United Nations Human Rights Commission

United Nations Human Rights Commission
United Nations Human Rights Commission

United Nations Human Rights Commission

            United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) is an intergovernmental organization within the structure of the United Nations. It comprises of 47 Council positions intended to ensure a fair geographical representation. 13 members are drawn from Asia, 13 members from Africa, 8 from Caribbean and Latin American, 5 from Eastern Europe and 7 from Western Europe and other states.

The Council was established in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly to succeed the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). UNCHR was widely criticized for failing to address human rights desecrations, and having a huge number of nations with a dismal human rights track record as its members. Despite overhauling UNCHR, several states and policymakers expressed their concerns over UNHRC’s lack of attention to contentious human right occurrences (Thompson, 2015).

Notwithstanding, the United Nations Human Rights Commission has been effective is addressing human rights violations in different nations. The effectiveness of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in accomplishing its objective of protecting global human rights largely depends on the influence of the major powers and cooperation of states.

Organizational Structure

            Member countries in the General Assembly participate in an election to appoint individuals who will occupy the 47 seats of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Each position has a tenure of three years and there is no member who can hold a position beyond two consecutive terms. The General Assembly has the authority to suspend the privileges and rights of any Council member, if it persistently commits systematic or gross human rights violation during its membership term (Smith, 2014). 

Suspension from the General Assembly necessitates a two-thirds majority vote to oust a member from the Assembly. The resolution that founded the United Nations Human Rights Commission shares that when appointing Council members, states should consider the candidates’ contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights and their voluntary commitments and pledges made.

Members selected to join the UNHRC are expected to exemplify highest human rights protection and promotion standards (Thompson, 2015). The Human Rights Council holds meeting three times every year in September, March and June. Nonetheless, the Council may decide to schedule a special session to discuss human rights emergencies and violations, at the approval of a third of the member countries.


            The United Nations Human Rights Council serves as the main forum for addressing human rights issues and intergovernmental cooperation. The Council endeavors to aid member’s nations to manage their human rights infringement through dialogues, technical assistance, and capacity building. In addition, it makes proposals to the General Assembly to improve the advancement of international law in the arena of human rights.

Through the Universal Periodic Review, the United Nations Human Rights Council evaluates the human rights situation in 192 United Nations member states.  The advisory committee offers advice and expertise in thematic human rights matters, thereby promoting the efficiency of the Council. Another responsibility of the committee is to forward complaints about violation of human rights to the Council. After a complaint is filed, the Council manages thematic issues or country situations through the special procedures system (Smith, 2014).


            The United Nations Human Rights Council has been successful in promoting the protection of human rights across the globe. Nonetheless, the success has been varied with the greatest achievement being realized in Africa. In contrast to Western Nations, African nations have been accommodating refugees thereby incorporating the subject of human right issues.

Refugees have been granted asylum and accepted in these societies since African communities have a strong hospitality tradition. Most importantly, African nations have exemplified massive cooperation with the UNHCR thereby accelerating to the attainment of the Council’s goals. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Malawi are examples of some of the nations that granted asylum to a huge number of refugees from Mozambique in 1986 (Hammerstad, 2014).

Kenya has also granted asylum to a massive number of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. In all the nations, the presence of the United Nations Human Rights Council has been crucial in protecting the rights of refugees and compelling host nations to grant refuge to refugees.

            In Europe and North America, the UNHRC has encountered pressures due to the presence of stringent rules restricting entry of refuges. The outcome has been a lower level of refugee protection and refusal to enjoy asylum. In Western nations, the Council has failed in promoting the protection of human rights especially for refugees. UNHCR has resorted to reminding these nations of their duty to enhance the rights of all people whether citizens or refugees.

While the role of providing physical security or protection is the duty of the host nation, United Nations Human Rights Council has a facilitating mandate to ensure this obligation is observed. Although, the Council has failed in executing this role in certain nations and human rights situations, it has performed much better compared to its successor.

Major Powers such as the United Nations have had a major impact on the Council due to its financial donation and interest in advancing certain ideals (Smith, 2014). The United Nations should endeavor to cooperate with member states to ensure that human rights are protected and promoted. In the future, the council should review its membership slots due to population growth and to promote equality among member states.


            The United Nations Human Rights Council has been successful in promoting and protecting human rights across the globe compared to its predecessor. Since the Council does not harbor enforcement powers, it has effectively accomplished its mission, ensuring that human rights are observed. The effectiveness of the Council in attaining its vision of global human rights protection rest with securing cooperation with major powers and host nations.

As exemplified in the African situation, the interpretation of refugee’s rights and rights relating to granting asylum rights has hindered observation of global human rights.  The UNHRC has not been successful where nations have been uncooperative, such as the incident of Cuban, Haitian, and Mexican refuges residing in the United States. Nonetheless, on a global scale, the Council has largely demonstrated its efficiency in accomplishing its mandate.


Hammerstad, A. (2014). Rise and decline of a global security actor: UNHCR, refugee protection, and security. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Smith, H. (2014). Crimes against humanity? Unpacking the North Korean human rights    debate. Critical Asian Studies46(1), 127-143.

Thompson, A. S. (2015). Tehran 1968 and Reform of the UN Human Rights System. Journal of   Human Rights14(1), 84-100.

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