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#EmptyChairs is a feminist campaign which seeks to transform the United Nations Human Rights System [starting with the Human Rights Council] into a body led and owned by ordinary people all over the world, who set the agenda and make decisions that are then supported and implemented by political leaders. The campaign is led by a collective which works with allies to build the HRC as a People’s Council, which would set and support the advancement of social justice standards so that people who have been systematically exploited, oppressed and left for last can take and live in their power, contribute to shaping its agenda and decisions, and fully exercise their social, economic and cultural rights and their civil and political rights. The campaign is charting a route to such a Council through deep, real and sustained participation and leadership by ordinary people.



  1. The UN human rights system, and within it the Human Rights Council is a space that has offered particular opportunities for feminist activists and others to push for a progressive agenda where rights advance social justice for all, prioritising those pushed to the margins. Activists have found ways to propel their demands despite very real challenges and participation barriers.  However, the human rights system has also fallen far short of what it could achieve, given its positioning and the presence of community and other expertise and state representatives.
  2. There is, in 2021, an unprecedented urgency and opportunity for a big push forward on our idealism and our feminist dreams and imagining of the kind of human rights and social justice systems and frameworks needed to shift power and create caring, peoples’ institutions. The moment can be stolen by economic and politically conservative blocs. Or it can be seized by us. Our role is to move into the phase of contestation of ideas and power so that the people’s rights are made real
  3. Our individual organisational efforts have reached their peak and have stabilised and become well-grounded. We are ready for a new mobilisation, a galvanising of our separate and collective energies to create new organising cultures that provoke creativity and collective power to advance our political goals.


The #EmptyChairs campaign works through partners who lead both in the regions and globally to

  1. Seize the moment: Connect, organise and position activists from movements across the world to participate and lead in multiple ways to ensure the HRC moves progressively towards functioning as a People’s Council. Such a Council will make a real contribution to social justice for ordinary people, particularly marginalised people
  2. Pressure states: Remind, provoke, inspire, persuade and force states to translate into visible action the fact that rights are for the people and by the people and that theirs is to serve
  3. Ground the campaign: While the campaign has a big, bold vision, the work in the next months will shape it so that in 2021 some key targets for relevant short-term change can be agreed.  We will create a collective campaign plan to enable the #EmptyChairs collective, regardless of our various limitations and constraints, to contribute to the evolution of the HRC and broader human rights system.