- India was elected to the United Nations’ top human rights body for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019, getting 188 votes in the Asia-Pacific category, the highest number of votes among all candidates.
- The 193-member UN General Assembly held elections here for new members to the UN Human Rights Council. The 18 new members were elected by absolute majority through a secret ballot. Countries needed a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council.
India and UNHRC
- India was elected unopposed to the UN Human Rights Council as a candidate from the Asia-Pacific region.
- In the Asia Pacific category, India got 188 votes followed by Fiji with 187 votes, Bangladesh 178, Bahrain and Philippines 165 each.
- This is the fifth time that India will serve on the Geneva-based Council.
- The country was among the first batch of 47 countries elected to the Council in 2006 soon after it was set up and received an initial one-year term instead of three to facilitate a rotating roster of vacancies each year.
- It was again elected in 2007, 2011 and 2014 to three-year terms.
- Countries can be elected to only two consecutive terms and India took a year’s break when its term ended in 2017.
About United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
- United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system
- It is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
- It was created by UNGA on 15 March 2006 by adopting resolution 60/251 to promote human rights globally.
- It had replaced former UN Commission on Human Rights.
- It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Members are elected by the UNGA with 3-year terms, with a maximum of 2 consecutive terms.
- They are responsible for promotion and protection of human rights.
- It meets 3 times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide.
- Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority.
- Members of the council work to engage countries on improving human rights.
- They make decisions ranging from exposing violations to recommending that UN Security Council make referral to International Criminal Court (ICC).
- It can also set up special rapporteurs with mandate to investigate and report human-rights violations and abuses.
- The council works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and engages the United Nations’ special procedures.
- The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership.
- The suspension process requires a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly.
Significance of UNHRC
- UNHRC has a fair track record of taking up human rights agenda.
- It has facilitated the evolution of human rights norms.
- Resolutions adopted have highlighted rights violations, despite resistance by some members.
- The situation in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea are few examples.
- Issues that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights.
- It is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law.
- HRC is thus an important component of the UN rights system.
- Its sustenance with credibility is significant for handling global human rights issues.