National Human Rights Institutions

What are NHRIs?

NHRIs are state bodies with constitutional and/or legislative mandates to protect and promote human rights.

While they are part of and funded by the state apparatus, they are nonetheless required to function independently from government in accordance with the Paris Principles.

NHRIs may have varying mandates and organisational structures. However, irrespective of their forms, strong and effective 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. As such, the overarching function of such institutions is to address discrimination in all its forms, as well as to promote the protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Some core functions of NHRIs include complaint handling, human rights education, and making recommendations on legislative reform.


Six models of NHRIs exist across all regions of the world today, namely:

  1. Human Rights Commissions
  2. Human Rights Ombudsman Institutions
  3. Hybrid Institutions
  4. Consultative and Advisory Bodies
  5. Institutes and Centres
  6. Multiple Institutions


The importance of establishing and strengthening independent, pluralistic 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.

National Human Rights Institutions