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The UN Human Rights Council: A New ‘Society of the Committed’ or Just Old Wine in New Bottles?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2007


This article provides an assessment of the replacement of the UN Commission on Human Rights by the Human Rights Council, with a view to ascertaining whether the human rights architecture of the United Nations is now in better or worse shape. Institutionally, it is unique in that an international organ is dismantled and replaced by a new one for the sake of achieving greater effectiveness. What are the chances for success? For a proper assessment, the article first examines the status, functioning, and falling into disgrace of the UN Commission on Human Rights and, second, reviews the establishment of the new Human Rights Council as part of the UN reform process and identifies the new features of the Council compared with the previous Commission. Third, it discusses the work of the Council in its first year, in particular the extensive June 2007 decision on institution building of the UN Human Rights Council. The article concludes that the Council had a far from fresh and easy start, but that its establishment and functioning so far are not a radical departure from the acquis of the UN human rights regime. The first years of the Council are crucial for solid institution building and functioning credibly in an action-oriented way. The first members on the Council bear the heavy responsibility of seizing this historic opportunity.

© 2007 Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law

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