The first step in the correct approach to doing research in the United Nations human rights system is to divide it into its two main functional components: the Charter-based bodies and the treaty-based bodies. These two main elements are bridged by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is a department of the United Nations Secretariat.
The next step in the correct approach is to become proficient in the use of the OHCHR's website. The OHCHR website marks a major advance in United Nations human rights research. By clicking on the link "Human Rights Bodies", it is possible to do research that tracks the bipartite functional structure described above.
Under "Charter-based bodies" are found links to the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Under "Treaty-based bodies" are found links to the nine committees that monitor implementation of the core human rights agreements in the U.N. system.
It is important to remember that human rights are considered by the United Nations as a "cross cutting priority". This means that human rights are supposed to be taken into account in virtually everything the United Nations does, and so could be taken up by any of the United Nations organs, programs, or activities. For example, the United Nations Global Compact is in part a human rights initiative that takes place outside the established mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system. The purpose of the Global Compact is to "promote responsible corporate citizenship so that business can be part of the solution to the challenges of globalisation." Participation is purely voluntary. The first two of the Ten Principles of the Global Compact declare: "Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses."
Other United Nations organizations and agencies that are active in the field of human rights include: