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UN seeks human rights experts

The United Nations wants to hear about people suited to the top human rights positions known as ‘Special Procedures mandate-holders’.  Also called Special Rapporteurs, Special Representatives or Independent Experts, or appointed to Working Groups, these leading experts investigate human rights violations and their causes.

There are presently 13 country mandates concerned with the human rights record of Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, DR Congo, Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, North Korea, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.  These experts serve for a year at a time.

The 28 thematic mandates, held for 3 years each, vary from the right to housing and education, to the impact of transnational corporations and counter-terrorism on human rights.

The Special Procedures system is under review by the UN Human Rights Council.  A new system of appointing mandate-holders requires a roster of suitable candidates from all over the world (Resolution 5/1).  Governments are encouraged to publicise and consult widely before proposing names.  Anyone can submit a name for the roster, however, so if you have someone in mind, consider these 4 criteria (elaborated by Amnesty International):

1. Relevant education or professional experience;
proficiency in English, French and/or Spanish.

A university degree in a discipline related to human rights (not necessarily specific to any one mandate).

Published on human rights issues relevant to at least one of the mandates.

2. Knowledge of international human rights law and institutions;
proven work experience in the field of human rights.

Ability to conduct both academic and field research.

Extensive experience in critically analysing quantitative and qualitative data, to review individual cases as well as identifying trends and making effective recommendations.

3. Nationally, regionally or internationally recognized competence related to human rights.

Familiarity with the international and regional legal frameworks relevant to at least one of the mandates.

Well-informed about the work of the Human Rights Council and the Special Procedures.

4. Availability to perform the functions of the mandate, including attending Human Rights Council sessions.

Experienced in public speaking, particularly communicating with the media, governments and other relevant stakeholders.

Demonstrated commitment to human rights in general and in particular to at least one of the mandates.

Able to travel and devote a substantial amount of time.

These positions are unpaid, with expenses covered and administrative support provided.  Most mandates involve two or three country visits per year, in addition to trips to Geneva and report writing.

Nomination forms are available for you to download and send to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by e-mail:


By fax:

+41 (0) 22 917 9011

Or by post:

HRC Secretariat, c/o Orest Nowosad
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Room PW 4-093
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Tel: +41 (0)22 917 9223

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