Magazine article UN Chronicle

General Assembly Creates New Human Rights Council

Magazine article UN Chronicle

General Assembly Creates New Human Rights Council

Article excerpt

On 15 March 2006, the General Assembly decided to establish a new Human Rights Council, responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner. Adopting resolution 60/251 by a vote of 170 to 4, with 3 abstentions, the Assembly set up the Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights. The election of the first members of the Council was held on 9 May 2006 and their term of office will begin on 19 June 2006.

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The Human Rights Council at a Glance

On the role of the Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, will be directly accountable to the full membership of the United Nations.

The Council will serve as the main United Nations forum for dialogue and cooperation on all thematic human rights issues. Its focus will be to help Member States meet their human rights obligations through dialogue, capacity-building and technical assistance. It will also make recommendations to the General Assembly for further development of international law in the field of human rights.

On the membership of the Council

The Human Rights Council will consist of 47 members, as compared to the 53-member Commission on Human Rights. Council members will serve for a three-year period and will not be eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

Membership is open to all Member States of the United Nations. They will be elected individually and directly by secret ballot by the absolute majority (96 votes) of the entire membership of the General Assembly. In comparison, election to the Commission on Human Rights, was by the 53 members of the UN Economic and Social Council through a majority of those present and voting.

Seats in the Human Rights Council will be distributed in accordance with equitable geographical representation among the following regional groups: 13 from the African States; 13 from the Asian States; 6 from the Eastern European States; 8 from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and 7 from the Western European and Other States.

On the meetings of the Council

The Human Rights Council will be based in Geneva and will meet regularly throughout the year. It will hold no fewer than three sessions annually, including a main session, for a total duration of no less than ten weeks. It will also be able to hold special sessions, when necessary, at the request of a member and with the support of one third of the Council membership.

On the expectations of Council members

Member States will take into consideration the candidates' contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights. New Council members will commit themselves to fully cooperate with the Human Rights Council and uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. They will also submit voluntary pledges and commitments with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights. These expectations did not exist for the Commission on Human Rights. Members will also undergo the Council's universal periodic review mechanism during their term of membership. The modalities and frequency of this review mechanism will be adopted by the Council within one year of its first session. …

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