Homepage Search this site
About Us
What is Legislationline.org? Legislative Support Unit Factsheet
Search by Topic
Administrative Justice Anti-Discrimination Citizenship Elections Counter-Terrorism Gender Equality Migration Trafficking in Human Beings Freedom of Assembly Freedom of Association Political Parties Access to Information and Data Protection Fair Trial (Right to a) Independence of the Judiciary Hate Crimes Freedom of Religion or Belief National Human Rights Institutions
Search by Country
Site map
Contact:legislationline@odihr.pl
 

United Nations

UN Standards on NHRIs

The history of NHRIs may be traced back to 1946 when the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) promoted the establishment of “local human rights committees within their respective countries to collaborate with them in furthering the work of the Commission on Human Rights ’. After that, in 1960, the ECOSOC recognized the “distinctive role that national institutions could play in the protection and promotion of human rights” and “invited government to encourage the formation and continuation ” of NHRIs. Throughout the next three decades the United Nations and some of its affiliated organizations (particularly the Commission on Human Rights and the ECOSOC) prepared a series of reports on the feasibility of national institutions as instruments for protection and promotion of human rights. These reports culminated in the UN International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, held in Paris in 1991. The workshop led to the drafting of guiding principles that were adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1991 as the “Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions,” popularly known as the “Paris Principles.” This commitment to develop national institutions as instruments for promoting human rights, disseminating human rights information and providing human rights education was reiterated in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the conclusion of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights organized by the UN in the same year. Since then, the UN General Assembly has adopted numerous resolutions calling for the strengthening of NHRIs and Ombuds Offices in particular .



More

UN Standards on NHRIs

The history of NHRIs may be traced back to 1946 when the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) promoted the establishment of “local human rights committees within their respective countries to collaborate with them in furthering the work of the Commission on Human Rights ’. After that, in 1960, the ECOSOC recognized the “distinctive role that national institutions could play in the protection and promotion of human rights” and “invited government to encourage the formation and continuation ” of NHRIs. Throughout the next three decades the United Nations and some of its affiliated organizations (particularly the Commission on Human Rights and the ECOSOC) prepared a series of reports on the feasibility of national institutions as instruments for protection and promotion of human rights. These reports culminated in the UN International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, held in Paris in 1991. The workshop led to the drafting of guiding principles that were adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1991 as the “Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions,” popularly known as the “Paris Principles.” This commitment to develop national institutions as instruments for promoting human rights, disseminating human rights information and providing human rights education was reiterated in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the conclusion of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights organized by the UN in the same year. Since then, the UN General Assembly has adopted numerous resolutions calling for the strengthening of NHRIs and Ombuds Offices in particular .

The “Paris Principles” lay out minimum criteria for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) aiming to guarantee the effectiveness and independence of NHRIs. The Paris Principles address four aspects of the NHRIs:

(1) their competence and responsibilities,
(2) their composition and guarantee of independence,
(3) the methods of operations,
and (4) principles relating to the status of commissions as quasi-judicial bodies.

In order for an NHRI to be effective, the Paris Principles prescribe the criteria essential for NHRIs’ effectiveness. These include: a clearly defined, broad-based human rights mandate – incorporated in legislation or, preferably, constitutionally entrenched; independence from government, including financial independence from government-led budgeting processes; membership that broadly reflects the composition of society; appropriate cooperation with civil society, including NGOs; and adequate financial and human resources. The most important criteria for ensuring success of the NHRI are its functional and institutional independence, making such institutions only accountable to the parliament of a country.

The Principles also specify the responsibilities of NHRIs. Firstly, NHRIs shall submit recommendations, proposals and reports to the government, parliament and any other public institution (except, to a degree, courts). The subject matter can be any legislative or administrative provision relating to the protection of human rights; any situation or practice potentially constituting a human rights violation; or the preparation of reports on the overall national human rights situation or more specific human rights topics. Thirdly, NHRIs may promote conformity of national laws and practices with international human rights instruments, as well as encourage ratification of international human rights instruments and ensure their implementation. An NHRI may also contribute to the reporting process under international human rights instruments before, e.g., the Human Rights Council.

Also in 1993, the International Coordination Committee of National Institutions (ICC) was created to determine the level of implementation of the Paris Principles of individual NHRIs. The ICC is an international association of NHRIs which operates under the auspices of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It promotes and strengthens NHRIs so that they are in accordance with the Paris Principles, and provides leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights (Article 5 of the ICC Statute,). NHRIs may become a voting member of the ICC when they are considered to be in compliance with the Paris Principles. During the accreditation and reaccreditation process, the review of the NHRI’s compliance with the Paris Principles is undertaken by the ICC’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation which is composed of four NHRIs representing the four regional groups as established by the ICC Statute (Section 7), namely Africa, the Americas, the Asian-Pacific region, and Europe. Currently, the Scottish Human Rights Commission acts as the Chair of the European Group of NHRIs.,

In accordance with the Statute of the ICC, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation has the mandate to consider and review applications for accreditation, re-accreditation and accreditation reviews of NHRIs on the basis of written evidence submitted (including special reviews) from the NHRI itself, but also civil society actors. Accreditations are given for a period of 5 years and reviewed after that (re-accreditation process). An accreditation with Status ‘A’ permits NHRIs to actively participate in international fora, such as the UN Human Rights Council, and to independently contribute to proceedings before this body with alternative reports on their country’s implementation of UN human rights treaties.

Further to its responsibility to review the implementation of the Paris Principles by each accredited or candidate NHRI, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation also issued the so-called General Observations which clarified provisions of the Paris Principles and developed them further.

In February 2010, 22 institutions in the OSCE area are accredited by the ICC with status “A” (in compliance with the Paris Principles), six institutions with status “B” (not fully in compliance with the Paris Principles) and three bodies with status “C” (non-compliance with the Paris Principles).

 


Hide
 
 
 

Search international norms and standards

 

Search by topic: United Nations