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Preferences or blocs? Voting in the United Nations Human Rights Council

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Hug Simon, Lukacs Richard, Hug Simon, Lukacs Richard,
Project Understanding Roll Call Vote Requests and their Consequences
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Review of International Organizations
Title of proceedings Review of International Organizations


After four years in operation the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is subject to criticism, and various scholars and practitioners alike present and discuss reform proposals. In the present paper we study systematically the controversial decisions in the UNHRC. We find that controversial proposals are introduced by countries with a blemished human rights record, and that in the votes on these proposals the council members belonging to the European Union (EU) vote very distinctly from the remaining members and have preferences quite different from those member states that violate human rights. Extending an empirical approach frequently used in parliamentary research we can also show that in votes in the UNHRC preferences of member states dominate over their membership to particular blocs. As controversial votes also heavily polarize the UNHRC we argue that the problems faced by the UNHRC's predecessor, namely the Commission on Human Rights, have reappeared.