Australia: member of the United Nations Human Rights Council 2018-2020

Australia on the United Nations Human Rights Council 2018-2020

On 16 October 2017, in New York, the United Nations General Assembly elected Australia to serve on the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2018-20 term. The 47-member HRC is the UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the world. Australia’s inaugural membership reflects our steadfast commitment to the aims and purposes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Australian Government’s commitment to speak honestly and consistently for the advancement of human rights internationally.

Since taking up HRC membership in 2018, Australia has been an active and constructive member of the HRC. We have focused our efforts on pursuing Australia’s priority areas for advancing human rights (see Pillars and Priorities). We have engaged closely on country situations and made robust statements in response to human rights situations of concern, in our region and beyond.

Video: Australia's HRC membership

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Footage supplied with thanks to the Department of Defence, the Department of Social Services, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the High Court of Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pacific Sports Partnerships, and the Parliament of Australia.

International Human Rights Day

Media Release

10 December 2019

On 10 December 2019, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne issued a media release marking International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN General Assembly in 1948, 71 years ago. Australia was one of eight nations to help draft the Declaration, and was an original signatory.

Foreign Minister Payne Speech to the US Studies Centre – ‘Ensuring Security, Enabling Prosperity’

29 October 2019

FM Marise Payne speaking at lecturn
Minister Payne gives her speech to the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Photo credit: USSC.

In a speech delivered at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney on 29 October 2019, Foreign Minister Payne emphasised Australia’s commitment to advancing human rights globally, including as a member of the HRC.

Read the full speech here.

Australia leads Joint Statement on Saudi Arabia

23 September 2019

On 23 September 2019, Australia delivered a joint statement on human rights in Saudi Arabia on behalf of 25 countries at the 42nd Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

Read the full statement here: [Word 20 KB] | [PDF 77 KB].

This statement reiterated concerns which had been expressed by Foreign Minister Payne in her statement to the High-Level Segment at the 40th HRC session on 25 February 2019.

Statement on Abolition of the Death Penalty

13 September 2019

At the recently concluded 42nd HRC session, Australia worked closely with other member states to support a resolution on the death penalty, and on 13 September 2019 delivered a national statement calling on all states to abolish the death penalty.

These actions reflect Australia’s 2018 Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was launched by Foreign Minister Payne in Canberra on 15 October 2018, in a ceremony attended by parliamentarians and civil society advocates.

Read the national statement here: [Word 122 KB] | [PDF 465 KB]

For more information on Australia’ death penalty strategy, see the Death Penalty Strategy page. You can read the strategy here.

Foreign Minister Payne addresses the HRC’s High Level Segment at HRC40

25 February 2019

FM Marise Payne delivering a speech
Foreign Minister Payne at the Palais des Nations in Geneva addressing the High-Level Segment of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 25 February 2019. Photo credit: DFAT/ Christian Bonzon.

Foreign Minister Payne represented Australia at the High Level Segment of the 40th Human Rights Council session in Geneva on 25 February 2019.

Minister Payne delivered Australia’s national statement to the HRC High Level Segment, which reaffirmed Australia’s human rights priorities and reiterated our concerns over key human rights situations. The statement reiterated the five key pillars which guide Australian advocacy on the Council.

FM Marise Payne(right) and Sally Mansfield(left)
Foreign Minister Payne with Ambassador Sally Mansfield at the Palais des Nations in Geneva preparing to address the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 25 February 2019. Photo credit: DFAT/ Christian Bonzon.

Launch of Australia’s inaugural Human Rights Council Membership

7 February 2018

Australia’s HRC membership was launched by then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at Parliament House on Wednesday 7 February 2018, in the presence of Slovenia’s Ambassador to Australia, Her Excellency Ms Helena Drnovsek Zorko. Slovenia held the HRC Presidency in 2018.

See caption.
Then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop (centre) with Human Rights Commissioner Mr Edward Santow, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr Alastair McEwin, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Ambassador of Slovenia HE Ms Helena Drnovsek Zorko, National Children’s Commissioner Ms Megan Mitchell and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Ms Kate Jenkins. Photo credit: DFAT/Patrick Taylor.

The reception celebrated Australia’s inaugural membership with attendance by representatives from member-nations of the HRC, commissioners from the Australian Human Rights Commission, parliamentarians and civil society organisations.

Australia’s then-Governor-General, His Excellency the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), gave Australia’s inaugural address to the HRC as a member, on 26 February 2018.

As the first country from the Pacific region to serve on the Council, Australia (along with newer Pacific members Fiji and the Republic of the Marshall Islands) is working to amplify the voices of our neighbours and highlight collection actions undertaken in the Pacific.

Last Updated: 13 February 2020