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The UN Human Rights Council

A Practical Anatomy

Eric Tistounet

Since its establishment the work of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has been subject to many interpretations, theories, comments or conclusions. This comprehensive book dissects every aspect of the UNHRC’s work and analyses the efficiency of, and interactions between, its mechanisms. Authored by the first Secretary of the UNHRC, this book provides unique practitioner insights into the complex decision making processes of the Council alongside the core variations from its predecessor. This book is the outcome of a six-months research fellowship carried out by the author at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
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Chapter 3: The Human Rights Council governance: the role and functions of the President and his/her Bureau

Eric Tistounet


A human or animal body requires a nervous system to ensure coordination of its main components, send proper signals or instructions, ensure a high-level analysis of the tasks to be performed, some being of a repetitive nature, others being far more sophisticated, and ensure a proper scrutiny of the steps to be taken to keep the body alive and more importantly to ensure that it evolves and reproduces in a proper manner. The nervous system detects environmental changes that impact the body. A Human Rights Council analogy needs to consider the Council governance, namely its President and Bureau, with a view to determine its functions from the most usual and mundane to the most sophisticated and unusual ones. The functions of the Council President and his/her Bureau are usually described succinctly and considered to be quite obvious and limited to issues of a procedural and organizational nature. This is after all what the institutions-building package recalls in its paragraph 1141 and the Council’s Rule 10. It is also in line with the practice of most UN intergovernmental bodies as described in Rules 103–107 of the General Assembly Rules of Procedures. However, reality is very far from this formal description.

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