The Czech Republic has a long-term reputation as a state striving for respect for human rights worldwide. Last year, it succeeded in the very heart of human rights protection, the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN Human Rights Council (hereinafter “the Council”) is the pivotal human rights body of the United Nations (hereinafter “the UN”). It is an intergovernmental body based in Geneva, Switzerland, whose main task is to prevent and address human rights violations, cooperate in international law development, and conduct the Universal Periodic Review.[1]

Established in 2006, the Council comprises 47 UN member states. Members of the Council are elected by the UN General Assembly for a three-year term, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. In addition to its current membership, the Czech Republic was a member of the Council in the years 2006–2007, 2011–2014, and 2019–2021. The meetings of the Council are convened and chaired by its president, who is elected by the Council members for a term of one year. The president also appoints special rapporteurs, members of commissions of inquiry, and represents the Council in the UN before the media and the public.

Czech Republic’s support of Ukraine in the UN

Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February 2022, the Czech Republic immediately stood up for Ukraine. Its political leaders strongly condemned the Russian aggression and began to take steps to support Ukraine. 

At the end of February and the beginning of March of 2022, the Czech Republic supported the Permanent Mission of Ukraine in Geneva’s request to hold an emergency meeting of the Council. Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Lipavský, condemned Russia’s actions in his speech to the Council as a “flagrant violation of international law and the core principles of the international rules-based global security framework”.[2] He repeated these words and supported Ukraine at the Conference on Disarmament.

Together with 140 other member states, the Czech Republic voted at an extraordinary special session of the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

Replacing Russia in the Council

In its April 2022 meeting, the UN General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Council. Hence an empty place was left in the Council, which needed to be filled by one of the Group of Eastern European States.[3] 

On the 10th of May 2022, the Czech Republic was elected to the Council by the UN General Assembly. One hundred fifty-seven members voted for its membership; 23 members abstained. The Czech membership started immediately with the election and will last until the end of 2023.

Both the Czech Prime Minister and Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed the election. Prime Minister Petr Fiala stated: “I consider it important that our country advocates for respect for human rights, and I welcome the opportunity to do so on the international stage”.[4] Minister Lipavský saw the replacement of Russia as a symbolic act.

In addition to addressing human rights violations connected to the war in Ukraine, the Czech Republic intended to address media freedom, freedoms of assembly and association, and support for non-governmental organizations within the Council.

Intention to Preside over the Council

In the summer of 2022, Minister Lipavský decided the Czech Republic would apply for the presidency of the Council. Concerning this application, the minister has stated that “the Czech Republic traditionally plays a very active role in the Council. A successful candidacy would further strengthen the Czech Republic's significant human rights profile”.[5]

Historic Success of the Czech Republic in the UN

At the beginning of December 2022, the status of the Czech Republic as one of the leading human rights drivers was confirmed. The intention of the Minister Jan Lipavský proved to be successful, as the Council elected Václav Bálek, Czech ambassador, to be its 2023 president.

Václav Bálek, who has been the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva since August 2021, replaced Federico Villegas from Argentina in the function. 

Czech Presidency over the Council

In his acceptance speech,[6] Václav Bálek has announced three key priorities for his presidency (“three P”). With the first “P” (prevention), he pointed to the Council’s preventive mandate, consisting of its task of participating in the prevention of human rights violations. The second “P” (participation), emphasized the importance of supporting the involvement of all relevant actors in the Council’s activities, e.g., small states or civil society. Lastly, through the third “P” (progress in efficiency), he expressed his determination to contribute to the greater efficiency of the Council’s work.

Czech people sometimes call our country “small”. However, the immediate steps taken by Czech diplomacy after the Russian aggression towards Ukraine and its confident and decisive work in the Council proves this label wrong. I believe that the Czech Republic currently belongs with the world leaders in human rights protection and is a reliable democratic partner. This proves that even a small country in size can play a big role on the international stage.



[1] Universal Periodic Review is an intergovernmental procedure evaluating the human rights situation in UN member states.

[2] Lipavský, J. (2022, March 1). Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic H. E. Mr. Jan Lipavský 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 1 March 2022 [official speech]. Retrieved from

[3] The Group of Eastern European States is one of the five UN regional groups. It consists of 23 UN members, six of which are members of the Council. The group includes the Czech Republic, Georgia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Romania, and Ukraine.

[4] Fiala, P. (2022, May 10). Tweet [social media post].  Retrieved from

[5] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (2022, June). Česko kandiduje na předsednictví Rady OSN pro lidská práva [press release].…

[6] Bálek, V. (2022, December 9). Speech by H. E. Ambassador Václav Bálek upon being elected as President of the UN Human Rights Council for the year 2023 [official speech]. Retrieved from 


Nováková, V. (2022). Aktuality české sekce. Bulletin lidských práv, XIV. (5), 31-33. Retrieved from…

Ochodková, K. (2022). Aktuality české sekce. Bulletin lidských práv, XIV. (6), 47-49. Retrieved from

Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations at Geneva (2022, May). Czech Republic elected to the Human Rights Council [press release]. Retrieved from geneva/cz/lidska_prava/rada_osn_pro_lidska_prava/ cr_do_rlp_2023.html.

Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations at Geneva (2022, December). Permanent representative Václav Bálek elected as President of the UN Human Rights Council for 2023 [press release]. Retrieved from…

United Nations Human Rights Council. About HRC – Welcome to the Human Rights Council. Retrieved from


The Seat of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland. UN Geneva Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, author: Ludovic Courtès, 5 August 2015, source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, edit: cut.