NHRIs and Human Rights

Role of National Human Rights Institutions

The role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) is multifaceted, and they play a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights within their respective countries.

NHRIs act as independent bodies, established by governments or through legislation, to monitor human rights situations, advise policymakers, advocate for human rights, and ensure that human rights standards are respected, protected, and fulfilled at the national level. Key functions of NHRIs include:

Monitoring and Reporting

NHRIs monitor and assess the human rights situation within their countries. They conduct investigations, research, and fact-finding missions to gather information about human rights violations and challenges. NHRIs produce periodic reports on the state of human rights, identifying areas of concern and providing recommendations for improvement.

Human Rights Education and Awareness

NHRIs conduct human rights education and awareness-raising programs to promote a culture of human rights within society. They aim to inform individuals, communities, and public officials about human rights principles, standards, and obligations. NHRIs also advocate for human rights by speaking out on relevant issues, engaging in public campaigns, and collaborating with civil society organizations and other stakeholders to promote human rights principles and values.

Advisory Role

NHRIs provide advice and recommendations to the government, parliament, and other public institutions on human rights-related matters. They offer guidance on the development of policies, laws, and practices to ensure compliance with international human rights standards. They review make recommendations for improvements in the policy and legal framework or amendments to laws to strengthen human rights protection.

Addressing Individual Complaints

NHRIs receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations from individuals and groups. They provide a mechanism for individuals to seek redress and justice for human rights abuses. In some instances, NHRIs may play a role in mediating human rights-related conflicts and disputes. They act as neutral mediators and facilitate dialogue between parties to find peaceful resolutions to human rights issues.

Engaging with UN Human Rights Mechanisms

NHRIs engage with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council, treaty bodies, and special procedures. They submit reports, contribute to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and collaborate with UN experts to share information and experiences on human rights issues.

Cooperation with Civil Society

NHRIs collaborate with civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and other stakeholders to enhance human rights protection and advocacy efforts. They involve civil society in their work, including through consultations and public hearings.

What are Sub-national Human Rights Institutions?

Sub-national Human Rights Institutions (SNHRIs), also known as Regional Human Rights Institutions, are human rights bodies that operate at the regional or sub-national level within a country. These institutions are established by regional or provincial governments and have a mandate to promote and protect human rights within their respective regions or territories.

SNHRIs exist in countries with a federal or decentralized system of governance, where power and authority are divided between the central government and regional or provincial governments. In such countries, SNHRIs complement the work of the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) by addressing human rights issues that are specific to their regions.

Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is also classified as a sub-national human rights institution.

What are Paris Principles?

The Paris Principles, also known as the “Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions,” were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. The principles provide a set of international standards and guidelines for the establishment and functioning of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). The Paris Principles are a significant development in the field of human rights as they aim to ensure the independence, credibility, and effectiveness of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights at the national level.

Key elements of the Paris Principles


NHRIs must be independent from the government and any other authorities. They should have the authority to conduct their activities without interference and be free from any undue influence or political pressure.


NHRIs should have a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights within their country. This mandate may include monitoring, investigating, and reporting on human rights violations, as well as providing advice and recommendations to the government on human rights matters.

Pluralism and Diversity

NHRIs should be representative and inclusive, reflecting the diversity of the society they serve. They should be accessible to all individuals and communities, irrespective of their background or status.

Adequate Resources

NHRIs must have sufficient financial, human, and material resources to carry out their functions effectively. Adequate resources are essential for NHRIs to fulfill their mandate independently and professionally.

Autonomy and Cooperation

NHRIs should be autonomous in their decisions and operations. While they cooperate with other national and international human rights actors, NHRIs should not be subject to undue influence that compromises their independence.

Accessibility and Visibility

NHRIs should be accessible to the public and promote awareness of human rights. They should actively engage in human rights education and public outreach activities to ensure that people are aware of their rights and how to access the NHRI for support and assistance.

The Paris Principles have become a widely recognized and accepted international standard for the establishment and accreditation of NHRIs.

UN and NHRIs

UN  supports the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs in countries around the world. UN supports them in the implementation of their broad mandates to promote and protect human rights, including:

  • supports efforts for the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs worldwide, with and through UN Human Rights geographic desk officers and field presences, other UN agencies, funds and programmes and regional networks of NHRIs, including through technical cooperation and capacity-building projects for NHRIs;
  • reviews draft laws concerning NHRIs and advises on compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • establishes guidance notes, methodological tools, best practices and lessons learned on issues related to NHRIs;
  • facilitates participation of NHRIs in the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights bodies
  • provides secretariat support to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, including its Sub-Committee on Accreditation and its Bureau;
  • facilitates partnerships between NHRIs and UN Country Teams;
  • supports the interaction of NHRIs with the international human rights system, including treaty bodies, special procedures mechanisms, the HRC/UPR;
  • supports regional and sub-regional networks on NHRIs;
  • drafts the Secretary-General’s and High Commissioner’s reports to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on the Office’s NHRI-related activities.

The relationship between NHRIs and the UN is based on the principle of subsidiarity, where NHRIs play a complementary role to the international human rights mechanisms, particularly at the national level. The active involvement of NHRIs in UN processes contributes to a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to human rights promotion and protection, bridging the gap between international human rights standards and their implementation at the grassroots level.

What is Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions?

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) is an international network that serves as the umbrella organization for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) worldwide. GANHRI’s primary objective is to promote and strengthen NHRIs’ role in the protection and promotion of human rights at the national, regional, and international levels.

Established in 1993, GANHRI was formerly known as the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC). In 2016, the organization adopted its current name, reflecting its expanded scope and focus.

Key functions and responsibilities of GANHRI include:

Accreditation of NHRIs

GANHRI is responsible for accrediting NHRIs as compliant with the Paris Principles. Accreditation is a peer-reviewed process that assesses NHRIs’ compliance with international standards for independence, effectiveness, and credibility. NHRIs that meet the standards are referred to as “A status” institutions.

Capacity-Building and Support

GANHRI provides capacity-building and technical support to NHRIs to enhance their effectiveness in fulfilling their human rights mandate. This support includes training, workshops, and sharing of best practices.

Advocacy and Promotion of NHRIs

GANHRI advocates for the recognition and support of NHRIs at the national, regional, and international levels. It raises awareness about the importance of NHRIs in promoting and protecting human rights and their role in advancing human rights standards globally.

Networking and Collaboration

GANHRI facilitates networking and collaboration among NHRIs, allowing them to share experiences, challenges, and best practices. Through this exchange, NHRIs can learn from each other and strengthen their capacity to address human rights issues effectively.

Engagement with International Human Rights Mechanisms

GANHRI represents NHRIs in international human rights forums and engages with United Nations mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies. GANHRI ensures that the voices and perspectives of NHRIs are heard in global human rights discussions.

Promotion of Human Rights Principles

GANHRI advocates for the promotion and protection of human rights principles, standards, and values. It supports NHRIs in conducting human rights education and awareness-raising initiatives in their respective countries.

Monitoring and Evaluation

GANHRI monitors the performance and compliance of NHRIs with the Paris Principles through regular evaluations and reviews.

GANHRI operates through various regional networks, including the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF), the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI), the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), and the Network of National Human Rights Institutions of the Americas (Red ENNNA).

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