UN Establishes New Human Rights Council and Holds First Election
Monday, June 5, 2006 10:50 AM

In March 2006, the United Nations officially announced the creation of the Human Rights Council, a subsidiary body to the General Assembly intended to replace the Commission on Human Rights. The Council will be based in Geneva and will meet at least three times a year, submitting an annual report to the General Assembly with an account of its progress and findings. The resolution establishing the Council states that its mandate is to promote and protect human rights worldwide. More specifically, it will monitor abuses, promote human rights education, and provide advisory services and capacity-building support. It will also make recommendations to the General Assembly for further development of international human rights law as the need arises.

Elections for the Council were held in early May to determine which countries would compose the forty-seven member Council for the next three years. The General Assembly voted on member states based on applications they submitted and in keeping with the geographic distribution requirements set forth in the Resolution. The results are as follows:

Representing Africa are Algeria, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia.

Representing Latin America and the Caribbean are Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

Representing Asia are Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.

Representing Eastern Europe are Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Representing Western Europe and Other States are Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  

Notably, the United States voted against the creation of the Human Rights Council and did not submit an application for membership, claiming that the Council did not go far enough in its reform of the UN human rights system. Nevertheless, the American ambassador has since expressed support for the work of the Council.

The Council is scheduled to hold its first meeting on 19 June 2006.

Compiled from: Resolution 60/251 adopted by the General Assembly on the Human Rights Council, 3 April 2006; "Membership of the Human Rights Coucil," UN Human Rights Council, 5 June 2006; "Questions and Answers on the Human Rights Council," UN News Center, 5 June 2006.