National Human Rights Institutions

 National human rights institutions are State bodies with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights.

Independent national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a vital role to promote and protect the fundamental rights of all people in their countries. 

They are established by the State, with a broad constitutional or legal mandate. Importantly, they operate independently from the State and from the government.  

NHRIs monitor and report on the human right situation in their country. They assist their State to meet its international human rights obligations and provide advice so that international human rights standards are implemented at the national level. 

NHRIs investigate human rights violations and support victims to seek justice and redress. They also lead human rights education programmes to counter the attitudes and behaviors that can lead to violence and discrimination.  

To be effective and promote long-term change, NHRIs cooperate with partners at the national level and engage with the international human rights system. 

Paris Principles

The Paris Principles set out internationally agreed minimum standards that NHRIs must meet to be considered credible. 

Developed by NHRIs in 1991 and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, the Paris Principles require NHRIs to be independent in law, membership, operations, policy and control of resources.  

The Paris Principles also require that NHRIs have a broad mandatepluralism in membership; broad functionsadequate powersadequate resourcescooperative methods; and engage with international bodies. 

NHRIs may have varying mandates and organisational structures, including: 

  • Human Rights Commissions 
  • Human Rights Ombuds Institutions 
  • Consultative and Advisory Bodies 
  • Institutes and Centres 
  • Hybrid Institutions 

NHRIs are accredited by GANHRI – either as ‘A status’ (full compliance) or ‘B status” (partial compliance) – based on the extent to which they meet the requirements of the Paris Principles. 

NHRI functions 

NHRIs are established with a mandate and powers to promote and protect human rights within their country. This mandate will generally include: 

Prioritising those in situations of vulnerability 

NHRIs have a broad mandate to promote and protect the rights of all people within their country. However, it is important that they prioritise those groups who face greater risk of discrimination, violence and other human rights violations. 

International human rights treaties and declarations identify many of these groups, such as: children; people with disabilities; human rights defenders; indigenous peoples; migrants and migrant workers; older persons; racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural minorities; refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons; and women. 

NHRIs are well placed to identify those groups that are most at risk within their country: through their regular human rights monitoring, by analysing human rights complaint data and by engaging with civil society organisations and other stakeholders.  

NHRIs should ensure their work to promote and protect human rights responds to the concerns of these groups. They should engage specifically with these groups and their representatives and ensure that their NHRI is accessible to these groups. They should also ensure that the NHRI’s regular work and activities – such as complaint handling, monitoring and human rights education  includes a focus on these priority groups. 

GANHRI provides support to member NHRIs and gives visibility to these and other issues, including through our International ConferenceAnnual MeetingsGANHRI Working Groups and facilitating peer-to-peer exchange among NHRIs. 

Collaborating with regional networks 

 To best support our members, GANHRI works closely with the four regional NHRI Networks: 

  • Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) 
  • European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI)
  • Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) 
  • Network of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the American Continent (RINDHCA)