United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

20 December 1993


                                                  85th plenary meeting
                                                  20 December 1993
      48/134.  National institutions for the promotion and
               protection of human rights
      The General Assembly,
      Recalling the relevant resolutions concerning national institutions for
the protection and promotion of human rights, notably its resolutions 41/129
of 4 December 1986 and 46/124 of 17 December 1991 and Commission on Human
Rights resolutions 1987/40 of 10 March 1987, 1988/72 of 10 March 1988, 1989/52
of 7 March 1989, 1990/73 of 7 March 1990, 1991/27 of 5 March 1991 and 1992/54
of 3 March 1992, and taking note of Commission resolution 1993/55 of 9 March
      Emphasizing the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
the International Covenants on Human Rights and other international
instruments for promoting respect for and observance of human rights and
fundamental freedoms,
      Affirming that priority should be accorded to the development of
appropriate arrangements at the national level to ensure the effective
implementation of international human rights standards,
      Convinced of the significant role that institutions at the national
level can play in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental
freedoms and in developing and enhancing public awareness of those rights and
      Recognizing that the United Nations can play a catalytic role in
assisting the development of national institutions by acting as a
clearing-house for the exchange of information and experience,
      Mindful in this regard of the guidelines on the structure and
functioning of national and local institutions for the promotion and
protection of human rights endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution
33/46 of 14 December 1978,
      Welcoming the growing interest shown worldwide in the creation and
strengthening of national institutions, expressed during the Regional Meeting
for Africa of the World Conference on Human Rights, held at Tunis from 2 to 6
November 1992, the Regional Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean, held
at San Jose from 18 to 22 January 1993, the Regional Meeting for Asia, held at
Bangkok from 29 March to 2 April 1993, the Commonwealth Workshop on National
Human Rights Institutions, held at Ottawa from 30 September to 2 October 1992
and the Workshop for the Asia and Pacific Region on Human Rights Issues, held
at Jakarta from 26 to 28 January 1993, and manifested in the decisions
announced recently by several Member States to establish national institutions
for the promotion and protection of human rights,
      Bearing in mind the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, in which
the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed the important and constructive
role played by national institutions for the promotion and protection of human
rights, in particular in their advisory capacity to the competent authorities,
their role in remedying human rights violations, in the dissemination of human
rights information and in education in human rights,
      Noting the diverse approaches adopted throughout the world for the
promotion and protection of human rights at the national level, emphasizing
the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, and
emphasizing and recognizing the value of such approaches to promoting
universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
      1.    Takes note with satisfaction of the updated report of the
Secretary-General, prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution
46/124 of 17 December 1991;
      2.    Reaffirms the importance of developing, in accordance with
national legislation, effective national institutions for the promotion and
protection of human rights and of ensuring the pluralism of their membership
and their independence;
      3.    Encourages Member States to establish or, where they already
exist, to strengthen national institutions for the promotion and protection of
human rights and to incorporate those elements in national development plans;
      4.    Encourages national institutions for the promotion and protection
of human rights established by Member States to prevent and combat all
violations of human rights as enumerated in the Vienna Declaration and
Programme of Action and relevant international instruments;
      5.    Requests the Centre for Human Rights of the Secretariat to
continue its efforts to enhance cooperation between the United Nations and
national institutions, particularly in the field of advisory services and
technical assistance and of information and education, including within the
framework of the World Public Information Campaign for Human Rights;
      6.    Also requests the Centre for Human Rights to establish, upon the
request of States concerned, United Nations centres for human rights
documentation and training and to do so on the basis of established procedures
for the use of available resources within the United Nations Voluntary Fund
for Advisory Services and Technical Assistance in the Field of Human Rights;
      7.    Requests the Secretary-General to respond favourably to requests
from Member States for assistance in the establishment and strengthening of
national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights as part
of the programme of advisory services and technical cooperation in the field
of human rights, as well as national centres for human rights documentation
and training;
      8.    Encourages all Member States to take appropriate steps to promote
the exchange of information and experience concerning the establishment and
effective operation of such national institutions;
      9.    Affirms the role of national institutions as agencies for the
dissemination of human rights materials and for other public information
activities, prepared or organized under the auspices of the United Nations;
      10.   Welcomes the organization under the auspices of the Centre for
Human Rights of a follow-up meeting at Tunis in December 1993 with a view, in
particular, to examining ways and means of promoting technical assistance for
the cooperation and strengthening of national institutions and to continuing
to examine all issues relating to the question of national institutions;
      11.   Welcomes also the Principles relating to the status of national
institutions, annexed to the present resolution;
      12.   Encourages the establishment and strengthening of national
institutions having regard to those principles and recognizing that it is the
right of each State to choose the framework that is best suited to its
particular needs at the national level;
      13.   Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly
at its fiftieth session on the implementation of the present resolution.
          Principles relating to the status of national institutions
                        Competence and responsibilities
1.    A national institution shall be vested with competence to promote and
protect human rights.
2.    A national institution shall be given as broad a mandate as possible,
which shall be clearly set forth in a constitutional or legislative text,
specifying its composition and its sphere of competence.
