How the UN’s new Human Rights Council works

GENEVA, June 19, 2006 (AFP) – The new UN Human Rights Council, which started its first-ever session here Monday, is made up of 47 nations who pledged before they were elected to respect international human rights standards. The body aims to be more effective than the widely-criticised UN Commission on Human Rights, which was disolved in March.

Created by UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 on March 15, the Council is responsible for promoting and upholding respect for human rights.

It is meant to act as a worldwide watchdog against abuses and propose solutions to end them.

The Council will meet at least three times a year for a total of at least ten weeks, unlike the Commission which gathered for only six weeks for a single annual session in March and April.

In addition, the Council will be able to hold emergency sessions to tackle pressing crises.

The 47 countries on the Council, proposed by the different regional groups within the UN, were each elected last month by an absolute majority of the world body’s 191 states.

Membership of the Council lasts for three years and countries cannot sit for more than two consecutive terms.