Fact Sheet 10: Responsibilities and functions of NHRIs: Engaging with the international human rights system
Graphic: Woman walks past the corridor of flags at UN, Geneva
- NHRIs engage with the international human rights system to draw attention to pressing issues and make recommendations to improve human rights performance at the country level.
- ‘A status’ NHRIs are able to participate in all aspects of the work the Human Rights Council, as well as contribute to nearly every stage of the Universal Periodic Review.
- All NHRIs can assist the special procedures in all their activities and are especially helpful to special procedures making country visits.
- All NHRIs can engage with all aspects of the work of the treaty monitoring bodies.
The Paris Principles state that NHRIs should cooperate with the international human rights system, as well as regional institutions with a mandate to promote and protect human rights.
This cooperation has benefits both for the international mechanisms and for NHRIs.
There are many opportunities for NHRIs to cooperate with and support the work of UN bodies and mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its special procedures, as well as the human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
This engagement can include:
- Submitting parallel reports to the UPR, special procedures and treaty monitoring bodies
- Making statements during debates before review bodies and the Human Rights Council
- Supporting and participating in country visits by UN experts, including special procedure mandate holders, treaty monitoring bodies, fact finding missions and commissions of inquiry
- Monitoring and promoting the implementation of relevant recommendations made through the international human rights system.
NHRIs support the work of the UN mechanisms by providing independent and reliable information, as well as by proposing recommendations that can be made to the State to improve the human rights situation in the country.
NHRIs also play a key role by promoting and monitoring implementation of recommendations made to the State by UN bodies.
In addition, NHRIs can assist their government to engage with the international human rights system; for example, by providing advice on ratification of human rights treaties or contributing to the preparation of State reports to international human rights mechanisms.
Graphic: Session of the Human Rights Council
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
The Human Rights Council is the UN's principal specialist human rights body. It is an intergovernmental body, made up of 47 member States, with a broad mandate to deal with all human rights issues and situations. It meets three times a year and in special session as required.
'A status' NHRIs have extensive participation rights in the Human Rights Council. They are entitled to attend and participate in all sessions of the Council, and have the right to make oral statements, in person or by video, in all sessions and on all agenda items.
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council under which all 193 UN Member States are reviewed every four-and-a-half years on their performance of their international human rights obligations.
All NHRIs can provide "credible and reliable information" for the review.
'A status' NHRIs can participate in the Council debate on the adoption of the UPR Working Group reports, with the 'A status' NHRI of the State under review entitled to speak in the Council plenary session immediately after the State under review.
Graphic: Meeting of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions
The special procedures are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council with responsibility for a thematic mandate, to deal with a specific human rights issue, or a country mandate, to deal with human rights issues within a specific country.
Special procedures undertake their mandates through a variety of functions, including research, studies, country visits, investigations and inquiries. They also report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
All NHRIs can collaborate with the special procedures. This collaboration is especially important in relation to country visits, where the NHRI can be of great assistance to the special procedure mandate holder in planning and undertaking a visit.
Graphic: NHRI officials from Qatar prepare for discussions, Geneva
TREATY MONITORING BODIES
Human rights treaty monitoring bodies examine the compliance of each State party with its obligations under the relevant treaty. They do this by reviewing State reports, holding a dialogue with State delegations and developing 'concluding observations' and recommendations to be implemented by the State party.
All NHRIs can contribute to all stages of the treaty monitoring process, including submitting parallel reports and other information, providing briefings for members of the treaty monitoring bodies, proposing recommendations to be made to the State and attending the interactive dialogue with the State.
All NHRIs can contribute to the development of general comments and general recommendations issued by the treaty monitoring body.
In addition to their cooperation with human rights mechanisms in Geneva, NHRIs are increasingly contributing their expertise to the work of UN General Assembly bodies in New York, including the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Commission of the Status of Women.
NHRIs should engage as fully as possible with the international human rights system, including the Human Rights Council and its UPR and special procedures, as well as the treaty monitoring bodies.
This engagement should seek to strengthen the effectiveness of the international human rights system and support the work of the NHRI in driving human rights progress at the national level.
FIND OUT MORE
Chapter 22, A Manual on National Human Rights Institutions (APF, revised 2018)
International Human Rights and the International Human Rights System: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions (APF, 2012)
- Woman walks past the corridor of flags at UN, Geneva - APF/James Iliffe
- Session of the Human Rights Council - UN Geneva
- Meeting of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions - GANHRI
- NHRI officials from Qatar prepare for discussions, Geneva - APF