News

20 Jun

Support ISHR's June fundraising appeal to help human rights defenders pursue their work across the globe. 

19 Jun

The practice of censorship in the twenty-first century is changing, but is no less effective at closing down dissent. A new report by the UN expert on freedom of expression speaks to a range of developments, and makes pointed recommendations, on how to move forward. But ISHR asks: what does this look like with respect to China?

19 Jun

In 1998 the world made a commitment to promote and protect the rights of defenders.  Twenty years on, what real difference has the UN Declaration - and subsequent UN resolutions and recommendations - made to the lives of human rights defenders in Colombia and Tunisia?  A new report by ISHR and partners provides insights and proposals for change.

19 Jun

Respect for human rights – and a commitment to uphold these rights through multilateralism and the rule of law – is the only pathway to peace, security and sustainable development.

13 Jun

The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 18 June to 6 July 2018, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identiy, freedom of association, assembly, expression and women's rights. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Burundi, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Belarus among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.

Yogyakarta Principles

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

UN Human Rights Council

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

ISHR co-founds and supports

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

Landmark Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

1000th human rights defender

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

Second World Conference on Human Rights

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Sessions of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

24.08.2009
 

A report on the 5th session, 2 - 6 August, 2010

A report on the 4th session, 25 - 29 January, 2010

A report on the 3rd session, 3 - 7 August, 2009

Analytical overviews earlier sessions are available here.

Human Rights Council: 9th session

21.11.2007
 

Latest news 

The Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 9th session from 8 to 23 September 2008. The programme of work for the session is available here. Read our Council Alert on the 9th session.

Every day during the Council session, check our Daily Updates and sign up to receive them by e-mail. To see all our reports on the Human Rights Council, see the Council Monitor.

Background 

The Human Rights Council (the Council) was established on 19 June 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) by General Assembly Resolution 60/251. The establishment of the Council was accompanied by high rhetoric that promised, or at least looked to, a new era in the United Nation's (UN) human rights work. There was much talk of new beginnings, new starts, new chances. The truth, however, was that no one believed it was going to be easy to effect real change. The Council was conceived in the context of the destruction of its predecessor  and politically charged debates in the General Assembly between those States wanting a Council with no real teeth and those that argued for a body that was more effective than the Commission.

The Council is the main body of the United Nations dealing with human rights, and is mandated, among other things, to:

  • Promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind
  • Address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon
  • Undertake a universal periodic review (UPR), based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States

Resolution 60/251 also mandated the Council to review the mechanisms and mandates it has inherited from the former Commission. This process of review, the so-called 'institution-building' has come to a an end with the adoption of Human Right Council Resolution 5/1 (also called 'the institution-building package') on 18 June 2008. For more information on the Council's mechanisms, please use the menu on the left. 

After a year and a half, an initial assessment can be made: the Council is neither as good as it needs to be nor as bad as it could be. Indeed it is proving to be significantly better than many defenders and activists had feared, though it still has a long way to go before it can be said to be an effective protector and promoter of human rights.

Further reading

  • ISHR together with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung has produced a Handbook on issues of transition from the Commission to the Council. Even though it was published prior to the institution-building phase, it provides an overview of the issues involved. Downlaod the English version / Version française
  • ISHR's Human Rights Monitor reviews the international human rights system, including the Council, on an annual basis. It is available in English, and is disponible en français
  • During sessions of the Council, ISHR publishes a Daily Update, summarising the most important developments of the day. After each session, we also produce an analytical overview of the main debates and decisions. Please see the Publications section
  • Other analytical texts on the Council's first two years include:

Pages

Opinion:

By Gigi Alford, Coordinator, Sport and Rights Alliance, Head of Sport and Human Rights, World Players Association, UNI Global Union

Human rights are universal, and sport is no exception. Next week in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid will host a public dialogue with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to discuss sport’s potential positive impacts and how to hold this sector accountable when it fails to live by its ideals.

Browse our articles:

Region

Country

Topic

Mechanism

1984

ISHR commences work to develop an international Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders

1988

ISHR publishes first Human Rights Monitor, connecting human rights defenders on the ground with international human rights systems and developments

1993

ISHR facilitates global civil society engagement with the Second World Conference on Human Rights, which leads to the strengthening of women’s rights, the affirmation of universal rights, the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994

ISHR provides training, technical assistance and support to its 1000th human rights defender

1998

After 14 years of ISHR lobbying, advocacy and negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopts the landmark Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

2000

UN Secretary-General appoints Hina Jilani as inaugural UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, strengthening protection of human rights advocates at risk worldwide.

2004

ISHR leads a successful campaign for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2005

ISHR co-founds and supports a range of international and regional human rights coalitions, including the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the West African Human Rights Defenders Network

2006

ISHR contributes to the establishment and institution building of a new global peak body for human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council

2007

ISHR leads and coordinates the development of the Yogyakarta Principles on sexual orientation and gender identity, strengthening legal recognition and protection of LGBT rights worldwide

2011

ISHR’s sustained advocacy on the issue of reprisals and intimidation faced by human rights defenders leads to adoption of landmark UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning and strengthening protections against reprisals

2012

Working with key NGO partners such as Amnesty International, ISHR leads civil society efforts to strengthen UN human rights treaty bodies, prevent their weakening and better connect their work with victims and human rights defenders on the ground

2013

Working with supportive states and NGOs, ISHR advocacy leads to adoption of historic Human Rights Council resolution calling on all States to review and amend national laws to respect and protect the work of human rights defenders