Triggers for urgent action by the United Nations Human Rights Council

This report is a written output of a nine-month long applied research project in association with The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is the foremost body when it comes to human rights. One of its mandates is to address human rights emergencies, which it does through special sessions and urgent debates. This ‘urgent action’ mechanism allows the Council to address emerging human rights crises rather than merely dealing with their aftermath. Yet, the UNHRC addresses human rights emergencies unevenly, giving some regions and situations much more attention than others. In order to understand why, this research seeks to identify “unofficial” triggers that lead to urgent action.

The identification of triggers influencing urgent action at the Council was pursued through the investigation of two cases, namely human rights violations in Myanmar and Ethiopia. Throughout this research, seven triggers were identified:

  1. Intra-council Procedures
  2. Issue Emergence
  3. Transnational Advocacy Networks
  4. Regional Blocs
  5. Geopolitics
  6. Regional and Parallel Human Rights Mechanisms
  7. Communication and Media

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