Australia recently announced its intention to seek election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. The Council is the UN’s peak human rights body. It is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. The Council comprises 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
Phil Lynch, Director of the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva, has noted that Australia's election is far from assured. Even having an exemplary human rights record is no guarantee of victory ‒ as Sweden's recent unsuccessful candidacy demonstrates.
Human rights advocates have raised serious concerns about Australia’s human rights record, including in relation to the off-shore processing of asylum seekers and the high rates of incarceration of Australia’s Indigenous people. Over the next five years, Australia should show that it can implement its human rights commitments and make sure the promotion and protection of human rights plays a more significant role in Australia’s domestic and foreign policy.