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1. Understanding the Human Rights Council

1.3 What can the Human Rights Council do for you?

The Human Rights Council has many different aspects that overlap and combine to support the work of defenders.

This section explains the functions of the HRC with metaphors to show practical ways the HRC can support you in your work.

Multi-purpose tool

Think of the Council as a single tool with many purposes. Some tools provide a more frequent and broad use, others are more niche ones that are very useful in specific circumstances, but are less widely used.

An example of a specialist element of the Council is the Complaints Mechanism (which looks into grave and systematic human rights violations and is completely confidential) and the Advisory Committee (which the Council can ask to research an issue and make recommendations, but is made up of States rather than human rights experts).

Examine issues in-depth

The Council examines human rights issues in-depth via a combination of written reports, panels, and the experts (‘Special Procedures’) it mandates to examine different human rights issues and situations.

Raise the Alarm

The Council raises an alarm about urgent human rights crisis through its special sessions. These provide a space for States to come together to agree on a concrete action or response.


The Human Rights Council provides inspiration. It is a place to hear and make connections with like-minded people and get new ideas by finding out what other human rights defenders have done.


The Council can provide protection through greater awareness of an issue. When States or the President of the Council highlight individual cases, this can make the people and communities concerned safer. However be mindful that this protection is limited.


The Council provides a history by documenting and archiving stories and human rights situations. This collective memory amplifies the voice of defenders and can be used in the future to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable.

Not sure if the Human Rights Council is the right tool for you?

There's much more information to come on how the Human Rights Council can be used to strengthen your advocacy.

If you want to already check if there might be another mechanism better suited to your needs, you can use the document below to quickly compare the Council to other UN human rights mechanisms.

Through this learning module we will show in detail how to make the Human Rights Council your go to tool to support you in your vital work.

Learn more

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