tunisia, Morocco;
  • Asia: Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, West Papua (Indonesia), Kazakhstan;
  • Europe: Hungary, Romania, Armenia; and Switzerland, Germany.

GHR project on (West) Papua

As a training organisation, GHR trained many human rights defenders from Papua in its Geneva Courses. It also conducted training courses within Papua on how to document human rights abuses and to make use of UN human rights mechanisms and procedures. Our trainees prepare reports on cases of violations, following which we advise them and their organisations on the best way to submit their communications to UN bodies. In 2016, three defenders from Papua participated in the Geneva Course of September 2016.

GHR has been shocked by the massive human rights violations occurring in the Papua province since its integration into Indonesia in 1949. Since 2002, together with dozens of human rights organisations and church institutions from Europe and Australia, GHR participates in the International Coalition for Papua (ICP), which issues human rights reports and advocates for peaceful improvement of the situation. In 2016, GHR participated in the two Coordination Board meetings of the Coalition, in The Hague (23-24 May) and Wuppertal (21-22 November). In 2016, in view of the rapidly deteriorating situation there, GHR has launched a special project on Papua to promote a stronger campaign in the UN bodies.


The Department HPS constitutes the hard core of GHR activities. It is an indispensable support to our training programs. It monitors international human rights negotiations and covers U.N. human rights meetings; it analyses the main trends and developments and quickly inform our trainers and our main partners in the field.

The Department on Human Rights Policy Studies (HPS) supports GHR training activities. It monitors international human rights negotiations, covers all meetings of UN human rights bodies, analyzes the main trends, and informs our trainers and partners in the field.

HPS is a multidisciplinary and cross-regional team. Unpaid internships and fellowships are from 3 to 6 months. GHR selects students and graduates in international relations, international law, human rights, political science and economics, who are motivated in the promotion and protection of human rights and social justice.


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).