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.

Recent Developments

18 November 2013:

Last week on 12 November, elections were held in the General Assembly to fill 14 open seats on the HRC. The results were received with some controversy, as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia were all elected to the Council, all countries who face challenges to their own human rights records by human rights advocacy groups.

The following countries were elected to 3-year terms, expiring in 2017:

Russian Federation
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
United Kingdom
Viet Nam


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

African States Asia-Pacific States Eastern European States Latin American & 
Caribbean States 
Western European 
& other States
Angola 2013 India 2014 Czech Republic 2014 Argentina 2015 Austria 2014
Benin 2014 Indonesia 2014 Estonia 2015 Brazil 2015 Germany 2015
Botswana 2014 Japan 2015 Montenegro 2015 Chile 2014 Ireland 2015
Burkina Faso 2014 Kazakhstan 2015 Poland 2013 Costa Rica 2014 Italy 2014
Congo 2014 Kuwait 2014 Republic of Moldova 2013 Ecuador 2013 Spain 2013
Côte d'Ivoire 2015 Malaysia 2013 Romania 2014 Guatemala 2013 Switzerland 2013
Ethiopia 2015 Maldives 2013   Peru 2014 United States 2015
Gabon 2015 Pakistan 2015   Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 2015  
Kenya 2015 Philippines 2014      
Libya 2013 Qatar 2013      
Mauritania 2013 Republic of Korea 2015      
Sierra Leone 2015 Thailand 2013      
Uganda 2013 United Arab Emirates 2015      

  (Table from UNGA Elections and Appointments page .)

*Suspended by resolution A/RES/65/265 (Mar 2011).


Related UNElections Monitors




[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