The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.
The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly. The Human Rights Council replaced the former
United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
The Council was created by the United Nations
General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution
60/251. Its first session took place from 19 to 30 June 2006. One year later, the Council adopted its "Institution-building package" to guide its work and set up its procedures and mechanisms.
Among them were the
Universal Periodic Review mechanism which serves to assess the human rights situations in all United Nations Member States, the
Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s “think tank” providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the
Complaint Procedure which allows individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.
The Human Rights Council also works with the UN
Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and now assumed by the Council. These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and publicly report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.
Review of the Council
When creating the Human Rights Council in March 2006 the United Nations General Assembly decided that the Council’s work and functioning should be reviewed five years after it had come into existence at the level of the General Assembly. More information about the review and its 2011 outcome are
10th Anniversary of the Council
In June 2016, the Council marked its tenth anniversary through
Efficiency measures of the Council
In an effort to uphold and increase the efficiency of the Council while addressing financial and time constraints, the Council adopted President's statements at its organizational sessions of
3 December 2018,
6 December 2019 and
7 December 2020, containing concrete measures.
The Human Rights Council recorded one of its busiest years. Under the presidency of
Ambassador Nazhat S. Khan of Fiji – the first held by a representative from a small island developing state in the Pacific – the Council continued to introduce innovations, break boundaries and set new human rights standards. It did this against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continued to disrupt countless lives and livelihoods around the world.
In a landmark decision, the Council passed
a resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for the first time.
For the first time in its 15-year history, the Council:
Also, for the first time, the Council held
five special sessions in 2021 - again demonstrating its effectiveness in responding to urgent global crises. These concerned:
In 2021, the Council extended the mandates of 17 Special Procedures and investigative bodies - and created seven new mandates:
Throughout the year, the Council enabled some 260 civil society organizations to deliver more than 900 statements.
Universal Periodic Review Working Group held three sessions resulting in reviewing human rights situations in 41 states. Also, it held several thematic
forums, panels and seminars between regular and special sessions.
The Task Force on Secretariat services, accessibility and use of information technology was established in July 2011. It is mandated to study issues related to the improvement of the secretariat services to the Council and its mechanisms, the accessibility to the Council’s work for persons with disabilities and the feasibility of the use of information technology.
During the 22nd session of the Council in March 2013, additional measures were put in place to enhance accessibility for persons with disabilities to the Human Rights Council, such as improved signage to access room XX and accessible toilets, as well as a priority access lane for persons with disabilities to enter the Palais the Nations at the Pregny gate.
The annual interactive debate of the Human Rights Council on the rights of persons with disabilities is made accessible by providing English captioning and simultaneous sign language interpretation in international sign. In addition, another panel among those held by the Human Rights Council is made accessible at each session, through funds that are raised or identified on an ad-hoc basis. For a list of all Human Rights Council panels that have been made accessible so far with links to the webcast archives, please click
In 2014, the task force held a consultation with States, stakeholders, as well as with UN staff,
on existing practices on providing “reasonable accommodation” to persons with disabilities for their participation to meetings in the areas of information and communication technology, internet resources and documents, as well as access to buildings. The results of this consultation informed the work of the Task Force and fed into an awareness-raising training/workshop for UN staff members involved in the work of the Human Rights Council (Task Force recommendation, 30 e) in A/HRC/23/CRP.2). For a summary of the consultation, please click
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Accessibility to the Human Rights Council discussions
States and International Organisations can organise public exhibitions and special events at the UN premises in Geneva, Switzerland. When such exhibitions coincide with Human Rights Council meetings, their content require prior review and approval by the Council Secretariat. In essence, exhibitions must be compatible with the values, purposes and principles of the UN, shall not be of a profit-generating or otherwise commercial nature, shall be of an artistic and/or cultural nature rather than political nature, in particular, the content must not depict an issue being addressed by the Human Rights Council; shall not single out or refer to any other State without that State’s consent, and the content must not be too graphic in nature. For the Human Rights Council guidelines on exhibitions, please click
Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition
Nelson Mandela Moot Court Competition, co-organized by the Human Rights Council Branch, is the only moot court competition for students from all around the world that is explicitly dedicated to human rights.
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