Human Rights Council Election

The Human Rights Council (HRC) was created by the General Assembly in 2006 for the purpose of addressing human rights violations, replacing the former UN Commission on Human Rights. Whereas the Commission was a functional commission of ECOSOC, the Council holds the higher status of a subsidiary body to the GA. [1]

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The 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 as opposed to the higher threshold of support a two-thirds majority would require. If any of the candidates fails to receive the minimum of 97 positive votes, they must compete in a second round against any additional high-scoring candidates. The same applies to candidates who are not officially running but who receive write-in votes from GA members. 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

Each membership term lasts for three years. Members can serve two consecutive terms but will not be eligible for immediate re-election afterwards in order to prevent de facto permanent membership.

Criteria for Membership

GA Resolution 60/251 states that “when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments thereto” (Paragraph 8). These are the only stated criteria for membership in the Council. The pledge states that the country will uphold international standards of human rights and enumerates actions undertaken by that state in advancing and protecting human rights. It typically includes a listing of their involvement in international institutions.

In addition, candidates must accept that they will be subjected to periodic peer-reviews of their human rights record if they gain a seat on the Council. Amnesty International has issued recommended pledges for candidate countries.

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[1]The status of the new Council is considered higher than that of the old Commission because of the greater power of the General Assembly as compared to ECOSOC.

GA resolution on HRC.pdf115.1 KB