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Equality and Human Rights Commission Background

The Equality and Human Rights Commission replaced the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and Disability Rights Commission (DRC). It came into being in 2007 amidst vocal opposition from across the political spectrum to the Human Rights Act, the increasing influence of human rights legislation emanating from the European Court of Human Rights and the legislative project that would eventually become the Equality Act 2010.

The transition from the three legacy commissions it replaced was difficult, but recently the EHRC has begun to take strides towards finding its distinctive institutional voice on the national stage. However, it continues to be buffeted by powerful political crosswinds, and it has remained largely peripheral to mainstream debate.

In 2009 the Commission joined the family of 66 ‘A’ status accredited National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at the United Nations, becoming Great Britain’s first accredited NHRI and the UK’s second – joining the Northern Ireland Human Rights Institution which was awarded ‘A’ status in 2006.

The EHRC forms part of a worldwide community of NHRIs.  Over the past twenty years national human rights commissions and human rights ombudsmen have emerged in every continent and subregion of the world.  This institutional innovation is broadly defined as a body which is established by a government under the constitution, or by law or decree, the functions of which are specifically designed in terms of the promotion and protection of human rights. 

Accounts of the number of NHRIs now in existence vary from around 120 to 178, established in approximately 130 countries. By conservative measures, since 1990 the population of NHRIs has witnessed a staggering fifteen-fold increase (at the rate of over five new institutions established per year).

For more information on NHRIs see here.