Amnesty International and UNESCO launch new guidelines for civil society organizations to engage with the Universal Periodic Review

Kenya environment march

Amnesty International and UNESCO have launched new guidelines as well as a Fact Sheet on how to draft SMART recommendations. The two documents provide practical advice to civil society organizations (CSOs) on how the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process can be used to promote access to information, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

The guidelines were launched at a virtual event held on 5 July 2022 with commentary from UN and civil society experts and practitioners.

The UPR is a unique, state-driven process within the UN system, involving a cyclical assessment of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It is informed by reports submitted by NHRIs, Member States, CSOs and UN agencies. From the outset, better protections for freedom of expression make the UPR process stronger and more impactful.

Civil Society Organizations are vital partners for improving freedom of expression and other human rights. The information gathered by them complements the reports from other stakeholders participating in the UPR. We are ensuring that they will be able to participate meaningfully, which contributes to protecting freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in their countries, or the countries they are working on.
Guilherme Canela Chief of Section Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, UNESCO

These tools are part of a joint project that aims to build the capacity of CSOs to advocate for freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists, including by bringing a greater understanding of the role of SMART recommendations in human rights change.

The guidelines were drafted by Amnesty International following extensive consultation with civil society organizations through a baseline survey, comprehensive follow-up interviews and a series of five regional webinars to gather feedback on the drafts.  The Fact Sheet was produced in collaboration with UPR Info.

Civil society organizations, whether large international NGOs like Amnesty International, or small, local grassroots and community groups, have a crucial role to play in ensuring the effectiveness of the UPR process. We are delighted to be able to share our expertise, built up over three cycles of the UPR, to help other organizations participate more effectively and to encourage a greater focus on freedom of expression issues.
Rajat Khosla Senior Director of Research, Adocacy and Policy, Amnesty International

These guidelines were produced as part of a partnership between UNESCO and Amnesty International to provide tools for civil society organizations across the world to help them engage more effectively with the UPR.  The partnership also includes the development of video tutorials based on the guidelines. UNESCO and Amnesty International are currently encouraging civil society organizations to participate in the 4th cycle of the UPR process. Visit the website to consult submission deadlines and find awareness raising materials to share.

UNESCO’s efforts to promote freedom of expression through the UPR, also include producing Guidelines for other stakeholders involved in protecting fundamental rights such as National Human Rights Institutions, UN Country Teams, Information Commissioners in all 6 UN languages.

The guidelines were produced through funding from UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on freedom of expression and safety of journalists.


About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP)

The MDP serves to further strengthen UNESCO´s work at a global, regional, and national levels, by channeling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO Communication and Information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic medium and long-term interventions at national, regional and global levels. The clear advantage of this mechanism is that it allows UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, whilst reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field.

Safety of journalists

Protect journalists and freedom of expression

Guidelines for Civil Society Organizations

These guidelines build upon a joint Amnesty-UNESCO survey of more than 70 civil society respondents from different regions and a series of consultation webinars held between March and June 2022. 

Factsheet on smart recommendations for civil society organizations

This document is a part of a joint Amnesty-UNESCO project to provide guidance to civil society on advancing freedom of expression, safety of journalists and access to information.