Prevention: operationalization of the Council’s prevention mandate (paragraph 5f GA res. 60/251)

The Human Rights Council’s mandate to respond to human rights violations, including gross and systematic violations – as set down in operative paragraph 3 of GA resolution 60/251 – is well known. Less well known, but equally important, is the Council’s mandate to prevent such violations from happening in the first place and to respond promptly to emerging crises. 

Firstly, paragraph 5f begins by calling upon the Council to work, ‘through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations.’ In other words, the Council is mandated to prevent human rights violations before they ever occur, by building domestic human rights capacity and resilience and by focusing on root causes.

Second, under the latter part of paragraph 5f, the Council is mandated to ‘respond promptly to human rights emergencies.’ In other words, where primary prevention fails and where there are early warning signs of emerging patterns of human rights violations, the Council should act quickly to reach out to the State (and region) concerned to prevent a widening or deepening of the crisis.

Third, paragraph 5f is clear that the Council can and should ‘contribute’ to prevention. That means any new policy framework operationalizing paragraph 5f must not be seen in isolation, but as part of a coherent UN-wide prevention agenda.

Notwithstanding this clear and explicit mandate, and eleven years after the Council’s establishment, member States are yet to put in place an explicit and coherent policy framework (e.g. a strategy, dedicated processes, tailored mechanisms) to fulfil the body’s prevention mandate.

Starting in 2017, the Universal Rights Group is implementing a project that has the broader objective of promoting the operationalisation of the Human Rights Council’s prevention mandate.