OHCHR and NHRIs

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) that comply with the principles relating to the status of national institutions, commonly known as the Paris Principles, are playing a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level, a role which is increasingly recognized by the international community. 

OHCHR, through the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section (NIRMS), supports the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs and works closely with NHRIs to  support them in the implementation of their broad mandates to promote and protect human rights. NHRIs perform core protection issues, such as the prevention of torture and degrading treatment, summary executions, arbitrary detention and disappearances, or the protection of human rights defenders. NHRIs also play a role in advancing all aspects of the rule of law, including with regard to the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the correctional system. NHRIs also contribute to effective Parliaments (ideally with a Human Rights body), strong and dynamic civil society organizations, alert and responsive media, a school system with human rights education programmes at all levels and, generally, a society encouraging the objective of a universal culture of human rights. Specifically, “A” status NHRIs are one of the best relay mechanisms at country level to ensure the application of international human rights norms.

More specifically, NIRMS:

  • supports efforts for the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs worldwide, with and through OHCHR geographic desk officers and field presences, other UN agencies, funds and programmes and regional networks of NHRIs, including through technical cooperation and capacity-building projects for NHRIs;
  • reviews draft laws concerning NHRIs and advises on compliance with the PPs;
  • establishes guidance notes, methodological tools, best practices and lessons learned on issues related to NHRIs;
  • provides secretariat support to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, including its Sub-Committee on Accreditation and its Bureau;
  • facilitates partnerships between NHRIs and UNCTs;
  • supports the interaction of NHRIs with the international human rights system, including treaty bodies, special procedures mechanisms, the HRC/UPR;
  • supports regional and sub-regional networks on NHRIs;
  • drafts the Secretary-General’s and High Commissioner’s reports to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on OHCHR NHRI-related activities;

Relevant UN resolutions 

Over the past two decades, the United Nations General Assembly and other bodies have issued resolutions of relevance to NHRIs:

  • GA resolution 48/134 endorsing the Paris Principles;
  • A number of HRC resolutions, of which the latest is A/RES/33/15;
  • A number of GA resolutions on the role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights, of which the latest is A/RES/72/186;
  • A number of GA resolutions on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, of which the latest is A/RES/72/181.

Relevant SG reports 

  • Secretary-General's report to the General Assembly on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. - A/72/277
  • Secretary-General's report to the Human Rights Council on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. -  A/HRC/33/33
  • Secretary-General's report to the Human Rights Council entitled “Activities of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in accrediting national institutions in compliance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles)”. - A/HRC/33/34

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) 

At the International Conference held in Tunis in 1993, NHRIs established the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC) with the aim to coordinate the activities of the NHRI network. In 2016, the ICC changed its name into Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI). GANHRI is incorporated as a legal entity under the Swiss law, and has a Bureau consisting of 16 “A status” NHRIs representing the four regions of GANHRI. General annual meetings of GANHRI, meetings of the GANHRI Bureau and of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation, as well as international conferences of GANHRI are held in cooperation with NRCS in its capacity as the GANHRI secretariat.

Accreditation of NHRIs

NHRI map 

The Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the  Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has the mandate to review and analyze accreditation applications and to make recommendations to the GANHRI  Bureau on the compliance of applicants with the Paris Principles. The SCA is composed of one “A status” accredited NHRIs from each of the four regional groupings: Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe. Members of the SCA are appointed by the regional groupings for a renewable term of three years. NIRMS  participates in the work of the SCA as a permanent observer and in its capacity as the GANHRI  secretariat.

As of 4 March 2019, there are 78 NHRIs accredited with A Status by the GANHRI, i.e. in compliance with the Paris Principles. The following link provides access to the sessions of the GANHRI Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) for 2019.

Guidance notes for NHRIs 

NHRIs have clearly defined roles and opportunities to participate in the international human rights system and to follow-up to results and recommendations at the national level. The following links contain short guidance notes for NHRIs for:

a) the Human Rights Council,

b) the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review /UPR

Fellowship for NHRI staff 

In 2008, the National Institutions Unit, of OHCHR introduced a fellowship programme. Through this programme, the staff members from NHRIs accredited with “A” status are selected to work in NIRMS for six months in order to gain knowledge and experience with the United Nations human rights system. This fellowship programme is beneficial for OHCHR, both in terms of substantive expertise as well as through the consolidation of direct contacts with NHRI staff globally.