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A general view of participants during 45th session of the Human Rights Council. 14 September 2020. © UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré

Instruments & mechanisms

UN Human Rights provides support, guidance and expertise to a wide range of human rights monitoring mechanisms in the UN system, all within the framework of international human rights law.

Legal framework

International human rights law provides the foundation for the work of UN Human Rights and the mechanisms it supports. This legal framework was born with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first document in history to set out fundamental human rights. Together with two international covenants, it now forms the International Bill of Human Rights. Since the UDHR was adopted in 1948, it has inspired a series of legally binding international human rights treaties, declarations and other instruments, all underpinning and guiding UN Human Rights’ activities today.

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There are two types of human rights monitoring mechanisms within the United Nations system: treaty-based bodies and charter-based bodies. The ten human rights Treaty Bodies, made up of committees of independent experts, monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties. The charter-based bodies include the Human Rights Council, Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review and Independent Investigations. UN Human Rights provides expertise and support to all of the different mechanisms.

Instruments and Mechanisms

Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is the highest level of the UN human rights machinery. It is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States, and is responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.

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Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States.

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Special Procedures

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts who report and advise on country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not paid and are elected for three-year mandates.

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Human Rights Council Mandated Investigations

UN-mandated commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions and investigations respond to situations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. They promote accountability for these violations, and counter impunity.

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Treaty Bodies

The human rights Treaty Bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

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Human rights monitoring and indicators

To ensure human rights standards and commitments are in place around the world, monitoring is a critical component of human rights work. UN Human Rights has developed a framework of indicators to help measure progress and to strengthen the capacity of States to meet their human rights obligations. It has also established the Universal Human Rights Index, a key tool which facilitates access to human rights recommendations issued by the Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review.

More about human rights indicators and tools for measuring progress Universal Human Rights Index


Submitting a complaint

If you are an alleged victim of a human rights violation, you can turn to one of three mechanisms to submit a complaint: Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies, or the Human Rights Council. Through addressing complaints, the mechanisms aim to ensure that violations are prevented, stopped, investigated or that remedial action is taken. Each mechanism has varying criteria on who can submit a complaint, and how to do it. Find out more.

Report a violation