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2. Special Procedures: Going Deeper

2.1 How Special Procedures are nominated and appointed

This section explains how an individual becomes a UN Special Procedure mandate holder, and examines some of the challenges in ensuring that the profiles of these experts are as diverse as the global population.


When a new mandate holder of a Special Procedure is due to be appointed, the information will be posted on the OHCHR website.

This can happen when a new mandate is created through a resolution of the Human Rights Council, when an individual has served for six years in the mandate or when a mandate holder ends their term early.

Any person can self-nominate by completing an application form on the OHCHR website.

Selection process

After the deadline has passed:

  1.  The OHCHR reviews all applications, removes those that do not meet the minimum requirements, and posts the name and applications of the remaining candidates on the OHCHR website.

  2.  A Consultative Group (made up of five Ambassadors of the Human Rights Council member States, each representing one of the five UN regions) ranks the candidates, interviews approximately five candidates, and then presents the top three candidates to the President of the Human Rights Council.

  3.  The President will usually appoint the first preferred candidate of the Consultative Group, unless the President feels that it is necessary to pick another candidate to ensure a balance (e.g. geographic, gender, etc) across all Special Procedures mandate holders.

You can lobby States to express their support (or not!) to the Consultative Group regarding a candidate for the position of a Special Rapporteur, Independent Expert or member of a Working Group, but the Consultative Group is generally considered to be independent.

Defender Story

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Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is Clément Nyaletsossi Voule.

He started as a human rights defender working in Togo for many years, working with the Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, the Togolese Coalition for the International Criminal Court and Amnesty International Togo. Then, for over a decade, Clément was an ISHR staff member, supporting human rights defenders from States in transition and coordinating the organisation’s work in Africa as the Advocacy Director. He also engaged extensively in regional advocacy, within civil society networks and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Based on his experience, Clément nominated himself for the position of Special Rapporteur, with the support of ISHR, and was successfully appointed in 2018.

Diversity among mandate holders

A group of NGOs have regularly emphasised to the Consultative Group that if Special Procedures are to have meaningful impact, the mandate holders must be experts selected and appointed through a transparent and merit based process, and that they should reflect the diversity of the global population.

For example, at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council:

  • the top choice of the Consultative Group for each of the four appointments to be made was male
  • For one particular mandate, all three nominees selected were male
  • The Consultative Group at the time was entirely comprised of men

As a response to this, the NGOs encouraged the Consultative Group and the President of the Council to use objective criteria in the selection process, and to pay due consideration to geographic and gender diversity. More information here.

Top Tips

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Calling for applications!

If you feel you have the skills, expertise and time to hold a Special Procedures mandate, consider applying! You can nominate yourself to help ensure diversity amongst the mandate holders.

Coming up next

In the next chapter we will explore the different opportunities to engage with the Special Procedures to best deliver the objectives you have.

Learn more

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