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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission celebrates 25th anniversary

01 Mar 2024

On 1 March the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The Commission was created in 1999 following commitments made in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and in accordance with provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It was the first National Human Rights Institution in the United Kingdom and on the island of Ireland. It was also the first to achieve A status recognition from the United Nations for operating in full compliance with the Paris Principles (UN General Assembly resolution 48/134).

Over 25 years the Commission has fulfilled its mandate providing advice to governments in Westminster and Stormont ensuring that legislation affecting Northern Ireland is compliant with human rights law; it has exercised legal powers in the courts to challenge incompatible laws and the actions of government departments and other public authorities when there have been violations; it has investigated systemic issues concerning public policy and service provision to improve compliance; and, it has promoted a greater understanding of human rights for everyone within society. In partnership with its equivalent institution in Ireland, the Commission has also had a globally unique mandate through a joint committee to consider human rights issues affecting human rights on the island across both jurisdictions.

The remit of the Commission has also increased over 25 years to include its designation as part of the United Kingdom Independent Monitoring Mechanism for the United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. More recently, it has been mandated under the Windsor Framework (formerly the Ireland/NI Protocol) to oversee that the rights protected in the ‘Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity’ chapter of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement are not diminished as a result of United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. It is also tasked with monitoring the commitment that if certain European Union equality laws are changed after 1 January 2021 to improve the protection of human rights, that Northern Ireland will keep pace with those changes.

Reflecting on the work and achievements of the Commission, Alyson Kilpatrick, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said:

“Human rights were an integral component of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and were recognised as vital in the efforts to address discrimination, inequalities, and build a reformed, peaceful, and just society. The Commission has had an important job to monitor, advise and challenge government in pursuing this vision.

"Over 25 years, the Commission has been instrumental in bringing about changes that have protected a wide range of human rights. There is no doubt that considerable progress has been made during that time. We are grateful to the work of all the Commissioners and staff for their valued contributions. Much of the changes we have seen have only been made possible by the strong network of civil society organisations that partner and support our work. We thank them for their engagement with the Commission and recognise their vital role as human rights defenders.

"Many challenges remain and having a strong and independent National Human Rights Institution is just as important today as it was when first envisaged. The measure of a Commission for the next 25 years will continue to be when it shines light on issues affecting those who are most marginalised and when it acts in defence of the most vulnerable people in society. At the same time, we must continue to champion the commitment of universal human rights for all.”


Notes to editors

About the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission:

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (the Commission) was created in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, an Act of the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament. This Act followed the Belfast (Good Friday) peace agreement. The Commission’s powers have been extended by the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (the 2007 Act) and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The Commission is accountable to the Westminster Parliament but it can also be requested by the regional government, the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive and Assembly, to give advice on human rights matters.

For information about our mandate and statutory functions please visit our website:

Examples of our legal work:

Examples of our investigations:

Sports and Business Human Rights Forums

  • The Sports forum is a multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and good practice on sport and human rights issues.
  • Our Business Forum It is a multi-stakeholder platform which allows Government, business, and civil society to engage on business and human rights.

About our Annual Statement

The Commission’s Annual Statement is a detailed report assessing the state of human rights in Northern Ireland, which is published each year.

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