Gender diversity in UN human rights bodies: words must be matched by facts


With women filling a mere 37% of the UN’s Special Procedures mandate positions, a group of international NGOs are calling for proactive measures to significantly increase the gender diversity of experts appointed.

ISHR has joined with eight other human rights organisations to urge UN member States to do more to ensure that the UN’s various bodies and mechanisms are gender inclusive.

ISHR’s advocacy support manager, Helen Nolan, said the UN was failing to live up to its own ideals.

‘We a hear lot of encouraging talk about the need to ensure gender diversity, but currently we are far from that. For example just one of the 18 members of the new UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a woman. That’s really not good enough,’ said Nolan.

This week the Global initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Disability Alliance delivered a joint statement to the Human Rights Council endorsed by ISHR and six other international organisations, calling on States to take active measures to significantly improve the gender diversity within UN bodies.

Specifically the statement urged States to:

  • establish safeguards to increase participation of women candidates in the process for proposal of candidates, including with more inclusive national processes;
  • support women candidates within the Regional Groups;
  • establish and use a gender-sensitive guide in the interviewing of candidates for the Special Procedures.

States were also urged to prioritise the issue of gender inclusiveness at the point of soliciting candidates, nomination of candidates and voting.

‘It won't happen by itself. We need to take deliberate and proactive steps to ensure the UN – the body designed to represent the world and its diversity – is actually representative. And it's not just about having more women at the UN either: let's have a real conversation about ensuring trans and other gender non-conforming people also get seats at the table,’ said Nolan.


  • Treaty body strengthening process
  • LGBT rights
  • United Nations
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies