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Check which countries have ratified basic international human rights laws


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris on 10 December 1948 (resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It called on "every individual and every organ of society" to strive by teaching and education to promote respect for the rights and freedoms set out in 30 Articles, and by progressive national and international measures to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.  In the text below, the Preamble is lightly edited for readability.  

Preamble

The foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world is the recognition of the inherent dignity of all members of the human family and their equal and inalienable rights.

Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind. The highest aspiration of the common people is the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want.

If man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, it is essential that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.

It is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

The peoples of the United Nations have reaffirmed in the Charter their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women. They have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Member States have pledged themselves to cooperate in achieving the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

A common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of that pledge,

Articles

  1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
  3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
  5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
  7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
  8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
  9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
  11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.  (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
  12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.   (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
  14. (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
  15. (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
  16. (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.   (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.   (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
  17. (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.   (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. 
  18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
  19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.   (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
  21.  (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.  (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.  (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
  22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
  23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.   (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.  (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.   (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
  24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
  25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.   (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
  26. (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.   (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.   (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
  27. (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.   (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
  28. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
  29. (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.   (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.   (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
  30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.


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1993 Human rights conference set post cold-war course


The World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria (14-25 June 1993) was one of the substantive markers of the end of the Cold War period. It adopted the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, the full text of which appears below:

The World Conference on Human Rights,

Considering that the promotion and protection of human rights is a matter of priority for the international community, and that the Conference affords a unique opportunity to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the international human rights system and of the machinery for the protection of human rights, in order to enhance and thus promote a fuller observance of those rights, in a just and balanced manner,

 Recognizing and affirming that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person, and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consequently should be the principal beneficiary and should participate actively in the realization of these rights and freedoms,

 Reaffirming their commitment to the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 Reaffirming the commitment contained in Article 56 of the Charter of the United Nations to take joint and separate action, placing proper emphasis on developing effective international cooperation for the realization of the purposes set out in Article 55, including universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,

 Emphasizing the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

Recalling the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, in particular the determination to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,

 Recalling also the determination expressed in the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to establish conditions under which justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, to practice tolerance and good neighborliness, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

 Emphasizing that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which constitutes a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, is the source of inspiration and has been the basis for the United Nations in making advances in standard setting as contained in the existing international human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 Considering the major changes taking place on the international scene and the aspirations of all the peoples for an international order based on the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and respect for the principle of equal rights and self -determination of peoples, peace, democracy, justice, equality, rule of law, pluralism, development, better standards of living and solidarity,

 Deeply concerned by various forms of discrimination and violence, to which women continue to be exposed all over the world,

 Recognizing that the activities of the United Nations in the field of human rights should be rationalized and enhanced in order to strengthen the United Nations machinery in this field and to further the objectives of universal respect for observance of international human rights standards,

 Having taken into account the Declarations adopted by the three regional meetings at Tunis, San Jose and Bangkok and the contributions made by Governments, and bearing in mind the suggestions made by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the studies prepared by independent experts during the preparatory process leading to the World Conference on Human Rights,

 Welcoming the International Year of the World's Indigenous People 1993 as a reaffirmation of the commitment of the international community to ensure their enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to respect the value and diversity of their cultures and identities,

 Recognizing also that the international community should devise ways and means to remove the current obstacles and meet challenges to the full realization of all human rights and to prevent the continuation of human rights violations resulting thereof throughout the world,

 Invoking the spirit of our age and the realities of our time which call upon the peoples of the world and all States Members of the United Nations to rededicate themselves to the global task of promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms so as to secure full and universal enjoyment of these rights,

 Determined to take new steps forward in the commitment of the international community with a view to achieving substantial progress in human rights endeavors by an increased and sustained effort of international cooperation and solidarity,

 Solemnly adopts the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action.



I


1. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the solemn commitment of all States to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, other instruments relating to human rights, and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.

 In this framework, enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights is essential for the full achievement of the purposes of the United Nations.

 Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.

 2. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status, and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

 Taking into account the particular situation of peoples under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, the World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the right of peoples to take any legitimate action, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, to realize their inalienable right of self-determination. The World Conference on Human Rights considers the denial of the right of self-determination as a violation of human rights and underlines the importance of the effective realization of this right.

In accordance with the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, this shall not be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and thus possessed of a Government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction of any kind.

3. Effective international measures to guarantee and monitor the implementation of human rights standards should be taken in respect of people under foreign occupation, and effective legal protection against the violation of their human rights should be provided, in accordance with human rights norms and international law, particularly the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 14 August 1949, and other applicable norms of humanitarian law.

 4. The promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms must be considered as a priority objective of the United Nations in accordance with its purposes and principles, in particular the purpose of international cooperation. In the framework of these purposes and principles, the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community. The organs and specialized agencies related to human rights should therefore further enhance the coordination of their activities based on the consistent and objective application of international human rights instruments.

 5. All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

 6. The efforts of the United Nations system towards the universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, contribute to the stability and well-being necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations, and to improved conditions for peace and security as well as social and economic development, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.

 7. The processes of promoting and protecting human rights should be conducted in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and international law.

 8. Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives. In the context of the above, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels should be universal and conducted without conditions attached. The international community should support the strengthening and promoting of democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the entire world.

 9. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that least developed countries committed to the process of democratization and economic reforms, many of which are in Africa, should be supported by the international community in order to succeed in their transition to democracy and economic development.

10. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the right to development, as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development, as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights.

As stated in the Declaration on the Right to Development, the human person is the central subject of development.


While development facilitates the enjoyment of all human rights, the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights.

States should cooperate with each other in ensuring development and eliminating obstacles to development. The international community should promote an effective international cooperation for the realization of the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to development.

Lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level, as well as equitable economic relations and a favourable economic environment at the international level.

11. The right to development should be fulfilled so as to meet equitably the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes that illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous substances and waste potentially constitutes a serious threat to the human rights to life and health of everyone.

Consequently, the World Conference on Human Rights calls on all States to adopt and vigorously implement existing conventions relating to the dumping of toxic and dangerous products and waste and to cooperate in the prevention of illicit dumping.

Everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications. The World Conference on Human Rights notes that certain advances, notably in the biomedical and life sciences as well as in information technology, may have potentially adverse consequences for the integrity, dignity and human rights of the individual, and calls for international cooperation to ensure that human rights and dignity are fully respected in this area of universal concern

12. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon the international community to make all efforts to help alleviate the external debt burden of developing countries, in order to supplement the efforts of the Governments of such countries to attain the full realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of their people.

13. There is a need for States and international organizations, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, to create favourable conditions at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of human rights. States should eliminate all violations of human rights and their causes, as well as obstacles to the enjoyment of these rights.

 14. The existence of widespread extreme poverty inhibits the full and effective enjoyment of human rights; its immediate alleviation and eventual elimination must remain a high priority for the international community.

 15. Respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind is a fundamental rule of international human rights law. The speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a priority task for the international community. Governments should take effective measures to prevent and combat them. Groups, institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals are urged to intensify their efforts in cooperating and coordinating their activities against these evils.

 16. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the progress made in dismantling apartheid and calls upon the international community and the United Nations system to assist in this process.

The World Conference on Human Rights also deplores the continuing acts of violence aimed at undermining the quest for a peaceful dismantling of apartheid.

 17. The acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as linkage in some countries to drug trafficking are activities aimed at the destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy, threatening territorial integrity, security of States and destabilizing legitimately constituted Governments. The international community should take the necessary steps to enhance cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism.

18. The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community.

Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated. This can be achieved by legal measures and through national action and international cooperation in such fields as economic and social development, education, safe maternity and health care, and social support.

The human rights of women should form an integral part of the United Nations human rights activities, including the promotion of all human rights instruments relating to women.

The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments, institutions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to intensify their efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights of women and the girl-child.

 19. Considering the importance of the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities and the contribution of such promotion and protection to the political and social stability of the States in which such persons live,

 The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the obligation of States to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The persons belonging to minorities have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion and to use their own language in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination.

 20. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the inherent dignity and the unique contribution of indigenous people to the development and plurality of society and strongly reaffirms the commitment of the international community to their economic, social and cultural well-being and their enjoyment of the fruits of sustainable development. States should ensure the full and free participation of indigenous people in all aspects of society, in particular in matters of concern to them. Considering the importance of the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous people, and the contribution of such promotion and protection to the political and social stability of the States in which such people live, States should, in accordance with international law, take concerted positive steps to ensure respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, and recognize the value and diversity of their distinct identities, cultures and social organization.

