The United Nations Human Rights Council: What Is It Good For?

Forum on International Affairs (FIA)

Government of the District of Columbia, Mayor's Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs 441 4th Street, NW, 11th Floor Room 1117 Washington, D.C 20001

July 25, 2017, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Please join the Forum on International Affairs (FIA) as they discuss the work of the Human Rights Council, and what it is doing and not doing to protect and promote universal human rights.   

The United Nations Human Rights Council sits at the nexus of international law and politics. As the primary vehicle for addressing human rights violations within the UN system, the Council is a lightning rod for criticism from some member states and civil society. The election of egregious rights abusers to the Council, the persistent debate over countries that are singled out too much or too little, and poor funding have been longstanding roadblocks to elevating the interests of victims during the Council’s deliberations. Statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ambassador Nikki Haley announcing the United States may suspend participation in the Human Rights Council unless reforms are adopted have only stoked the controversy.

Despite shortcomings, many in the human rights advocacy community consider the Council a necessary tool for holding countries accountable to their international obligations. They point to a number of important advances over the last ten years, including increased scrutiny of country situations like Syria, Iran, Burundi, North Korea and Eritrea, and universal review of every country’s human rights record.   

Please RSVP here. 


Potential discussion topics include:

1. How has the promotion of universal human rights changed since the creation of the Human Rights Council in 2006?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of promoting human rights through the Council?

3.  How does the debate over economic and social rights versus political and civil rights impact the work of the Council? What can be done to balance differing emphases?

4. Why should the United States continue to participate or not participate in the Human Rights Council?





Ted Piccone is a Senior Fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy and the Latin American Initiative at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of Catalysts for Change: How the U.N.'s Independent Experts Promote Human Rights.

Rosa Park is the Director of Programs and Editor at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).


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