The idea of establishing national human rights institutions was first conceived in the aftermath of World War II. In 1946, the Economic and Social Council considered the issue of national institutions, two years before the Universal Declaration of Human (UDHR) Rights became the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. Member states were invited to consider establishing information groups or local human rights committees.
In 1978, the Commission on Human Rights organised a seminar which resulted in draft guidelines for the structure and functioning of institutions. The Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly subsequently endorsed the guidelines. The General Assembly invited States to take appropriate steps to establish these institutions, where they did not already exist, and requested the Secretary-General to submit a detailed report on NHRIs.
In 1991, the first international workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights took place in Paris. A key outcome was the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions. Since the Vienna World Conference in 1993, the Paris Principles are now broadly accepted as the test of an institution’s legitimacy and credibility. The importance of establishing and strengthening independent pluralistic NHRIs consistent with the Paris Principles has since been reaffirmed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in various resolutions.
Today there are well over 100 NHRIs operating around the world, 69 of which are accredited by the ICC in full compliance with the Paris Principles.