Advocacy at the United Nations

In 1997, NKHR began its advocacy work at the United Nations to mobilize the international community to condemn the human rights abuses in North Korea. Our first major 3 accomplishment was contributing to the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK in 2004. Since then, NKHR has continued its advocacy at the United Nations by hosting international conferences, briefing various UN agencies and treaty-monitoring bodies, organizing parallel meetings during sessions of the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, and lobbying member states. Another major milestone was the establishment of the UN Commission of Inquiry in 2013 and the subsequent briefing on crimes against humanity in North Korea at the UN Security Council in 2014. NKHR also keeps the North Korean government accountable in front of the international community by continuously monitoring North Korea’s statements at the UN, changes to North Korea’s laws and its legal system, and the actual situation on the ground in North Korea.   ​NKHR closely works with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK and various other UN special procedures. It regularly submits cases of abduction of South Korean nationals by North Korea to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

​Some of NKHR’s most important achievements at the United Nations include:​

  • Lobbying for the first resolution on North Korean human rights by the then UN Human Rights Commission (replaced by UN Human Rights Council) and the subsequent establishment of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK in 2004.
  • ​December 2012 meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, to encourage prioritizing North Korean human rights. Following 4 the meeting, Ms. Pillay issued a strong statement calling for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in North Korea.  
  • Establishment of the 2013 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. NKHR lobbied foreign governments for the historic UN resolution establishing the Commission. The Commission’s report found crimes against humanity in North Korea and recommended referral of North Korean officials to an international justice mechanism.
  • Strong resolutions from both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly following the UN Commission of Inquiry’s 2014 report that, for the first time, called for legal accountability for the North Korean regime. NKHR advocated in both Geneva and New York to increase support among member states for those groundbreaking resolutions.
  • First-ever official discussion of North Korea’s human rights violations at the UN Security Council, in part as a result of NKHR’s advocacy following the Commission of Inquiry’s report.
  • Briefings and submissions of NKHR reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2005 and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2009.
  • Participation in North Korea’s Universal Periodic Review in both 2010 and 2014. NKHR submitted reports and recommendations and briefed member states during both UPR cycles.
2017 International Advocacy at the UN to Promote North Korean Women's Rights
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2018-01-22 13:21:11
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As the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) submitted its combined 2nd, 3rd and 4th periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in April 2016, review sessions were scheduled to be held at the United Nations (UN) Office in Geneva on November 8th, 2017.

To prepare for the DPRK’s CEDAW review sessions, NKHR interviewed 40 women who escaped North Korea between 2014 and 2016 and analyzed the current situation of women in the North. Based on the research, NKHR submitted a shadow report focusing on North Korean women’s education and health for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The report also covered issues about women in detention centers, domestic and sexual violence, and the treatment of repatriated North Korean women. By comparing and contrasting the findings from NKHR’s 2014 report on the same topic, NKHR’s 2017 shadow report showed that no actual progress was made in the North even after the signing of the CEDAW, despite the government’s claims.

NKHR has continued its advocacy work to promote North Korean women's rights from our visit to Geneva. At the CEDAW NGO meeting session held on November 6th, NKHR’s Deputy Director General, Joanna Hosaniak, gave a speech about the women’s rights situation in the North. On the 7th, NKHR organized an information session for Committee members about the women’s right violations in North Korea. Most of the human rights abuses in North Korea are embedded in the society as the major cause of the violations stem from the dictatorial nation structure. More than ten Committee members had participated in the information session and expressed their deepest concern regarding the matters.


On the 8th, NKHR officers attended the DPRK’s review sessions and lobbied the Committee members to raise meaningful questions to the North Korean delegation. During the session, it became apparent that the government does not have any proper measures to investigate or prosecute criminals of domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, there are no official measures available for victims of those crimes such as special shelters, medical assistance or psychological counseling. With regard to the cruel treatment of repatriated women and atrocities occurring in detention centers, the government categorically denied such human rights violations, although such claims differ from numerous testimonies by North Korean defectors. It is said that severe torture is still practiced in various facilities, particularly following deportation from China in the form of secret police detention, holding camps, prisons and correctional facilities with forced labor. Moreover, there is no single voluntary civil society organization in the country who can raise concerns or complaints against human rights violations committed by the government. To raise awareness of the current situation of North Korean women’s rights, NKHR is planning to publish a comprehensive report in 2018.

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