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United Nations Human Rights Council

In addition to the six main organs of the United Nations, there are other governing councils within the system with different responsibilities, and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is one of them. The UNHRC is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 member states, which works to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, and to make recommendations and solutions to situations of human rights violations.

The Council was established by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 on the 15th of March 2006. In 2007 the Council issued an “institution-building package” which outlines procedures, mechanisms and structures that form the basis of its work.

The United Nations defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, and any other status”. The Council is established to discuss all relevant issues and country specific situations that require its attention to secure respect and prevent violations of human rights, promote international cooperation and to coordinate related activities. The UNHRC mainly addresses some important human rights issues including freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, LGBT rights, the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.

The member states of the Council are elected by the members of the UN General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. Each candidate who wishes to become a member of the Council is expected to demonstrate the state’s commitment to Human Rights. Each member serves for 3 years and they are not eligible for immediate re-election if the state has served for 2 consecutive periods. They are led by the Bureau of the Council which consists of 5 people representing the 5 regional groups. The members can be expelled from the Council for transgressions.

The UNHRC also works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In addition to its mandated responsibilities, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights leads efforts to integrate a human rights approach within all work carried out by United Nations agencies and based on the principles of the UN Charter.

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