On May 21, 2008, the UN General Assembly will elect fifteen new members to the UN Human Rights Council. NGOs from around the world are engaged in the electoral process to ensure that members of the Council meet the standards stipulated in resolution 60/251 creating the Council. This page contains information about some of their efforts to strengthen the Council by monitoring its work and supporting the election of states committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.
Sri Lankan NGOs oppose Sri Lanka’s candidacy
In a letter dated April 28, 2008, a coalition of thirteen Sri Lankan NGOs, including the Center for Policy Alternatives, Rights Now, the Law and Society Trust, and the Association of Family Members of the Disappeared, have called on UN Member states to oppose Sri Lanka’s bid for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council. “To re-elect Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council in the present circumstances would amount to support for the undemocratic practices that have become a part of our everyday lives, “ these NGOs write. “Your rejection …will reaffirm the faith that Sri Lankan civil society has placed in the international community, and could act as a powerful impetus for reforms in the country.”
NGOs Around the World Oppose Sri Lanka's Candidacy
In a parallel campaign, Human rights NGOs from all regions of the world have come together to oppose the re-election of Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council. Following on a May 9 response from the Sri Lankan government to the campaign, the NGO coalition has written again to UN member states welcoming the attention that the government of Sri Lanka has given their concerns, but reiterating that the government does not contest numerous allegations that it has committed hundreds of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations and has failed to cooperate fully with UN rights monitoring mechanisms.
In separate initiatives, African and Asian NGOs have pressed their governments to reject Sri Lanka's candidacy. The African group's letter points to Sri Lanka’s track record of "abus[ing] human rights and refus[ing] to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms." The Asian group's letter states that Sri Lanka has demonstrated an "evident failure to meet the Council's membership standards."
NGOs call on Pakistan to improve record to meet membership standards
In a letter, dated April 18, 2008, a coalition of thirty-two Pakistani NGOs, under the umbrella of the Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights, have called on the newly-elected Pakistani government to distinguish itself from the previous regime by demonstrating its commitment to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights required for the membership of the Council. Addressed to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, they write “We, therefore, urge you to ensure that Pakistan’s candidacy is based on a firm commitment to attain these standards and on specific pledges to adopt measures for full implementation of the commitments made.” The Pakistani NGOs urge continuing domestic reforms by the new government, and engagement at the Human Rights Council, if elected, to promote human rights, support NGO participation and access, and support the independence of the Council’s human rights experts, its universal periodic review process, and of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Furthermore, in a letter, dated May 14, 2008, a coalition of international NGOs called on UN Member States to urge Pakistan to take more concrete steps to uphold and protect domestic and international human rights.
HRC Elections Q & A
Q. What is the U.N. Human Rights Council?
A. The Council is the main U.N. body for promoting and protecting human rights. It is composed of 47 countries, apportioned amongst the five regional groups of U.N. members. The Council meets in Geneva to advance human rights norms, recommend new treaties, address human rights violations in specific countries, and appoint experts to monitor specific countries and the observance of particular rights.
Candidates & pledges
More information about the HRC election can be found on the UN’s official website for the election. This site includes a list of current members of the Council, the candidates running in each regional group, and links to election pledges and commitments made by 15 of the 20 countries running.
Amnesty HRC Election information
Amnesty International’s HRC Elections 2008 website contains useful information on the domestic and international human rights records of candidates. The information draws on Amnesty’s work in these countries, and provides an overview of the prominent threats to human rights in each country, along with Amnesty reports on any documented human rights abuses, the international treaties signed or ratified by the country, and its compliance with other UN human rights mechanisms.
Democracy Coalition Project assesses States records at GA and HRC
DCP’s 2007 UNGA scorecard and analysis examined the voting positions taken by all U.N. states in the December 2007 session on five adopted resolutions that were considered barometers of a country’s approach to key human rights issues before the UN, including a landmark resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Earlier in the year, DCP released its 2006-2007 Human Rights Council Report Card and analysis, which charted the positions of governments on key issues on country-specific situations of major concern in the HRC, as well as on institutional reforms.
Last Year's Successful NGO Campaign against Belarus
In a letter dated April 27, 2007, the international NGO Coalition launched a public campaign against Belarus’ election bid to gain a set on the HRC. The campaign was successful in defeating Belarus, by highlighting the country’s dismal human rights record among Member States.
NGOs Around the World Urge Bahrain to Make Further Commitment to Human Rights if Elected to the HRC
In a May 20, 2008 letter to member states, a coalition of international NGOs has joined Bahraini NGOs in urging the Bahrain government to commit, if elected, to achieve a series of benchmarks demonstrating its commitment to the protection of human rights both nationally and internationally during its membership period.