The Paris Principles (‘Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions’) set out the minimum standards that NHRIs must meet in order to be considered credible and to operate effectively.
The key pillars of the Paris Principles are pluralism, independence and effectiveness.
The Paris Principles set out requirements in relation to:
- Broad mandate, so that NHRIs are able to promote and protect all human rights
- Broad functions, so that NHRIs are able to deliver on their mandate by providing advice, reporting and monitoring, handling complaints and human rights education, among other “responsibilities”
- Independence from government, set out in legislation or the Constitution
- Pluralism, to ensure that the composition of NHRIs reflects the “social forces (of civilian society) involved in the promotion and protection of human rights”
- Adequate powers, so that NHRIs can initiate inquiries and investigations, gather the evidence and documents they need, consult with NGOs and State institutions and publicise their reports, findings and recommendations
- Adequate resources, so that NHRIs have the funding, staffing, infrastructure and institutional capacity to perform their functions and discharge their responsibilities
- Cooperative work, recognising that effective human rights work requires NHRIs to collaborate with other State institutions, NGOs and civil society groups
- International engagement, so that NHRIs can contribute their knowledge and expertise to international and regional human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Supported by the United Nations
The Paris Principles quickly received broad support within the UN human rights system. They were endorsed by the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly in 1993.
Today, the UN strongly encourages all States to establish or strengthen an NHRI in compliance with the Paris Principles. These calls are found in resolutions of the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, in recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and the treaty monitoring bodies, and in the reports of the special procedures.
The United Nations Secretary General is regularly reporting on the activities of GANHRI in accredited NHRIs. The Secretary General, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have continuously welcomed the important mandate and work GANHRI in accrediting national human rights institutions.
The existence of a Paris Principles compliant NHRI is also an indicator under the Sustainable Development Goals, to measure a State’s progress in implementing the Agenda 2030.
Guidance for NHRIs
GANHRI’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) has developed General Observations on the Paris Principles. The General Observations are authoritative, interpretative statements on the content and scope of the Paris Principles.
They are intended to:
- Assist NHRIs develop their own practices and procedures, consistent with the Paris Principles
- Support advocacy with governments to establish or strengthen NHRIs in compliance with the Paris Principles
- Guide the SCA in decisions on accreditation, re-accreditation and special reviews of NHRIs.