3.    A national institution shall, inter alia, have the following
      (a)   To submit to the Government, Parliament and any other competent
body, on an advisory basis either at the request of the authorities concerned
or through the exercise of its power to hear a matter without higher referral,
opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports on any matters concerning the
promotion and protection of human rights; the national institution may decide
to publicize them; these opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports, as
well as any prerogative of the national institution, shall relate to the
following areas:
      (i)   Any legislative or administrative provisions, as well as
            provisions relating to judicial organizations, intended to
            preserve and extend the protection of human rights; in that
            connection, the national institution shall examine the legislation
            and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and
            proposals, and shall make such recommendations as it deems
            appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to
            the fundamental principles of human rights; it shall, if
            necessary, recommend the adoption of new legislation, the
            amendment of legislation in force and the adoption or amendment of
            administrative measures;
    (ii)    Any situation of violation of human rights which it decides to
            take up;
   (iii)    The preparation of reports on the national situation with regard
            to human rights in general, and on more specific matters;
    (iv)    Drawing the attention of the Government to situations in any part
            of the country where human rights are violated and making
            proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations
            and, where necessary, expressing an opinion on the positions and
            reactions of the Government;
      (b)   To promote and ensure the harmonization of national legislation
regulations and practices with the international human rights instruments to
which the State is a party, and their effective implementation;
      (c)   To encourage ratification of the above-mentioned instruments or
accession to those instruments, and to ensure their implementation;
      (d)   To contribute to the reports which States are required to submit
to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions,
pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an
opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence;
      (e)   To cooperate with the United Nations and any other organization in
the United Nations system, the regional institutions and the national
institutions of other countries that are competent in the areas of the
promotion and protection of human rights;
      (f)   To assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of,
and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in
schools, universities and professional circles;
      (g)   To publicize human rights and efforts to combat all forms of
discrimination, in particular racial discrimination, by increasing public
awareness, especially through information and education and by making use of
all press organs.
           Composition and guarantees of independence and pluralism
1.    The composition of the national institution and the appointment of its
members, whether by means of an election or otherwise, shall be established in
accordance with a procedure which affords all necessary guarantees to ensure
the pluralist representation of the social forces (of civilian society)
involved in the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly by
powers which will enable effective cooperation to be established with, or
through the presence of, representatives of:
      (a)   Non-governmental organizations responsible for human rights and
efforts to combat racial discrimination, trade unions, concerned social and
professional organizations, for example, associations of lawyers, doctors,
journalists and eminent scientists;
      (b)   Trends in philosophical or religious thought;
      (c)   Universities and qualified experts;
      (d)   Parliament;
      (e)   Government departments (if these are included, their
representatives should participate in the deliberations only in an advisory
2.    The national institution shall have an infrastructure which is suited to
the smooth conduct of its activities, in particular adequate funding.  The
purpose of this funding should be to enable it to have its own staff and
premises, in order to be independent of the Government and not be subject to
financial control which might affect its independence.
3.    In order to ensure a stable mandate for the members of the national
institution, without which there can be no real independence, their
appointment shall be effected by an official act which shall establish the
specific duration of the mandate.  This mandate may be renewable, provided
that the pluralism of the institution's membership is ensured.
                             Methods of operation
      Within the framework of its operation, the national institution shall:
      (a)   Freely consider any questions falling within its competence,
whether they are submitted by the Government or taken up by it without
referral to a higher authority, on the proposal of its members or of any
      (b)   Hear any person and obtain any information and any documents
necessary for assessing situations falling within its competence;
      (c)   Address public opinion directly or through any press organ,
particularly in order to publicize its opinions and recommendations;
      (d)   Meet on a regular basis and whenever necessary in the presence of
all its members after they have been duly convened;
      (e)   Establish working groups from among its members as necessary, and
set up local or regional sections to assist it in discharging its functions;
      (f)   Maintain consultation with the other bodies, whether
jurisdictional or otherwise, responsible for the promotion and protection of
human rights (in particular ombudsmen, mediators and similar institutions);
      (g)   In view of the fundamental role played by the non-governmental
organizations in expanding the work of the national institutions, develop
relations with the non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting and
protecting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating
racism, to protecting particularly vulnerable groups (especially children,
migrant workers, refugees, physically and mentally disabled persons) or to
specialized areas.
          Additional principles concerning the status of commissions
                     with quasi-jurisdictional competence
      A national institution may be authorized to hear and consider complaints
and petitions concerning individual situations.  Cases may be brought before
it by individuals, their representatives, third parties, non-governmental
organizations, associations of trade unions or any other representative
organizations.  In such circumstances, and without prejudice to the principles
stated above concerning the other powers of the commissions, the functions
entrusted to them may be based on the following principles:
      (a)   Seeking an amicable settlement through conciliation or, within the
limits prescribed by the law, through binding decisions or, where necessary,
on the basis of confidentiality;
      (b)   Informing the party who filed the petition of his rights, in
particular the remedies available to him, and promoting his access to them;
      (c)   Hearing any complaints or petitions or transmitting them to any
other competent authority within the limits prescribed by the law;
      (d)   Making recommendations to the competent authorities, especially by
proposing amendments or reforms of the laws, regulations and administrative
practices, especially if they have created the difficulties encountered by the
persons filing the petitions in order to assert their rights.