National Human Rights Institutions

What are NHRIs?

National human rights institutions (NHRI) can take various forms with the most common types being human rights commissions or ombudsmen, hybrid institutions, consultative and advisory bodies, and other forms of human rights institutes and centers.  Regardless of the form, NHRIs are established to promote and protect human rights.

In 2009, the UN General Assembly Resolution 63/172 recognized that NHRIs “have a crucial role to play in promoting and ensuring the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights…” and encouraged Member States “[t]o consider the creation or the strengthening of independent and autonomous” NHRIs, and “[t]o develop … mechanisms of cooperation between these institutions … in order to coordinate their action, strengthen their achievements and enable the exchange of lessons learned.” In Resolution 65/207 of March 2011, the General Assembly again emphasized NHRIs’ role and encouraged governments to conduct “outreach activities at the national level” to raise awareness about their NHRIs.  The General Assembly has also called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen NHRIs by developing support activities for them.

Similarly in July 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/20/L.15, which specifically recognized NHRIs’ role in promoting and protecting human rights and called on UN Member States to create or strengthen existing NHRIs, using the framework that “is best suited to its particular needs at the national level in order to promote human rights in accordance with international human rights standards.

To achieve their mission of promoting and protecting human rights, NHRIs typically monitor the status of human rights in their country, hear human rights complaints, and educate the public about human rights.

See the following pages for additional information on:

Additional Resources

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides basic information about NHRIs, as well as a UNDP-OHCHR Toolkit that provides a thorough explanation of the different forms of NHRIs, their role in the international and regional arenas, and their role in promoting democracy and development. The full Paris Principles are available online.

The International Coordinating Committee for NHRIs provides extensive information for NHRIs, including up-to-date information about the Committee’s thematic focus areas and information about how to become an accredited NHRI. The International Coordinating Committee’s Directory of National Human Rights Institutions provides an updated list of all NHRIs and their status according to the Paris Principles

The National Human Rights Institutions Database links to NHRI-related materials, including annual reports, thematic guides and studies.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights published a comprehensive report on NHRIs’ involvement in shaping human rights policy and practices in the EU.  The Report is entitled National Human Rights Institutions in the EU Member States: Strengthening the fundamental human rights architecture in the EU.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has published a thematic report in 2011 on NRHIs’ role in promoting and protecting women’s rights.