 21. The World Conference on Human Rights, welcoming the early ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by a large number of States and noting the recognition of the human rights of children in the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit for Children, urges universal ratification of the Convention by 1995 and its effective implementation by States parties through the adoption of all the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures and the allocation to the maximum extent of the available resources. In all actions concerning children, non-discrimination and the best interest of the child should be primary considerations and the views of the child given due weight. National and international mechanisms and programmes should be strengthened for the defence and protection of children, in particular, the girl-child, abandoned children, street children, economically and sexually exploited children, including through child pornography, child prostitution or sale of organs, children victims of diseases including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, refugee and displaced children, children in detention, children in armed conflict, as well as children victims of famine and drought and other emergencies. International cooperation and solidarity should be promoted to support the implementation of the Convention and the rights of the child should be a priority in the United Nations system-wide action on human rights.

The World Conference on Human Rights also stresses that the child for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality should grow up in a family environment which accordingly merits broader protection.

 22. Special attention needs to be paid to ensuring non-discrimination, and the equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by disabled persons, including their active participation in all aspects of society.

 23. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that everyone, without distinction of any kind, is entitled to the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, as well as the right to return to one's own country. In this respect it stresses the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and regional instruments. It expresses its appreciation to States that continue to admit and host large numbers of refugees in their territories, and to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its dedication to its task. It also expresses its appreciation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes that gross violations of human rights, including in armed conflicts, are among the multiple and complex factors leading to displacement of people.

The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes that, in view of the complexities of the global refugee crisis and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, relevant international instruments and international solidarity and in the spirit of burden-sharing, a comprehensive approach by the international community is needed in coordination and cooperation with the countries concerned and relevant organizations, bearing in mind the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This should include the development of strategies to address the root causes and effects of movements of refugees and other displaced persons, the strengthening of emergency preparedness and response mechanisms, the provision of effective protection and assistance, bearing in mind the special needs of women and children, as well as the achievement of durable solutions, primarily through the preferred solution of dignified and safe voluntary repatriation, including solutions such as those adopted by the international refugee conferences. The World Conference on Human Rights underlines the responsibilities of States, particularly as they relate to the countries of origin.

In the light of the comprehensive approach, the World Conference on Human Rights emphasizes the importance of giving special attention including through intergovernmental and humanitarian organizations and finding lasting solutions to questions related to internally displaced persons including their voluntary and safe return and rehabilitation.

 In accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of humanitarian law, the World Conference on Human Rights further emphasizes the importance of and the need for humanitarian assistance to victims of all natural and man-made disasters.

 24. Great importance must be given to the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons belonging to groups which have been rendered vulnerable, including migrant workers, the elimination of all forms of discrimination against them, and the strengthening and more effective implementation of existing human rights instruments. States have an obligation to create and maintain adequate measures at the national level, in particular in the fields of education, health and social support, for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons in vulnerable sectors of their populations and to ensure the participation of those among them who are interested in finding a solution to their own problems.

 25. The World Conference on Human Rights affirms that extreme poverty and social exclusion constitute a violation of human dignity and that urgent steps are necessary to achieve better knowledge of extreme poverty and its causes, including those related to the problem of development, in order to promote the human rights of the poorest, and to put an end to extreme poverty and social exclusion and to promote the enjoyment of the fruits of social progress. It is essential for States to foster participation by the poorest people in the decision-making process by the community in which they live, the promotion of human rights and efforts to combat extreme poverty.

26. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the progress made in the codification of human rights instruments, which is a dynamic and evolving process, and urges the universal ratification of human rights treaties. All States are encouraged to accede to these international instruments; all States are encouraged to avoid, as far as possible, the resort to reservations.

 27. Every State should provide an effective framework of remedies to redress human rights grievances or violations. The administration of justice, including law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies and, especially, an independent judiciary and legal profession in full conformity with applicable standards contained in international human rights instruments, are essential to the full and non-discriminatory realization of human rights and indispensable to the processes of democracy and sustainable development. In this context, institutions concerned with the administration of justice should be properly funded, and an increased level of both technical and financial assistance should be provided by the international community. It is incumbent upon the United Nations to make use of special programs of advisory services on a priority basis for the achievement of a strong and independent administration of justice.

 28. The World Conference on Human Rights expresses its dismay at massive violations of human rights especially in the form of genocide, "ethnic cleansing" and systematic rape of women in war situations, creating mass exodus of refugees and displaced persons. While strongly condemning such abhorrent practices it reiterates the call that perpetrators of such crimes be punished and such practices immediately stopped.

29. The World Conference on Human Rights expresses grave concern about continuing human rights violations in all parts of the world in disregard of standards as contained in international human rights instruments and international humanitarian law and about the lack of sufficient and effective remedies for the victims.

The World Conference on Human Rights is deeply concerned about violations of human rights during armed conflicts, affecting the civilian population, especially women, children, the elderly and the disabled. The Conference therefore calls upon States and all parties to armed conflicts strictly to observe international humanitarian law, as set forth in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other rules and principles of international law, as well as minimum standards for protection of human rights, as laid down in international conventions.

The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the right of the victims to be assisted by humanitarian organizations, as set forth in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other relevant instruments of international humanitarian law, and calls for the safe and timely access for such assistance.

30. The World Conference on Human Rights also expresses its dismay and condemnation that gross and systematic violations and situations that constitute serious obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights continue to occur in different parts of the world. Such violations and obstacles include, as well as torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, summary and arbitrary executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, all forms of racism, racial discrimination and apartheid, foreign occupation and alien domination, xenophobia, poverty, hunger and other denials of economic, social and cultural rights, religious intolerance, terrorism, discrimination against women and lack of the rule of law.

 31. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon States to refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that creates obstacles to trade relations among States and impedes the full realization of the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments, in particular the rights of everyone to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, including food and medical care, housing and the necessary social services. The World Conference on Human Rights affirms that food should not be used as a tool for political pressure.

 32. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the importance of ensuring the universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of the consideration of human rights issues.

 33. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that States are duty-bound, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in other international human rights instruments, to ensure that education is aimed at strengthening the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The World Conference on Human Rights emphasizes the importance of incorporating the subject of human rights education programmes and calls upon States to do so. Education should promote understanding, tolerance, peace and friendly relations between the nations and all racial or religious groups and encourage the development of United Nations activities in pursuance of these objectives. Therefore, education on human rights and the dissemination of proper information, both theoretical and practical, play an important role in the promotion and respect of human rights with regard to all individuals without distinction of any kind such as race, sex, language or religion, and this should be integrated in the education policies at the national as well as international levels. The World Conference on Human Rights notes that resource constraints and institutional inadequacies may impede the immediate realization of these objectives.

 34. Increased efforts should be made to assist countries which so request to create the conditions whereby each individual can enjoy universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. Governments, the United Nations system as well as other multilateral organizations are urged to increase considerably the resources allocated to programmes aiming at the establishment and strengthening of national legislation, national institutions and related infrastructures which uphold the rule of law and democracy, electoral assistance, human rights awareness through training, teaching and education, popular participation and civil society.

The programs of advisory services and technical cooperation under the Centre for Human Rights should be strengthened as well as made more efficient and transparent and thus become a major contribution to improving respect for human rights. States are called upon to increase their contributions to these programmes, both through promoting a larger allocation from the United Nations regular budget, and through voluntary contributions.

35. The full and effective implementation of United Nations activities to promote and protect human rights must reflect the high importance accorded to human rights by the Charter of the United Nations and the demands of the United Nations human rights activities, as mandated by Member States. To this end, United Nations human rights activities should be provided with increased resources.

 36. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the important and constructive role played by national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular in their advisory capacity to the competent authorities, their role in remedying human rights violations, in the dissemination of human rights information, and education in human rights.

The World Conference on Human Rights encourages the establishment and strengthening of national institutions, having regard to the "Principles relating to the status of national institutions" and recognizing that it is the right of each State to choose the framework which is best suited to its particular needs at the national level.

 37. Regional arrangements play a fundamental role in promoting and protecting human rights. They should reinforce universal human rights standards, as contained in international human rights instruments, and their protection. The World Conference on Human Rights endorses efforts under way to strengthen these arrangements and to increase their effectiveness, while at the same time stressing the importance of cooperation with the United Nations human rights activities.

The World Conference on Human Rights reiterates the need to consider the possibility of establishing regional and subregional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights where they do not already exist.

 38. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the important role of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of all human rights and in humanitarian activities at national, regional and international levels. The World Conference on Human Rights appreciates their contribution to increasing public awareness of human rights issues, to the conduct of education, training and research in this field, and to the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. While recognizing that the primary responsibility for standard-setting lies with States, the conference also appreciates the contribution of non-governmental organizations to this process. In this respect, the World Conference on Human Rights emphasizes the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Governments and non-governmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations and their members genuinely involved in the field of human rights should enjoy the rights and freedoms recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the protection of the national law. These rights and freedoms may not be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Non-governmental organizations should be free to carry out their human rights activities, without interference, within the framework of national law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

39. Underlining the importance of objective, responsible and impartial information about human rights and humanitarian issues, the World Conference on Human Rights encourages the increased involvement of the media, for whom freedom and protection should be guaranteed within the framework of national law.


 II



 
A. Increased coordination on human rights within the United Nations system

 1. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends increased coordination in support of human rights and fundamental freedoms within the United Nations system. To this end, the World Conference on Human Rights urges all United Nations organs, bodies and the specialized agencies whose activities deal with human rights to cooperate in order to strengthen, rationalize and streamline their activities, taking into account the need to avoid unnecessary duplication. The World Conference on Human Rights also recommends to the Secretary-General that high-level officials of relevant United Nations bodies and specialized agencies at their annual meeting, besides coordinating their activities, also assess the impact of their strategies and policies on the enjoyment of all human rights.

2. Furthermore, the World Conference on Human Rights calls on regional organizations and prominent international and regional finance and development institutions to assess also the impact of their policies and programs on the enjoyment of human rights.

 3. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes that relevant specialized agencies and bodies and institutions of the United Nations system as well as other relevant intergovernmental organizations whose activities deal with human rights play a vital role in the formulation, promotion and implementation of human rights standards, within their respective mandates, and should take into account the outcome of the World Conference on Human Rights within their fields of competence.

 4. The World Conference on Human Rights strongly recommends that a concerted effort be made to encourage and facilitate the ratification of and accession or succession to international human rights treaties and protocols adopted within the framework of the United Nations system with the aim of universal acceptance. The Secretary-General, in consultation with treaty bodies, should consider opening a dialogue with States not having acceded to these human rights treaties, in order to identify obstacles and to seek ways of overcoming them.

 5. The World Conference on Human Rights encourages States to consider limiting the extent of any reservations they lodge to international human rights instruments, formulate any reservations as precisely and narrowly as possible, ensure that none is incompatible with the object and purpose of the relevant treaty and regularly review any reservations with a view to withdrawing them.

 6. The World Conference on Human Rights, recognizing the need to maintain consistency with the high quality of existing international standards and to avoid proliferation of human rights instruments, reaffirms the guidelines relating to the elaboration of new international instruments contained in General Assembly resolution 41/120 of 4 December 1986 and calls on the United Nations human rights bodies, when considering the elaboration of new international standards, to keep those guidelines in mind, to consult with human rights treaty bodies on the necessity for drafting new standards and to request the Secretariat to carry out technical reviews of proposed new instruments.

 7. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that human rights officers be assigned if and when necessary to regional offices of the United Nations Organization with the purpose of disseminating information and offering training and other technical assistance in the field of human rights upon the request of concerned Member States. Human rights training for international civil servants who are assigned to work relating to human rights should be organized.

 8. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the convening of emergency sessions of the Commission on Human Rights as a positive initiative and that other ways of responding to acute violations of human rights be considered by the relevant organs of the United Nations system.

Resources

 9. The World Conference on Human Rights, concerned by the growing disparity between the activities of the Center for Human Rights and the human, financial and other resources available to carry them out, and bearing in mind the resources needed for other important United Nations programs, requests the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to take immediate steps to increase substantially the resources for the human rights program from within the existing and future regular budgets of the United Nations, and to take urgent steps to seek increased extra-budgetary resources.

 10. Within this framework, an increased proportion of the regular budget should be allocated directly to the Center for Human Rights to cover its costs and all other costs borne by the Center for Human Rights, including those related to the United Nations human rights bodies. Voluntary funding of the Center's technical cooperation activities should reinforce this enhanced budget; the World Conference on Human Rights calls for generous contributions to the existing trust funds.

 11. The World Conference on Human Rights requests the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to provide sufficient human, financial and other resources to the Center for Human Rights to enable it effectively, efficiently and expeditiously to carry out its activities.

 12. The World Conference on Human Rights, noting the need to ensure that human and financial resources are available to carry out the human rights activities, as mandated by intergovernmental bodies, urges the Secretary-General, in accordance with Article 101 of the Charter of the United Nations, and Member States to adopt a coherent approach aimed at securing that resources commensurate to the increased mandates are allocated to the Secretariat. The World Conference on Human Rights invites the Secretary-General to consider whether adjustments to procedures in the program budget cycle would be necessary or helpful to ensure the timely and effective implementation of human rights activities as mandated by Member States.

Center for Human Rights

 13. The World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of strengthening the United Nations Center for Human Rights.

 14. The Center for Human Rights should play an important role in coordinating system-wide attention for human rights. The focal role of the Center can best be realized if it is enabled to cooperate fully with other United Nations bodies and organs. The coordinating role of the Center for Human Rights also implies that the office of the Center for Human Rights in New York is strengthened.

 15. The Center for Human Rights should be assured adequate means for the system of thematic and country rapporteurs, experts, working groups and treaty bodies. Follow-up on recommendations should become a priority matter for consideration by the Commission on Human Rights.

 16. The Center for Human Rights should assume a larger role in the promotion of human rights. This role could be given shape through cooperation with Member States and by an enhanced program of advisory services and technical assistance. The existing voluntary funds will have to be expanded substantially for these purposes and should be managed in a more efficient and coordinated way. All activities should follow strict and transparent project management rules and regular program and project evaluations should be held periodically. To this end, the results of such evaluation exercises and other relevant information should be made available regularly. The Center should, in particular, organize at least once a year information meetings open to all Member States and organizations directly involved in these projects and programs.

 Adaptation and strengthening of the United Nations machinery for human rights, including the question of the establishment of a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


 17. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the necessity for a continuing adaptation of the United Nations human rights machinery to the current and future needs in the promotion and protection of human rights, as reflected in the present Declaration and within the framework of a balanced and sustainable development for all people. In particular, the United Nations human rights organs should improve their coordination, efficiency and effectiveness.

 18. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends to the General Assembly that when examining the report of the Conference at its forty-eighth session, it begin, as a matter of priority, consideration of the question of the establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights for the promotion and protection of all human rights.

 
B. Equality, dignity and tolerance

 
1. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

 19. The World Conference on Human Rights considers the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, in particular in their institutionalized forms such as apartheid or resulting from doctrines of racial superiority or exclusivity or contemporary forms and manifestations of racism, as a primary objective for the international community and a worldwide promotion programme in the field of human rights. United Nations organs and agencies should strengthen their efforts to implement such a program of action related to the third decade to combat racism and racial discrimination as well as subsequent mandates to the same end. The World Conference on Human Rights strongly appeals to the international community to contribute generously to the Trust Fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.

20. The World Conference on Human Rights urges all Governments to take immediate measures and to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, where necessary by enactment of appropriate legislation, including penal measures, and by the establishment of national institutions to combat such phenomena.

 21. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The World Conference on Human Rights also appeals to all States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to consider making the declaration under article 14 of the Convention.

 22. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon all Governments to take all appropriate measures in compliance with their international obligations and with due regard to their respective legal systems to counter intolerance and related violence based on religion or belief, including practices of discrimination against women and including the desecration of religious sites, recognizing that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion. The Conference also invites all States to put into practice the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

 23. The World Conference on Human Rights stresses that all persons who perpetrate or authorize criminal acts associated with ethnic cleansing are individually responsible and accountable for such human rights violations, and that the international community should exert every effort to bring those legally responsible for such violations to justice.

 24. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on all States to take immediate measures, individually and collectively, to combat the practice of ethnic cleansing to bring it quickly to an end. Victims of the abhorrent practice of ethnic cleansing are entitled to appropriate and effective remedies.

 
2. Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities

 25. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on the Commission on Human Rights to examine ways and means to promote and protect effectively the rights of persons belonging to minorities as set out in the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. In this context, the World Conference on Human Rights calls upon the Center for Human Rights to provide, at the request of Governments concerned and as part of its program of advisory services and technical assistance, qualified expertise on minority issues and human rights, as well as on the prevention and resolution of disputes, to assist in existing or potential situations involving minorities.

26. The World Conference on Human Rights urges States and the international community to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

27. Measures to be taken, where appropriate, should include facilitation of their full participation in all aspects of the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of society and in the economic progress and development in their country.

 
Indigenous people

 28. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to complete the drafting of a declaration on the rights of indigenous people at its eleventh session.

29. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the Commission on Human Rights consider the renewal and updating of the mandate of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations upon completion of the drafting of a declaration on the rights of indigenous people.

 30. The World Conference on Human Rights also recommends that advisory services and technical assistance programs within the United Nations system respond positively to requests by States for assistance which would be of direct benefit to indigenous people. The World Conference on Human Rights further recommends that adequate human and financial resources be made available to the Center for Human Rights within the overall framework of strengthening the Center's activities as envisaged by this document.

31. The World Conference on Human Rights urges States to ensure the full and free participation of indigenous people in all aspects of society, in particular in matters of concern to them.

 32. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the General Assembly proclaim an international decade of the world's indigenous people, to begin from January 1994, including action-orientated programs, to be decided upon in partnership with indigenous people. An appropriate voluntary trust fund should be set up for this purpose. In the framework of such a decade, the establishment of a permanent forum for indigenous people in the United Nations system should be considered.

