About the Council
The UN Human Rights Council was created on March 15, 2006 by the UN General Assembly as the successor to the Commission on Human Rights. Through a body of 47 elected member States, the Council works collectively to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights around the world by addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations. These tasks are completed in three regular sessions held in June, September, and February, as well special sessions called by one-third of the membership to address urgent situations.
In 2006-2007, referred to as the first cycle, the Council focused primarily on institution building, while subsequent years centered most of its activity on addressing thematic and country-specific human rights issues throughout the world. In 2007, a new mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review, was created to allow the review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member states over a four year period.
The Universal Periodic Review "has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.”
~ Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
Visit the official Universal Periodic Review website
The Need for a Strong UN Human Rights Council
Since Eleanor Roosevelt helped to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN has hosted the world's preeminent dialogue on rights and the United States has been an active and constructive participant.
The world needs a strong, international, and legitimate voice on human rights, but in recent years the new UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has disappointed advocates, including GlobalSolutions.org.
Early on, the Bush Administration put forth a lackluster negotiating effort in the formation of the Council. Member States leading the Council habitually scrutinized only certain governments while ignoring widespread violations of others. In so doing, the Council opened itself up - along with the entire UN system - to attacks of politicization.
The world needs the Human Rights Council to work. The international community should name and shame human rights abusers, and the one institution capable of doing so with credibility is the UN.
A change in the White House in 2008 saw some improvement in making the Council a higher U.S. priority. The U.S. was elected to the HRC on May 12, 2009. This was the first time the U.S. was an active participant in the Council. We hope that this new interest in the Council will help to bring more accountability and a stronger basis in international action so countries can collectively come to the aid of any human rights crisis.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Links & Resources
- FACTSHEET: U.S. Department of State - Key U.S. Accomplishments at the UN Human Rights Council
Bureau of International Organizational Affairs
September 2011 marks the two-year anniversary of U.S. membership on the UN Human Rights Council. U.S. participation has helped to focus international attention on many serious human rights concerns around the world and in specific countries. This factsheet provides a short summary of U.S. accomplishments coming up on the two-year anniversary.
- REPORT: In Larger Freedom:Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All
United Nations, 2005
This report, issued by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 2005, discusses the opportunities that lay ahead in the new millennium as well as the challenges that wait to be confronted. Within the report one can find ways forward on development, human rights, the prevention of deadly pandemics and the prevention of genocide.
- UN RESOLUTION: Establishment of the Human Rights Council
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251
This resolution, adopted on April 3, 2006, established the U.N. Human Rights Council. The purpose of creating the Human Rights Council was to create a strong and effective human rights body.
- LEGAL INSTRUMENT: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The UDHR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It sets out basic human rights to be recognized and granted globally, and was born out of the negative and suppressive experiences of World War II. The International Bill of Human Rights acquired the force of international law in 1976, and it consists of the UNDR, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and its Covenants.
- NEWS ARTICLE: U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy
The Washington Post, March 31, 2009
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. "With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system. . . . We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies."
- WEBSITE: UN Human Rights Council
News, press releases, videos and more can be found on the UNHRC's official website.
The Global Citizen
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Official Press Releases of the HRC
- 5/3/2011: International Commission of Inquiry investigating Human Rights violations in Libya ends field visits to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia
- 5/3/2011: New UN Experts begin work on their Human Rights Mandates
- 4/29/2011: Human Rights Council debates situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic in Special Session
- 3/25/2011: Human Rights Council extends mandates on Myanmar and Torture, decides to dispatch Commission of Inquiry to Côte d'Ivoire
- 3/25/2011: Council extends mandate on racism, adopts texts on right to food, HIV/AIDS, situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab States
- 3/24/2011: Human Rights Council creates mandate on Iran, extends mandate on Democratic People's Republic of Korea
- 3/22/2011: Human Rights Council holds general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance