The Human Rights Council One Year On: Are We Any Better Off?

A year ago, the United Nations General Assembly established a new Council to address human rights issues to replace the commission created at the UN’s founding, on the premise that a different structure could strengthen the UN’s efforts to protect human rights. The results during the Human Rights Council’s first year have disappointed many of its early advocates, and some are beginning to ask whether effective action to defend human rights worldwide is possible in any global political body.

From June 11-18, 2007, the Council held its 5th session, with a focus on finalizing institutional reforms, including negotiations on Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review, and a review of mandates. Reforms enacted at this session greatly impact the future direction of the Council. Newly elected members of the Council began their term on June 19, 2007—a good moment to take stock.

The Century Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and Open Society Institute sponsored a luncheon roundtable, “The Human Rights Council One Year On: Are We Any Better Off?” Around the table were individuals who have been closely involved in or following developments within the Council, with discussion led by:

  • Morton H. Halperin, Executive Director of U.S. Advocacy for the Open Society Institute;
  • Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations;
  • Lawrence Moss, Special Counsel to Human Rights Watch
  • Yvonne Terlingen, Representative of Amnesty International at the United Nations.

The discussion, moderated by Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, covered the approach the Council has taken to human rights issues before it, the items currently on the Council’s agenda, the results of 5th Session negotiations, and the broader questions about an intergovernmentalpolicy body’s most effective means of influencing state behavior.

An event summary is available on The Century Foundation website.


United Nations Delegates Dining Room
United Nations Headquarters
46th Street and 1st Avenue
New York, NY

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Date: June 19, 2007
Time: 1:003:00 p.m.

New York City

Morton Halperin, Jeffrey Laurenti, Lawrence Moss, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, and Yvonne Terlingen