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2. The Human Rights Council as a political space

2.2 Human Rights Council membership

The Human Rights Council is made of 47 member States, which are elected by the majority of the General Assembly of the United Nations through direct and secret ballot.

When electing a State to the Council, the General Assembly takes into account its contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as voluntary pledges and commitments the State has made in this regard.

The Council's Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats are allocated as follows:

Members of the Council are elected for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms (a total of six years).

After six years a State must leave the Council for one year before they can run for election again.


Reflection Questions

Reflection question thought bubble

Take a look at the current membership of the Human Rights Council:

For an alphabetical listing click here.

List by regional group click here.


Q1. Does anything surprise you?

  • Is your country a member?

  • Are there countries you think shouldn’t be allowed to comment on the human rights track record of others?

  • Do you think this impacts on the legitimacy of the outputs of the Council?


Q2. Do you spot any challenges?

  • If your country is not a member, do you think that makes it difficult to influence the Council? Do you think it makes it easier?

  • Do you think the having countries with a bad human rights record as Council members poses any challenges?

  • Do you think it makes it more difficult to ensure that the Council is as progressive as possible in relation to human rights?

  • Are any members of the Council close allies of your country? Does that create a challenge or an opportunity?


Q3. Do you see any opportunities?

  • If your country is a member of the Human Rights Council, does that open up any opportunities? Does membership provide a shield to protect itself from criticism?

  • Are any other members openly critical of your country? Can you use that to your advantage?

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