The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, 39th session (HRC39) has begun this morning, with an opening statement by Michelle Bachelet, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The session will run from 10 to 28 September 2018 in Geneva.

During the session, we will host a delegation of Libyan women human rights defenders, hold a side event on Libya on 25 September and participate in a number of closed and public events linked to the session.

Our activities will focus on obstacles to the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Libya, Syria and Yemen and call for the meaningful participation of women at all levels of peace processes. Our written statement on Libya, supported by the Libyan organisation Together We Build It, highlights the disappointing efforts by the United Nations and States to meaningfully include women in the consultative process relating to the UN Action Plan for Libya. On the issue of participation, we will also be following the negotiations of the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs and advocating for a gender-responsive text.

We will be actively monitoring the negotiations of the draft resolutions on Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We will continue to call for the disclosure of the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been forcibly disappeared or abducted in Syria and for the release of those arbitrarily detained. We will advocate for the renewal and strengthening the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen  stressing the need for the Group to integrate a gender perspective and ensure women’s accessibility. We will monitor the negotiations of the resolution on the DRC expected to focus on the electoral context and will advocate for the specific challenges faced by women in this context to be taken into account.

We will continue to highlight the gendered human rights impacts of arms transfers and arms proliferation. The adoptions of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes for Cameroon, Colombia and Germany will be opportunities to do so; WILPF has been engaged in the UPR of these countries. The contexts in Libya, Syria and Yemen are clear illustrations of why addressing arms proliferation should be a key priority for the international community. This is also relevant in relation to the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, which will focus on conflict and humanitarian settings, because, for example, the use of  explosive weapons impacts on health infrastructure and women’s access to reproductive health.

In this age of unprecedented global interconnection and interdependence, the realisation of economic, social and environmental justice depends, even more than ever, on advocating human rights beyond borders. As part of our advocacy to hold States accountable for their extraterritorial obligations in relation to corporate abuse, we will make a statement during the adoption of the UPR of Canada focusing on the impact of Canadian extractive industries abroad. This follows our engagement in the UPR process so far, and previously with the CEDAW Committee. WILPF is also actively engaged in the UN process for the drafting of a treaty to transnational corporations and other business enterprises, including as part of a group of feminists and women’s rights organisations collaborating as #Feminists4BindingTreaty.

Madeleine Rees, our Secretary General, will be a panelist in the HRC39 ‘Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms’. The theme for this year is ‘Gender integration and human rights investigations: strengthening a victim-centered approach’. This event will take place on Monday 24 September, from 4 to 6 p.m., Palais des Nations, Room XX. It will be broadcast live and archived on

Knowing more about the HRC39

For more information on some of the issues that are coming up at the session, refer to the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) HRC39 update.  You can also read the UN’s own overview of the session.

How can you follow the happenings? 

Make sure that you are subscribed to our News and Alerts or follow our social media channels if you want to get a note in advance of upcoming live streaming of events or to read the statements we will deliver at HRC39. The official hashtag to follow and use is #HRC39, and we will also be using #FeministPeace.