There are an additional four subsidiary bodies reporting directly to the Human Rights Council.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established by the Human Rights Council in 2007 as a subsidiary body of the Council. It continues the work of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the former Commission on Human Rights. The Expert Mechanism held its first session in Geneva in 2008.
According to the OHCHR, “The Expert Mechanism provides the Human Rights Council with thematic advice, in the form of studies and research, on the rights of Indigenous peoples as directed by the Council.” It may also suggest proposals to the Council for its consideration and approval.
The Expert Mechanism is made up of five independent experts on the rights of indigenous peoples. The experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council with due regard to experts of indigenous origin as well as to gender balance and geographic representation. It holds an annual session, usually in July. [R]epresentatives from states, indigenous peoples, indigenous peoples’ organisations, civil society, inter-governmental organisations and academia take part in these sessions.
The studies and advice of the Expert Mechanism are meant to provide a better understanding of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to propose concrete actions that States, indigenous peoples, civil society, international organizations, national human rights institutions and others can take in order to further its implementation.
The Expert Mechanism’s studies and advice place special emphasis on the participation of indigenous peoples themselves in decisions that affect them. The studies of the Expert Mechanism and its advice seek to advance the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples by clarifying the implications of key principles, such as self-determination and free, prior and informed consent, examining good practices and challenges in a broad array of areas pertaining to indigenous peoples’ rights, and suggesting measures that States and others can adopt at the level of laws, policies and programmes.”
The Expert Mechanism has carried our studies and submitted advice to the Council on the following topics:
- Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Education (2009);
- Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making (2011);
- Indigenous peoples’ languages and cultures (2012);
- Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, with a focus on extractive industries (2012);
- Access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples (2013);
- Restorative justice, indigenous juridical systems and access to justice for indigenous women, children and youth, and persons with disabilities (2014); and
- Promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in disaster risk reduction initiatives (2014)
Additional information on the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is available from OHCHR.
The Forum on Minority Issues was established by the Human Rights Council in 2007 “to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as thematic contributions and expertise to the work of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.” It has a mandate to “identify and analyze best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives for the further implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.”
The Forum meets annually for two days. The President of the Human Rights Council appoints a chairperson for the Forum on the basis of regional rotation and in consultation with regional groups. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Ms Rita Izsák, guides the work of the Forum, prepares its annual meetings and reports on the thematic recommendations of the Forum to the Human Rights Council. NGOs also participate in the Forum.
The Forum has made recommendations to the Human Rights Council on the following topics:
- Minorities and the right to education (2008);
- Minorities and effective political participation (2009);
- Minorities and effective participation in economic life (2010);
- Guaranteeing the rights of minority women and girls (2011);
- Implementing the United Nations Declaration on Minority Rights: Identifying positive practices and opportunities (2012);
- Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities (2013); and
- Preventing and addressing violence and atrocity crimes targeted against minorities (2014)
Additional information on the Forum is available from OHCHR.
The Social Forum is an annual three-day meeting convened by the Human Rights Council. It is defined as a unique space for open and interactive dialogue between civil society actors, representatives of Member States, and intergovernmental organizations, on a theme chosen by the Council each year.
The Social Forum under the Human Rights Council continues the work of the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the main subsidiary body of the former Commission on Human Rights. The Social Forum held its first session in 2002.
According to the OHCHR, “In setting the theme and focus of discussion for each Forum, the Human Rights Council underlines the importance of coordinated efforts at national, regional and international levels for the promotion of social cohesion based on the principles of social justice, equity and solidarity as well as of addressing the social dimension and challenges of the on-going globalization process. The debates are steered by a Chairperson-Rapporteur, appointed every year by the Human Rights Council from candidates nominated by regional groups, who is responsible for leading the discussions.
The Social Forum is open to the participation of representatives of United Nations Member States and all other interested stakeholders including intergovernmental organizations, different components of the United Nations system, representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, and representatives of other non-governmental organizations, whose aims and purposes are in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The Forum is also open to the participation of emerging actors, such as: small groups and rural and urban associations from the North and the South; anti-poverty groups; peasants’ and farmers’ organizations and their national and international associations; voluntary service organizations; youth associations; grassroots organizations, trade unions and associations of workers, among others.
Since 2008, the Social Forum has focused on the following themes:
- Eradication of poverty and social dimension of the globalization process (2008);
- Impacts of economic and financial crises on efforts to combat poverty (2009);
- Adverse effects of climate change on human rights (2010);
- Promotion of the right to development (2011);
- People-centered development and globalization (2012);
- The rights of older persons (2014); and
- Access to medicines in the context of the right to health (2015).
For 2016 the Human Rights Council has decided that the Social Forum “should focus on the promotion and full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities in the context of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Additional information on the Social Forum is available from OHCHR.
The Human Rights Council established the Forum on Business and Human Rights in 2011. According to the OHCHR, “The Forum provides a global platform for the promotion and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
The Guiding Principles “are a set of 31 principles directed at States and companies that clarify their duties and responsibilities to protect and respect human rights in the context of business activities and to ensure access to an effective remedy for individuals and groups affected by such activities. According to the framework [for the Guiding Principles]:
- All States have a duty to protect everyone within their jurisdiction from human rights abuses committed by companies.
- Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights—i.e., avoid infringing on the rights of others wherever they operate and whatever their size or industry, and address any impact that does occur. This responsibility exists independently of whether States fulfil their obligations.
- When abuses occur, victims must have access to effective remedy, through judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.”
These Guiding Principles were unanimously endorsed in 2011 by the Council and are “the first globally accepted standards on the responsibilities of States and businesses for preventing and addressing business-related human rights abuse.”
The Forum operates under the direction of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights “which is responsible for examining the trends and challenges of the application of Guiding Principles and promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues related to business and human rights. The Forum takes place each year for 2 days and NGO’s with ECOSOC consultative status can participate.”
“The Forum is open to all relevant stakeholder groups, including States, the wider United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional organisations, businesses, labour unions, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, and affected stakeholders, among others.”
The Forum held its fourth and most recent annual meeting in November 2015 in Geneva. Building on the previous meetings, the fourth annual Forum focused on:
- Strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue and engagement;
- Discussing effective ways to measure and report on progress to implement the Guiding Principles;
- Discussing national action plans to implement the Guiding Principles;
- Exploring access to effective remedy; and
- Examining current practice of States and business enterprises and “unpacking” what implementation of the Guiding Principles means in concrete areas.
Additional information on the Forum is available from OHCHR.