Migrant workers

 33. The World Conference on Human Rights urges all States to guarantee the protection of the human rights of all migrant workers and their families.

 34. The World Conference on Human Rights considers that the creation of conditions to foster greater harmony and tolerance between migrant workers and the rest of the society of the State in which they reside is of particular importance.

 35. The World Conference on Human Rights invites States to consider the possibility of signing and ratifying, at the earliest possible time, the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

 
3. The equal status and human rights of women

 36. The World Conference on Human Rights urges the full and equal enjoyment by women of all human rights and that this be a priority for Governments and for the United Nations. The World Conference on Human Rights also underlines the importance of the integration and full participation of women as both agents and beneficiaries in the development process, and reiterates the objectives established on global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development set forth in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and chapter 24 of Agenda 21, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-14 June 1992).

 37. The equal status of women and the human rights of women should be integrated into the mainstream of United Nations system-wide activity. These issues should be regularly and systematically addressed throughout relevant United Nations bodies and mechanisms. In particular, steps should be taken to increase cooperation and promote further integration of objectives and goals between the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Human Rights, the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the United Nations Development Program and other United Nations agencies. In this context, cooperation and coordination should be strengthened between the Centre for Human Rights and the Division for the Advancement of Women.

 38. In particular, the World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life, the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment, exploitation and trafficking in women, the elimination of gender bias in the administration of justice and the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon the General Assembly to adopt the draft declaration on violence against women and urges States to combat violence against women in accordance with its provisions. Violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. All violations of this kind, including in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy, require a particularly effective response.

 39. The World Conference on Human Rights urges the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women, both hidden and overt. The United Nations should encourage the goal of universal ratification by all States of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the year 2000. Ways and means of addressing the particularly large number of reservations to the Convention should be encouraged. Inter alia, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should continue its review of reservations to the Convention. States are urged to withdraw reservations that are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or which are otherwise incompatible with international treaty law.

 40. Treaty monitoring bodies should disseminate necessary information to enable women to make more effective use of existing implementation procedures in their pursuits of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and non-discrimination. New procedures should also be adopted to strengthen implementation of the commitment to women's equality and the human rights of women. The Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should quickly examine the possibility of introducing the right of petition through the preparation of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to consider the appointment of a special rapporteur on violence against women at its fiftieth session.

 41. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the importance of the enjoyment by women of the highest standard of physical and mental health throughout their life span. In the context of the World Conference on Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the Proclamation of Tehran of 1968, the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms, on the basis of equality between women and men, a woman's right to accessible and adequate health care and the widest range of family planning services, as well as equal access to education at all levels.

 42. Treaty monitoring bodies should include the status of women and the human rights of women in their deliberations and findings, making use of gender-specific data. States should be encouraged to supply information on the situation of women de jure and de facto in their reports to treaty monitoring bodies. The World Conference on Human Rights notes with satisfaction that the Commission on Human Rights adopted at its forty-ninth session resolution 1993/46 of 8 March 1993 stating that rapporteurs and working groups in the field of human rights should also be encouraged to do so. Steps should also be taken by the Division for the Advancement of Women in cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specifically the Center for Human Rights, to ensure that the human rights activities of the United Nations regularly address violations of women's human rights, including gender-specific abuses. Training for United Nations human rights and humanitarian relief personnel to assist them to recognize and deal with human rights abuses particular to women and to carry out their work without gender bias should be encouraged.

43. The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments and regional and international organizations to facilitate the access of women to decision-making posts and their greater participation in the decision-making process. It encourages further steps within the United Nations Secretariat to appoint and promote women staff members in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and encourages other principal and subsidiary organs of the United Nations to guarantee the participation of women under conditions of equality.

44. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in 1995 and urges that human rights of women should play an important role in its deliberations, in accordance with the priority themes of the World Conference on Women of equality, development and peace.

 
4. The rights of the child

 45. The World Conference on Human Rights reiterates the principle of "First Call for Children" and, in this respect, underlines the importance of major national and international efforts, especially those of the United Nations Children's Fund, for promoting respect for the rights of the child to survival, protection, development and participation.

46. Measures should be taken to achieve universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by 1995 and the universal signing of the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit for Children, as well as their effective implementation. The World Conference on Human Rights urges States to withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or otherwise contrary to international treaty law.

