Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.

The Council holds three regular sessions a year, for a total of 10 weeks (4+3+3). The United Nations General Assembly created it in 2006 by resolution 60/251. Its first session took place in 30 June the same year. If one third of the Member States requests so, the Human Rights Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

The work of the Council is supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was established in 1993 and on September 1, 2018 Michelle Bachelet assumed her functions as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, being the seventh Commissioner. The OHCHR is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization, by all people, of all rights established in the Charter of the United Nations and in international human rights laws and treaties. The mandate includes preventing human rights violations, securing respect for all human rights, promoting international cooperation to protect human rights, coordinating related activities throughout the United Nations, and strengthening and streamlining the United Nations system in the field of human rights.

A significant innovation of the Human Rights Council is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It is a unique process based on equal treatment for all countries. There are three UPR sessions per year. The reviews are based on the information prepared by the State concerned, information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and other relevant official United Nations documents, compiled by the OHCHR and the information provided by “other relevant stakeholders”. Estonia has been reviewed twice, on 2 February 2011 and on 19 January 2016. Third review of Estonia is scheduled to take place in January 2021. Estonia has also submitted two voluntary mid-term reports to inform about its steps taken to implement the recommendations from previous cycles.

Expanding the observance of principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law, as well as the development of international law is one of Estonia’s five foreign policy priorities that Estonia follows in its engagement in the Human Rights Council. Estonia was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the years 2013-2015. Our goal was to enhance, via international channels and steps, the protection, promotion and awareness of human rights and fundamental freedoms. More specifically, Estonia continues to concentrate on the protection of the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples, as well as supporting freedom of expression and media, including internet freedom, and fight against impunity.