Guidelines for ESCR-Net Urgent Action Appeals

A.  Introduction and Background 

1. One of ESCR-Net's (the "Network") main aims is to facilitate a collective voice in pressing for developments in the human rights field. Network Members have periodically requested the Network to undertake ad hoc urgent actions on their behalf. Members and participants have also regularly circulated their own urgent actions or requests for solidarity on the Network's listservs. Numerous Members have emphasized the added value of the Network formalizing this process to better coordinate and amplify its urgent actions according to its mandate. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide the Secretariat with a procedural mandate to better coordinate, sustain and amplify the Network's solidarity efforts in common positions on urgent situations of human rights violations.

2. Since the Network's formation in 2003, the Network has undertaken a number of ad hoc urgent action appeals, such as those supporting the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), a leading indigenous organization in Ecuador, Centro de Asesoría Laboral (CEDAL), an important labour rights center in Peru, and Movimento Sem Terra (MST), the landless workers' movement in Brazil, as well as a number of urgent actions in solidarity with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in Nigeria.   These actions have involved either a collective action from ESCR-Net as a whole, as well as actions endorsed individually by Network Members.

3. These working guidelines aim to provide a more formalized process in light of the practice of the Network since 2003 and in order to better coordinate and amplify its urgent actions according to its mandate.

B.  Criteria for Urgent Action Appeals 

4. The Network may issue urgent action appeals when it deems it necessary to address serious human rights violations, in particular to protect human rights defenders and other social activists and to defend economic, social and cultural rights. The use of urgent action appeals shall be guided by the indicators set out below:

(a)  Actions or omissions immediately threatening life, liberty, or personal integrity, including acts of physical or sexual violence;

(b)  Actions or omissions immediately threatening livelihood, defined as either economic or subsistence-based, including threats to the cultural and spiritual integrity of indigenous peoples with regard to land and resources;

(c)  Actions or omissions threatening immediate or irreparable harm to minority, marginalized and/or vulnerable populations, including for example, forced evictions and displacements; and

(d)  Actions or omissions threatening the right to judicial protection, including the right to an effective remedy to redress human rights violations.

C.  Procedure and Types of Urgent Action Appeals

5. An Urgent Action Appeal must be submitted either by a Member or by an active participant of the Network on its own behalf, or on behalf of other Members or active participants. The Secretariat may also initiate Urgent Actions when it deems it necessary, in accordance with the criteria above.

6. An Urgent Action Appeal must be submitted to the Secretariat in written or oral form. The Secretariat will evaluate the Appeal in accordance with the criteria set above and its capacity at the time. In the case that the Appeal is deemed appropriate and feasible, the Secretariat will communicate its recommended actions to the Board and the entire General Assembly of Members.

7. The Appeal shall provide sufficiently reliable and verifiable information which may be in the form of written, audiovisual or other documentation. The Secretariat may develop a form for ease of transmission of such information and may also gather additional information or documentation on the situation under consideration from third party sources if it is deemed necessary.

8. The response actions available to the Secretariat shall remain flexible in order to ensure rapid and effective action by the Network. Urgent Action Responses may include: 

(a)  Collective Actions. In times of imminent urgency, the Network will stand as a collective body in solidarity and allow the Secretariat to develop and sign an appropriate response in the time available for action. For actions which allow for additional time to develop a response, the Secretariat will seek input from all Network Members to endorse a certain position as a collective body, giving a deadline for objections to be raised. Should no objections be raised, the Secretariat will sign on behalf of the Network. Should an objection be raised, the Secretariat will pursue the second option for urgent action, described below as "individual actions";

(b)  Individual Actions. Should the Secretariat receive objections from Members to a particular Urgent Collective Action, the Secretariat will reach out to the Members, asking them to endorse the Appeal in their organizational or individual capacity. The Secretariat will then collect these endorsements, and present the action only on behalf of those organizations or individuals who have submitted their endorsement to the action;

(c)  Campaign Support. The Network may provide support for campaigns created by the affected party or others on its behalf in the form of issuing campaign requests through the ESCR-Net list-serves or otherwise. 

(d)  Other Actions. Other response actions may be pursued, depending upon the particulars of the situation presented. Such actions may include site visits, technical assistance, and access to other resources available through the Network.

9.  Urgent Action Responses, either collective or individual, may take the form of:

(a)  A formal communication to the governmental, inter-governmental and/or non-governmental actor(s) which are relevant and/or otherwise have the jurisdiction, mandate or capacity to address the situation of concern;

(b)  A request to the governmental, inter-governmental or non-governmental actor(s) for the urgent submission of relevant information on the situation necessary to address the issue; and

(c)  An offer to organize solidarity visits with the parties involved and Member(s) of the Network to build solidarity, provide technical assistance or facilitate other support as deemed appropriate.