July 11, 2018
8 months

What is the issue?

  • The United States has recently withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Click here to know more
  • It is essential at this juncture to understand the role of the council in human rights issues. 

What is UNHRC?

  • The HRC was established in 2006 as part of the UN’s reform process.
  • It replaced the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 States.
  • Members are elected by the UNGA with 3-year terms, with a maximum of 2 consecutive terms.
  • They are responsible for promotion and protection of human rights.
  • It meets 3 times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide.
  • Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority.

What is the concern?

  • The main criticism is that it is made up of states not known for their human rights records.
  • Many have, in fact, been violators of human rights.
  • Current members include Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and the UK and a few elected based on geographic quotas.

Why is it still crucial?

  • HRC has a fair track record of taking up human rights agenda.
  • It has facilitated the evolution of human rights norms.
  • There are many less tangible gains from having such a body in place.
  • Resolutions adopted have highlighted rights violations, despite resistance by some members.
  • The situation in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea are few examples.
  • Issues that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights.
  • It is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law.
  • HRC is thus an important component of the UN rights system.
  • Its sustenance with credibility is significant for handling global human rights issues.


Source: The Hindu, The Wire


Quick Facts


  • The role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is not to be confused with the HRC.
  • OHCHR is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC.
  • E.g. the recent report on Kashmir
  • The HRC and the OHCHR have separate mandate and functions, but both are part of the UN system for human rights protection.
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