Human Rights & International Legal Discourse vol:10 issue:2 pages:219-247
The UN Human Rights Council was established to remedy the alleged politicisation of its predecessor. Despite the institutional changes made, commentators have observed that regional and political blocs continue to steer the agenda and that the way the Council addresses human rights violations continues to be rife with selectivity and double standards. In this article we aim to identify the thematic issues which shape the political dynamics – specii cally, bloc formation and factionalism – of the Human Rights Council, focusing on the six regional and political groups that dominate its agenda. Based on the sponsorship of resolutions tabled in the Council, we observe deep fault lines – particularly between ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ countries – on some of the fundamental questions of international human rights law. In particular, the controversial debates around ‘third generation’ rights, racism and racial discrimination, defamation of religions, the rights of LGBTI persons and the adoption of country resolutions indicate profound controversies with regard to the identity of the duty bearers and rights holders, the universality or relativity of human rights, and the mandate of the Human Rights Council. Nevertheless, we also observe internal divisions within groups, as well as a growing number of cross-regional initiatives, which highlight the importance of a nuanced understanding of the dynamics that drive policy formation in the Human Rights Council.