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Human Rights Council

Graphic: View of the Human Rights Council from public seating

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights LogoOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Human Rights Council is a permanent United Nations body that seeks to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. It was created in 2006 to replace the previous Commission on Human Rights.

The work of the Human Rights Council includes:

  • Special procedures mechanisms, set up to investigate thematic human rights issues and human rights concerns in certain countries
  • Treaty bodies, which monitor the compliance of States parties with international human rights treaties
  • Universal Periodic Review, a process to examine the human rights situation of all countries on a regular basis.

Graphic: Woman walking past flags at UN in Geneva

International Human Rights and the International Human Rights System: A Manual for NHRIs

This manual outlines the practical ways that NHRIs can engage with the international human rights system to highlight issues and advocate for change.

NHRI participation

When the rules and procedures of the Human Rights Council were being established, the APF advocated strongly for the independent participation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in all aspects of the Council's work.

As a result, NHRIs that have been accredited as complying with the Paris Principles ('A status'), have been recognised with the following participation rights in the Council:

  • Separate accreditation status (different from States and from NGOs)
  • Right to speak under all items of the Council's agenda
  • Right to make written statements for inclusion in the official record of meetings.

These participation rights were furthered increased in 2011, as part of a five-year review of the work and functioning of the Council.

At the close of its March 2011 session, the Council adopted by consensus the outcome document from by an open-ended intergovernmental working group.

The outcome document sets out a range of new opportunities for 'A status' NHRIs to share their independent expertise in the work of the global human rights body, including:

  • Taking the floor immediately after their State during the Council's plenary discussion and adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on that country
  • Taking the floor immediately after their State, following the presentation of a country mission report on that State by a Special Procedures mandate-holder; and
  • Nominating candidates for appointment as special procedures mandate-holders.

'A status' NHRIs are also allocated a separate section in the UPR summaries of stakeholders' information, compiled and prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Additionally, the Council will continue to explore the feasibility of using information technology, such as videoconferencing or video messaging, to enhance access and input from NHRIs in its work.

These new participation rights are the direct result of a year long advocacy campaign by the APF and the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, supported by a number of individual NHRIs, States and NGOs.

Image credits

  1. View of the Human Rights Council from public seating - UN Photo, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1Mk007U