Human Rights Council
1. How many members does the Human Rights Council have?
The Council has 47 members.
2. How are members elected?
Membership to the Council is open to all Member States of the United Nations. Members are elected by the General Assembly through individual and direct votes by absolute majority (97 votes). Ballots are secret and elections are held every year.
3. How long are the terms of membership?
Members serve three-year terms and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
In 2006, elected members drew lots, taking into account equitable regional distribution, to select those members who would initially serve staggered terms of one, two or three years.
4. How are seats distributed?
The distribution of seats is in accordance with equitable geographical representation (13 from the African Group; 13 from the Asian Group; 6 from the Eastern European Group; 8 from the Latin American and Caribbean Group; and 7 from the Western European and Other States Group).
5. What are the expectations of Council members?
When electing members of the Council, Member States are to take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made in this regard.
Upon election, new members commit themselves to cooperating with the Council and to upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Members of the Council are reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism during their term of membership.
Through this mechanism, the Council undertakes a periodic review of the fulfillment of the human rights obligations and commitments of all Member States of the United Nations. Ensuring universality of coverage and equal treatment of all States, the review is a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs.
6. Could a member have its rights and privileges suspended in the Council?
The General Assembly has the right to suspend the rights of membership in the Council of any member that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights. This process of suspension requires a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly.
7. Where does the Human Rights Council fit in within the United Nations system?
The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, which makes it directly accountable to the full membership of the United Nations. Its status will be reviewed by the Assembly in 2011. See the UN organizational chart (.pdf).
The Council is the main intergovernmental body for human rights in the UN system. As outlined in General Assembly resolution 60/251, the Council was established to promote the effective coordination and mainstreaming of human rights in the UN system.
For additional information on the work of the Human Rights Council, please consult the web site of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.