About your HRC.org

yourHRC.org: A window onto cooperation, dialogue, leadership and policymaking at the UN Human Rights Council

On 5 October 2015, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Universal Rights Group (URG) launched yourHRC.org, an innovative new online tool designed to contribute to international efforts to strengthen the visibility, relevance and impact of the Human Rights Council.

The yourHRC.org portal, together with a number of related reports, are designed to provide country-specific information on: cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms, participation in Council debates and exchanges, member state voting patterns, political leadership, and Council elections.

A window onto the work of the UN’s human rights pillar…

In 2006, member states took a significant step to strengthen the human rights pillar of the United Nations (UN) and established the Human Rights Council as the UN’s principal body responsible for ‘promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.’

The Council seeks to influence the on-the-ground enjoyment of human rights in a number of ways including, inter alia, by:

  • Serving as a forum for dialogue on human rights – GA resolution 60/251 recognises that in order to promote and protect human rights, the Council’s work should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue, and aimed at strengthening the capacity of states to comply with their human rights obligations.
  • Adopting resolutions – at the end of every session, Council members adopt a series of resolutions or decisions expressing the will of the international community on a given human rights situation or issue.
  • Elaborating universal human rights norms – the Council is responsible for making recommendations to the GA for the further development of international law in the field of human rights.
  • Promoting state cooperation with the human rights mechanisms – the Council has created a number of mechanisms (e.g. Special Procedures, UPR) to promote the full implementation of the human rights obligations undertaken by states, and/or to respond to the violation of those rights.

To pursue and realise the mandate of the Council and thereby to ‘promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,’ the GA decided that the new body would consist of 47 member states, elected by a majority of the members of the GA. In making their choice, members of the GA would take into account the contribution of the candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments.

The GA furthermore decided that elected members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms. Moreover, it was agreed that the Council’s methods of work would be transparent, fair and impartial, enable genuine dialogue, be results-oriented, allow for subsequent follow-up discussions to recommendations and their implementation, and allow for substantive interaction with Special Procedures and other mechanisms.

yourHRC.org has been created to promote transparency around the degree to which the Council and its members are delivering on this crucial mandate, passed to them by the GA and, ultimately, entrusted to them by ‘the Peoples of the United Nations’ described in the UN Charter.

Membership of the Council

GA resolution 60/251, which officially created the Council, made five critical changes to its membership system compared to that of its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights:

  1. The total number of members was reduced from 51 to 47;
  2. Council members would be elected by the entirety of the GA, rather than the 54 members of ECOSOC, with successful candidates needing at least 96 votes in support;
  3. In voting for Council members, states would be required to ‘take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto;’
  4. Council members would be ineligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms;
  5. Council members could have their membership rights suspended by the GA in the event that they committed gross and systematic violations of human rights.

When the GA adopted resolution 60/251 on 15 March 2006, these new membership procedures and requirements were the most commonly discussed issue in states’ explanations of their votes. Many states complained that the membership criteria were not strong enough (this was the reason cited by the US delegation for voting against the resolution). Others emphasised the need to ensure that elected members were fully deserving of their position.

In the ten years since the Council’s creation, a total of 95 of the UN’s 193 member states (around 50%) have served, or are in the process of serving, at least one membership term. However, little attention has been afforded to analysing how these states, once elected, contribute to the Council’s work, how they engage and cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms, whether they live-up to the voluntary pledges they made as candidates, and how they support the realisation of the Council’s mandate.

yourHRC.org seeks to contribute to the visibility, credibility and effectiveness of the Council by providing such an analysis. That analysis must take, as its starting point, the standards of membership set down in GA resolution 60/251. Paragraph 9 of resolution 60/251 states that ‘members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,’ and that when electing members, states should therefore ‘take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights [i.e. the required standards] and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto [i.e. the voluntary standards].’

The yourHRC.org project has four component parts:

  1. A universally accessible and free-to-use web portal – yourHRC.org – providing information on the performance of all 95 states that have stood for and won election to the Council. An interactive world map provides information on the Council’s membership in any given year, and on the number of membership terms held by each country. Country-specific pages then provide up-to-date information on: the voting record of the state; its leadership on important Council initiatives; its level of participation in Council debates, interactive dialogues and panels; its engagement and cooperation with the Council’s mechanisms (UPR and Special Procedures) and with the Treaty Bodies; and the degree to which it fulfilled the voluntary pledges and commitments made before its previous membership term.
  2. An annual ‘yourHRC.org election guide,’ providing at-a-glance information (including comparative information) on candidatures for upcoming Council elections.
  3. An annual ‘yourHRC.org end-of-year report’ (to be published each December), providing information (including comparative information) on levels of member state engagement and cooperation over the course of that year.
  4. A periodic ‘yourHRC.org candidate alert’ that will be sent to stakeholders informing them of candidature announcements for future Council elections, and providing information on that state’s performance during previous membership terms (where applicable).

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Image: United Nations Photo, “UN Human Rights Council, Geneva,” licensed under CC BY-NC-ND-2.0.