The Role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are mandated State bodies established under a constitutional/legislative act to protect and promote human rights domestically. They operate independently from the Government. 

The UN Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights set out minimum international standards for the establishment of NHRIs. Full compliance with the Paris Principles provides NHRIs with international recognition.

NHRIs have two core responsibilities:

Human rights promotion
  • Advising on the compliance of national laws and practices with all international human rights norm;
  • Advising government, parliament and other public bodies to address core human rights concerns, as well as to eradicate all forms of discrimination
  • Promoting a culture of rights, through training and awareness raising activities on a variety of issues;
  • Publishing research, recommendations and opinions.
Human rights protection
  • Monitoring and investigating the human rights situation on the ground;
  • Some NHRIs provide support for individuals to enforce their rights through complaints handling;
  • Providing support for individuals to enforce their rights through legal assistance;
  • Supporting the work of Human Rights Defenders to combat issues related to all areas of human rights.



NHRIs can have direct impact throughout the UPR process by: 

  • Cooperating with national and international stakeholders and the international human rights system; 
  • Contributing to human rights implementation.

Further, they can play an active role at all stages of the UPR by:

  • Acting as a bridge between the State under Review (SuR), other UPR stakeholders and the HRC;
  • Providing independent and authoritative information (reporting); 
  • Sharing best practice examples and lessons learned on UPR engagement;
  • Providing advice to the Government on UPR recommendations;
  • Monitoring the implementation of UPR recommendations;
  • Raising UPR awareness at the national level and encouraging domestic actors to take part in the process;
  • Delivering  human rights training.

Cooperating with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is an integral part of the mandate of NHRIs as per the Paris Principles. CSOs operate at the grass-roots level and have local information that may not be readily available to NHRIs. Hence, coordination between NHRIs and CSOs, particularly in terms of international advocacy and reporting, is essential to the effectiveness of initiatives.

Given their specific role in the national human rights framework, NHRIs often collaborate with UN agencies and mandate-holders, academia, media and parliamentarians. The relationship between parliamentarians and NHRIs is outlined in detail in the Belgrade Principles.