The Universal House of Justice
The efforts of Bahá'ís to contribute to the building of a new world are guided by a unique system of administration ordained by Bahá'u'lláh, Who established the laws and institutional mechanisms to ensure the realization of justice in human affairs.
Founded on a set of unique electoral and consultative principles, the Bahá'í administrative order is organized around elected governing councils, operating at the local, national, and international levels. The Universal House of Justice – the supreme, international legislative authority of this system – is a nine-member body elected at five-year intervals by the entire membership of the national governing institutions of the Bahá'í world. The members of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá'u'lláh wrote, are "the Trustees of God among His servants."
The Universal House of Justice directs the spiritual and administrative affairs of the Bahá'í International Community. It protects the spiritual inheritance bequeathed to it by promoting "the attainment of those spiritual qualities which should characterize Bahá'í life individually and collectively"; preserving the Bahá'í Sacred Texts and safeguarding their "inviolability"; defending and protecting the Bahá'í community and emancipating it from the "fetters of repression and persecution"; preserving and developing the world spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá'í Faith; and safeguarding "the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals."
Bahá'u'lláh wrote that since for "each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the Ministers of the House of Justice that they may act according to the needs and requirements of the time." Thus endowed by Bahá'u'lláh with the authority to legislate on all matters not specifically laid down in the Bahá'í scriptures, the House of Justice is the institution that keeps the Bahá'í community abreast of an ever-changing world.
The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, Haifa, Israel.
In addition to its responsibility for guiding the growth and development of the global Bahá'í community, the Universal House of Justice is counselled by Bahá'u'lláh to exert a positive influence on the general welfare of humankind. It is exhorted by Him to take steps to ensure the "training of peoples, the upbuilding of nations, the protection of man and the safeguarding of his honor." In accordance with these injunctions of Bahá'u'lláh, the Universal House of Justice has pursued a campaign promoting international peace and stability, and has set in motion a variety of initiatives in the areas of human rights, the advancement of women, and social and economic development.
The Universal House of Justice was first instituted in 1963 when members of National Spiritual Assemblies from around the globe, in an atmosphere of deep reflection and profound devotion, elected nine individuals from among the Bahá'ís of the world as members of this institution.
Conducted by secret ballot, the Bahá'í electoral process prohibits the nomination and presentation of candidates, thereby giving maximum freedom of choice to each elector and avoiding the partisanship and power-seeking behavior so characteristic of conventional political elections. The election of the Universal House of Justice takes place every five years in the same atmosphere of spirituality and dedication. At the most recent international convention in April 2008, delegates from more than 160 national communities participated in the election.
As stipulated by Bahá'u'lláh, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice is located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, in close proximity to the resting places of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.