National Human Rights Institutions
National human rights institutions are State bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights.
National human rights institutions (NHRIs) are independent bodies, established by the state, with a broad constitutional or legal mandate to promote and protect human rights domestically.
NHRIs may have varying mandates and organisational structures. They are unique as they are the only independent human rights institutions accredited with an internally recognised accreditation process, based on the UN Paris Principles.
NHRI functions or activities are described in the Paris Principles as “responsibilities” and they require NHRIs with two main responsibilities: Human rights promotion and Human rights protection. National human rights institutions have a mandate to undertake these functions and to issue views, recommendations or even seek remedies before the courts.
Most importantly, National human rights institutions ensure that States meet their international obligations and that all efforts are made to implement them at the national level.
As independent entities, NHRIs are critical links between government and civil society insofar as they address the ‘protection gap’ between the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of the state.
Despite being state–mandated bodies, NHRIs are nonetheless required to function independently from government in accordance with the Paris Principles.
Independence is among the most important principles as it is crucial for the effectiveness of the institution’s mandate.
The importance of establishing and strengthening independent, pluralistic, well-resourced and autonomous NHRIs, consistent with the Paris Principles, has since been reaffirmed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in various resolutions.
The most recent ones are resolution A/RES/72/181 adopted by the General Assembly in October 2017, resolution A/HRC/RES/39/17 adopted by the Human Rights Council in September 2018 and resolution A/RES/74/156 adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2019.
From the two central roles of promotion and protection of human rights derive a number of responsibilities and functions:
- Advising the Government and parliament so that laws and polices are in line with international human rights standards;
- Monitoring and reporting on human rights violations
- Cooperating with:
- National stakeholders, civil society, NHRIs from other countries, and with regional bodies;
- The international human rights system;
- Protecting and promoting the rights of groups at risk, including those who are most vulnerable;
- Complaint handling
- Delivering Human rights education and promotion programmes
In order to ensure a fair balance of regional representation on GANHRI, the following regions, and their respective Regional Networks are recognised as representing NHRIs at the regional level.
These networks are:
- The Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI);
- The Network of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Americas (RINDHCA);
- The Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF); and
- The European Network of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ENNHRI)