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OHCHR and elections

About elections and human rights

The right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for election, is at the core of democratic governments based on the will of the people. Genuine elections are a necessary and fundamental component of an environment that protects and promotes human rights.

The right to vote and be elected in genuine, periodic elections is intrinsically linked to a number of other human rights, the enjoyment of which is crucial to a meaningful electoral process. These prerequisite rights include:

  • the right to freedom from discrimination;
  • the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • the right to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly; and
  • the right to freedom of movement.

Our work on elections and human rights

We work to ensure that elections meet international human rights standards and that they are held in an environment in which everyone can exercise their fundamental rights. We do this using a range of methods from its headquarters and field locations, including advocacy, provision of technical assistance, monitoring of human rights in the electoral context and public or confidential reporting.

We also support other mechanisms in their research and reporting, for example the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression’s report on freedom of expression in electoral processes (A/HRC/26/30) and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association’s report on freedom of assembly and association in the context of elections (A/68/299).

Latest publications and resources

Human rights and elections handbook (2021)

This handbook comprehensively outlines universal human rights norms and standards applicable in the context of elections. The publication includes decisions and recommendations from UN Human Rights Mechanisms. It also includes reflections on new human rights challenges in electoral contexts.
PDF: English

The Human Rights and Election Standards Plan of Action (2017)

As a result of their joint initiative on Human Rights and Election Standards, OHCHR and the Carter Center have worked to create a Plan of Action on Human Rights and Elections, which compiled a number of recommendations formulated throughout a series of expert consultations that took place between 2015 and 2017. The Plan of Action provides ideas on how to advance a human rights-based approach to elections.
PDF: English | Français | Español
Word: English | Français | Español

Monitoring of human rights in the electoral context (2011)

Part of the Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, this chapter focuses on monitoring human rights during elections. It gives an overview of violations of rights that are relevant to the electoral process (freedom of association, prohibition of discrimination…), laws relating to human rights and non-discrimination, the media and the participation of women and persons from minority communities.
PDF: English

General Comment 25 of the Human Rights Committee
All languages

Article 25 of the Covenant recognizes and protects the rights of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to vote and to be elected and the right to have access to public service.