Making a difference: Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

The Special Procedures system, which is now composed of 55 mandates that cover all international human rights, has made important achievements in the last 50 years since the appointment of the first mandate holder. Special Procedures are viewed as the most accessible UN human rights mechanism. The system is often characterized as the eyes and ears of the Human Rights Council as it receives information daily from people from all around the world.

  • Thematic special procedures are able to positively impact human rights relevant to their respective mandate in all countries
  • Country mandates can create positive impact on all human rights issues in the countries they are established to address.
  • Most importantly, both thematic and country mandates closely cooperate with States to provide them with expert advice and recommendations on implementing their international human rights obligations.
  • Special Procedures are also often the first human rights mechanism to draw attention to emerging issues or situations.

Yet the question of the difference that the work of Special Procedures can make, and how to document it has been a longstanding issue. Results can take many forms:

  • revision of a law,
  • the adoption of a new policy decision,
  • the change in the mind-set of a country toward a specific issue,
  • a positive outcome for specific individuals,
  • the documentation and the end of a specific human rights violation or the prevention of it,
  • a successful contribution to UN processes such as migration or climate change,
  • the development of new standards or, more generally,
  • raising awareness about a human rights issues and facilitating dialogue and advocacy on these issues.

We have compiled examples of how Special Procedures can make a difference in efforts to promote and protect human rights at all levels.