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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » VII. International Mechanisms » United Nations» Human Rights Council


The UN has always had a regulatory body for monitoring the status of human rights in the world. In 1949 the UN economic and Social Council established the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). In 2006 the UN general Assembly voted to replace the UNCHR with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The HRC is inter-governmental body within the UN and is made up of 47 states.

One of the main tasks of the UNHRC is the 'Universal periodic review'. This is a tool whereby the council can review the human rights status and problems faced by all 192 member countries once every four years. It is a state driven process where by every state is meant to declare what steps they have taken to improve the human rights status in their country and where they are we regards to their international human rights commitments. Each country is given equal treatment during the review of their case.

Another task of the council is to regulate and supervise the work of the mandate holders or Special Rapporteurs and Representatives or working groups that have been appointed by the CHR to address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. This comes under the preview of "special procedures" of the council. Special procedures' mandates usually call on mandate holders to study, supervise, counsel and openly report on human rights situations in specific countries or territories, known as country mandates, or on mass human rights violations worldwide, known as thematic mandates. Currently there are 31 thematic and 8 country mandates.

Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 established the Advisory Committee. The committee is composed of 18 experts whose purpose it to generate ides for and advise the council. The Advisory Committee replaces the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. The work of the committee is mainly concerned with the implementation of human right commitments. It can not take decisions but may advise the council to do so. The committee meets twice a year.

In 2008 the HRC created the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The purpose of the expert mechanism is to advise the council after studying or researching a region or country where the rights of indigenous people is being violated or not fulfilled. As per the HRC resolution 6/15 in 2007, a Forum on Minority Issues has been established. The forum has to space for discussing and working together to safeguard the rights of national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as contribute to the work of the independent expert on minority issues. The Forum shall create and advise on the mechanisms and problems with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The UNHRC also holds a Social forum whereby the Member States, civil society, including grass-roots organizations, and intergovernmental organizations can dialog on various issues. It meets once a year. It is also possible to send complaints of major human rights violations to the council though there are a number of criteria and procedure to fulfil.


Human Rights Council and Treaties Division
Complaint Procedure
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: (41 22) 917 90 11
For more information visit the Council website