United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) | UPSC Notes

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United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) | UPSC Notes

• The United Nations Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental group that is part of the UN system. Its job is to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, as well as to look into situations where human rights are being violated and make suggestions about how to fix them. It can talk about all situations and problems related to human rights that need its attention throughout the year.

UNHRC Formation:

• In 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations made the Council. It took the place of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which it replaced.

The Secretariat of the Human Rights Council is run by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). OHCHR is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Members of the UNHRC:

• It is made up of 47 countries that are members of the UN and are chosen by the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

 The UNGA takes into account the candidate states’ contributions to promoting and protecting human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and obligations in this area. The Council’s members are spread out evenly across the world. Here’s how the seats are given out:

13 places for African countries

 Asia-Pacific States: 13 places

8 places for Latin American and Caribbean countries

7 places for Western European and other countries.

6 seats for Eastern European countries

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• Members of the Council serve for three years, and they can’t be re-elected right away after serving two terms in a row.

Procedures and Mechanisms:

• The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) looks at the state of human rights in all UN Member States.

• Advisory Committee: This group is the Council’s “think tank” and gives the Council advice and expertise on human rights problems that are related to a theme.

• Complaint Procedure: This is how people or groups can bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention.

• UN Special Procedures: These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts, and working groups that keep an eye on thematic problems or human rights situations in certain countries, look into them, give advice, and report to the public about what they find.


• The Human Rights Council is a very partisan group. State governments are political creations, so any organisation made up of people who work for the government must also be political. So, if there is a choice between national interests and human rights interests, states will usually vote for national interests.

• Too much attention on Israel: There have been claims of bias against Israel. The body has passed more measures against that country than it should have. Only one of the 10 regular things on the Human Rights Council’s agenda is about a single country, and that country is Israel. More than a quarter of the 28 special meetings have been about Israel. This is more than any other country. This also means that people won’t pay attention to other major violations of human rights. The United States recently quit the UN’s top human rights body, saying that it has “chronic bias” against Israel.

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• However, the Human Rights Council needs to be changed. Discussions and proposals for change are already under way, and the involvement of states and human rights groups shows that a consensus-building method is being used.

• Having to do with Membership: Some critics have been very worried about the countries that are on the Council, because many people think that some of these countries don’t respect human rights.

China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia, and Venezuela have all been accused of not respecting people’s rights.

India and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC):

• India was one of the first countries to join the Council, and it has been a member for two terms, from 2006 to 2007 and from 2007 to 2010. It got an unusual 181 votes and was put on the Council from 2011 to 2014. It will try to get back on the Council from 2015 to 2017. Also, the Council has a lot of respect for it.

• It thinks that the best way to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms is through dialogue and teamwork.

• It has always and successfully argued for keeping the Council’s process as a way for governments to work together, and it has also pushed for countries to do more to protect human rights.

• India has supported respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of the States, impartiality, non-selectivity, and openness. It hasn’t voted on one-sided or unfair resolutions about individual countries because we don’t think “pointing fingers” is a good or effective way to solve problems like these.

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• A group of UN Special Rapporteurs recently wrote to the Indian government to voice their worries about the draught Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020.

• As part of the third round of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, India’s National Human Rights Commission sent its mid-term report to the Council in 2020.

• India was chosen to be a member of the Council for three years starting on January 1, 2019.