Creating a fairer Britain
The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. The Council was created by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. The UK is a member of the HRC.
‘A’ status NHRIs, such as the Commission, can play a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards. In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 5/1, ‘A’ status NHRIs are entitled to submit documentation for the Council sessions, including reports, policy papers, and written statements. We can also participate in debates in the Council, which has reserved seating for NHRIs, and make oral statements.
The Commission provides written and oral statements to the Human Rights Council, which meets for a month in Geneva, three times a year. Sometimes these are Commission statements, sometimes they are joint statements submitted by a group of NHRIs and sometimes they are statements on a UK issue co-ordinated by the three UK A status NHRIs.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four and a half years. The UPR is a State-driven process, which provides the opportunity for the UN to assess the enjoyment of human rights in each country and make recommendations for improvement in specific areas. It is also an opportunity for each State to start a national dialogue on human rights, declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations.
In 2008, the UK was one of the first countries to be assessed by the UPR and in 2010 the UK submitted a mid-term review of action it has taken to comply with the UPR recommendations. The Commission presented a statement on the UK UPR mid-term to the Human Rights Council.
In May 2012 the UK will be reviewed in the second cycle of UPR.
The Commission produced a submission to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to help inform the review. Read the submission.
The Commission has also conducted awareness raising and capacity building activities.
The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to investigate, report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Currently, there are 31 thematic and 8 country mandates. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides these mechanisms with personnel, policy, research and logistical support for the discharge of their mandates.
Special procedures are either an individual (called 'Special Rapporteur', 'Special Representative of the Secretary-General', or 'Independent Expert') or a working group usually composed of five members (one from each region) . The mandates of the special procedures are established and defined by the resolution creating them. Mandate-holders of the special procedures serve in their personal capacity, and do not receive salaries or any other financial compensation for their work. The independent status of the mandate-holders is crucial in order to be able to fulfill their functions in all impartiality. For more information see the OHCHR website.
The OHCHR has released the annual publication, 'United Nations Special Procedures Facts & Figures 2009', providing an overview of the activities of Special Procedures, including information on recent developments, country visits, communications, reports and press statements in 2009. The publication provides basic information on the contribution of the system of special procedures to the protection of human rights.