photo un.jpg
Background information
Tuesday, 01 January 2008 09:00


Photo: US Mission/Eric Bridiers

The Human Rights Council (the Council) was established on 19 June 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) by General Assembly Resolution 60/251.


The establishment of the Council was accompanied by high rhetoric that promised, or at least looked to, a new era in the United Nations' (UN) human rights work. There was much talk of new beginnings, new starts, new chances. The truth, however, was that no one believed it was going to be easy to effect real change. The Council was conceived in the context of the destruction of its predecessor, and politically charged debates in the General Assembly between those States wanting a Council with no real teeth and those that argued for a body that was more effective than the Commission.


The Council is the main body of the United Nations dealing with human rights, and is mandated, among other things, to:

  • Promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind
  • Address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon
  • Undertake a universal periodic review (UPR), based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States

Resolution 60/251 also mandated the Council to review the mechanisms and mandates it has inherited from the former Commission. This process of review, the so-called 'institution-building' has come to a an end with the adoption of Human Right Council Resolution 5/1 (also called 'the institution-building package') on 18 June 2008. For more information on the Council's mechanisms, please use the menu on the left. Information is also available on the Treaty Bodies.


five-year review of the Human Rights Council was completed in 2011. You can find out more about the outcomes of this review here.


Further reading

  • ISHR's Human Rights Monitor Quarterly outlines developments in the international and regional human rights systems, including the Council. It is available in English, with selected articles available in French.
  • ISHR together with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung has produced a Handbook on issues of transition from the Commission to the Council. Even though it was published prior to the institution-building phase, it provides an overview of the issues involved. Downlaod the English version/Version française.
  • Official Human Rights Council website (OHCHR)

Other analytical texts on the Council's first two years include:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 11:34
© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2019