A session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission has been suspended for a week amid disagreement over plans to reform the Geneva-based body.
China is one of the Commission members with a poor record
The commission meets annually to examine global human rights standards.
The US has condemned the reform plan, but it has broad support from European, Asian and African countries.
Members with poor human rights records have recently discredited the commission's work, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.
The commission has some important business this year: consideration of human rights in North Korea, Sudan and Belarus, and discussion of the war on terror and its effect on human rights, including a report into Guantanamo Bay.
But all that may be in jeopardy because of the deadlock over reform plans. The UN could be left without a human rights watchdog for the first time in its 60-year history.
The plan is to replace the commission with an elected human rights council which would meet three times a year.
Members would be expected to have good human rights records, in contrast to existing members which include countries with poor human rights records such as Sudan, China or Zimbabwe.
The changes do not go as far as everyone would like but they have widespread support.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan backs them, so do European Union countries and African and Asian nations.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also support the plan.
However, the US says the plan has major deficiencies.