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The Human Rights Council

What is the Human Rights Council and what does it do?

The Human Rights Council is a body within the UN system made up of States, also known as an inter-governmental body, which is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.

The Council, which meets in Geneva, Switzerland three times a year for regular sessions and can convene for special sessions on urgent human rights issues or violations (focused on a theme or specific country situation), is made up of 47 members that are elected by UN Member States for a three-year term. The Human Rights Council also has a number of mechanisms that support and assist its work.

The Human Rights Council in depth

The main outcomes of Human Rights Council sessions are resolutions adopted by the members of the Council, which contain conclusions on a specific human rights issue and setting out recommendations for future action. The Council also takes a series of actions to debate with a view to advancing human rights either on a particular human rights issue or country situation, including through the organization of an annual panel, an annual forum, consultations or seminars, the creation of a specific mechanism, and reports or studies, among others. These actions are implemented by or with the support of OHCHR. States draft and negotiate resolutions throughout the session and they can be adopted by consensus or with a vote, or rejected due to lack of enough support at the end of each session.

Mechanisms of the Human Rights Council in depth

The Council has several subsidiary bodies and expert mechanisms and working groups which provide thematic expertise to the Council, and fora where States, civil society, academic institutions, Indigenous People’s representatives and individuals can meet in a space of dialogue and cooperation. More information on these mechanisms is available at: ohchr.org/hr-bodies/hrc/other-sub-bodies

What is the confidential Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council?

The Council’s confidential Complaint Procedure is a victims’ oriented process addressing consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances.

Two distinct Working Groups, the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations are responsible, respectively, for examining communications and bringing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms to the attention of member States of the Council, for their action. The Council examines reports and any situation placed before it by the Working Group on Situations in a confidential manner, with a view to enhance cooperation with the State concerned. It does so as frequently as needed, but at least once a year. This is also the only universal complaint procedure covering all human rights and fundamental freedoms in all United Nations Member States, irrespective of whether the country has ratified any particular treaty or made reservations under a particular instrument.

More information on the Complaint procedure is available at:

The Human Rights Council and Youth

What steps has the Human Rights Council taken on youth?