Issue 3 - 14 November 2006 - Nominations Emerging for 2007 HRC Elections

Background:

The newly established Human Rights Council has 47 members with staggered terms of three years.

Election rules are based on the HRC’s founding resolution. Members are elected in a secret ballot by a majority of the General Assembly members, whether or not they are present and voting – in other words, an absolute majority. Currently that is 97 members. This allows for a lower threshold of support than a two-thirds majority.

Seats are distributed to each geographic region as follows:

African States: 13 seats

Asian States: 13 seats

Eastern European States: 6 seats

Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats

Western European and Other States: 7 seats

Members can serve two consecutive terms but will not be eligible for immediate re-election after that, in order to prevent de facto permanent membership.

Upcoming Election:

The next election for HRC members will take place sometime before the end of May 2007. Thirteen of the founding members’ terms will expire in May. Their seats will need to be filled with other states from the region.

Nordic countries have already agreed on Denmark as their candidate to replace Finland when its term expires in 2007, and more such endorsements likely will emerge soon.

With the outcomes of the two special sessions seen as favoring Muslim countries, the HRC has been criticized for a lack of balance. The number of members on the Council from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – currently 18 out of 47 Council members – is seen as playing a major role in the current tension within and around the Council. The terms of OIC members Algeria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Morocco, and Tunisia will expire in 2007. If they are replaced with non-OIC members of the African and Asian groups, it is thought that HRC dynamics could shift. However, it is also possible to be re-elected for a second term.

Another outstanding question about the make-up of the Council is whether the United States will run for a seat, given their original opposition to the HRC.

The current HRC members and their terms* are noted in the table below.

Regional Group
Term Expires 2007
Term Expires 2008
Term Expires 2009

African States
Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia
Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Zambia
Cameroon, Djibouti, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal

Asian States
Bahrain, India, Indonesia, Philippines
Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka
Bangladesh, China, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia

Eastern European States
Czech Republic, Poland
Romania, Ukraine
Azerbaijan, Russian Federation

Latin American & Caribbean States
Argentina, Ecuador
Brazil, Guatemala, Peru
Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay

Western European & Other States
Finland, Netherlands
France, United Kingdom
Canada, Germany, Switzerland

*The General Assembly elected the 47 members in May 2006. It then randomly assigned term expirations to each member to set up the staggered term system. Thus, those states whose membership expires in 2007 will have had only a one-year term, and those with 2008 expirations will have had only a two-year term.