The Human Rights Council, consisting of UN member state representatives elected by the General Assembly, is the key UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights. The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 and replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights. The Council assumed special procedures used by the Commission—including the creation of working groups, special rapporteurs, and special representatives—to monitor, examine, and publicly report on human rights in different states and in relation to specific issues.
The special procedures of the Human Rights Council and former Commission have been used to address the human rights impact of the global private military and security industry. Five special procedure mechanisms are particularly important:
- Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries (1987-2005)
- Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries (2005-Present)
- Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group to Consider an International Regulatory Framework for PMSCs (2010-Present)
- Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (2005-Present)
The Human Rights Council's Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries (full title: Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination), monitors and researches mercenaries and mercenary-related activities in all their manifestations, including companies that provide military and security services. It was established in 2005 to succeed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries which had been in existence since 1987. In 2010, the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries reported to the Human Rights Council on the proposed elements of a possible new international convention to regulate the activities of companies that provide military and security services. In response to that report, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 15/26 by which it established an open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider and elaborate upon the draft convention.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights was appointed in 2005 and tasked with defining the roles and responsibilities of states, companies and other social actors in the business and human rights sphere. When the mandate of the Special Representative ended in 2011, the Human Rights Council established a Working Group to carry on the Special Representative's work and to implement his recommendations. Chief among its responsibilities is to protect the human rights of those affected by corporate activities.