Event information

9 December 2016, 12:30-14:30


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Universality in the Human Rights Council


Human Rights Council: a general view of the room XX during the 31st regular opening of session, Geneva, Switzerland Human Rights Council: a general view of the room XX during the 31st regular opening of session, Geneva, Switzerland

The principle of human rights (HR) universality is one of the core principles defined in the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). How does this principle articulate with other key HR concepts including equality, respect for diversity and the indivisibility and interdependence of HR?

To commemorate Human Rights Day and the 10th Anniversary of the HRC, panelists at this event will explore how the HRC has developed the concept of universality and responded to the contemporary challenges to the universal application of international HR law.

These challenges include those related to cultural relativism and to appeals to exempt states from the reach of human rights guarantees due to their particular economic or security contexts. Broader issues of universality in relation to HR work in the field and the impact and development of this concept in daily practice are also explored.

Specific examples of the HRC’s discussions in connection with counter terrorism and HR, the right to development and the rights of marginalised groups, including LGBTI persons and migrants, will be used to illustrate the ways in which the institution is approaching universality.


Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni, Research Fellow, Geneva Academy

Professor Lyal S. Sunga, Visiting Professor, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

H.E. Ambassador Keith Harper, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the UN Human Rights Council



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