47. The World Conference on Human Rights urges all nations to undertake measures to the maximum extent of their available resources, with the support of international cooperation, to achieve the goals in the World Summit Plan of Action. The Conference calls on States to integrate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into their national action plans. By means of these national action plans and through international efforts, particular priority should be placed on reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, reducing malnutrition and illiteracy rates and providing access to safe drinking water and to basic education. Whenever so called for, national plans of action should be devised to combat devastating emergencies resulting from natural disasters and armed conflicts and the equally grave problem of children in extreme poverty.

 48. The World Conference on Human Rights urges all States, with the support of international cooperation, to address the acute problem of children under especially difficult circumstances. Exploitation and abuse of children should be actively combated, including by addressing their root causes. Effective measures are required against female infanticide, harmful child labour, sale of children and organs, child prostitution, child pornography, as well as other forms of sexual abuse.

 49. The World Conference on Human Rights supports all measures by the United Nations and its specialized agencies to ensure the effective protection and promotion of human rights of the girl child. The World Conference on Human Rights urges States to repeal existing laws and regulations and remove customs and practices which discriminate against and cause harm to the girl child.

 50. The World Conference on Human Rights strongly supports the proposal that the Secretary-General initiate a study into means of improving the protection of children in armed conflicts. Humanitarian norms should be implemented and measures taken in order to protect and facilitate assistance to children in war zones. Measures should include protection for children against indiscriminate use of all weapons of war, especially anti-personnel mines. The need for aftercare and rehabilitation of children traumatized by war must be addressed urgently. The Conference calls on the Committee on the Rights of the Child to study the question of raising the minimum age of recruitment into armed forces.

 51. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that matters relating to human rights and the situation of children be regularly reviewed and monitored by all relevant organs and mechanisms of the United Nations system and by the supervisory bodies of the specialized agencies in accordance with their mandates.

 52. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the important role played by non-governmental organizations in the effective implementation of all human rights instruments and, in particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 53. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the Committee on the Rights of the Child, with the assistance of the Center for Human Rights, be enabled expeditiously and effectively to meet its mandate, especially in view of the unprecedented extent of ratification and subsequent submission of country reports.

 
5. Freedom from torture

54. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the ratification by many Member States of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and encourages its speedy ratification by all other Member States.

55. The World Conference on Human Rights emphasizes that one of the most atrocious violations against human dignity is the act of torture, the result of which destroys the dignity and impairs the capability of victims to continue their lives and their activities.

 56. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that under human rights law and international humanitarian law, freedom from torture is a right which must be protected under all circumstances, including in times of internal or international disturbance or armed conflicts.

 57. The World Conference on Human Rights therefore urges all States to put an immediate end to the practice of torture and eradicate this evil forever through full implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the relevant conventions and, where necessary, strengthening of existing mechanisms. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on all States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture in the fulfillment of his mandate.

 58. Special attention should be given to ensure universal respect for, and effective implementation of, the Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

 59. The World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of further concrete action within the framework of the United Nations with the view to providing assistance to victims of torture and ensure more effective remedies for their physical, psychological and social rehabilitation. Providing the necessary resources for this purpose should be given high priority, inter alia, by additional contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture.

60. States should abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations of human rights such as torture and prosecute such violations, thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law.

61. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that efforts to eradicate torture should, first and foremost, be concentrated on prevention and, therefore, calls for the early adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which is intended to establish a preventive system of regular visits to places of detention.

Enforced disappearances

62. The World Conference on Human Rights, welcoming the adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, calls upon all States to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent, terminate and punish acts of enforced disappearances. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that it is the duty of all States, under any circumstances, to make investigations whenever there is reason to believe that an enforced disappearance has taken place on a territory under their jurisdiction and, if allegations are confirmed, to prosecute its perpetrators.

 
6. The rights of the disabled person

 63. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms that all human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal and thus unreservedly include persons with disabilities. Every person is born equal and has the same rights to life and welfare, education and work, living independently and active participation in all aspects of society. Any direct discrimination or other negative discriminatory treatment of a disabled person is therefore a violation of his or her rights. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on Governments, where necessary, to adopt or adjust legislation to assure access to these and other rights for disabled persons.

64. The place of disabled persons is everywhere. Persons with disabilities should be guaranteed equal opportunity through the elimination of all socially determined barriers, be they physical, financial, social or psychological, which exclude or restrict full participation in society.

65. Recalling the World Program of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly at its thirty-seventh session, the World Conference on Human Rights calls upon the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to adopt the draft standard rules on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, at their meetings in 1993.

 
C. Cooperation, development and strengthening of human rights

 66. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that priority be given to national and international action to promote democracy, development and human rights.

 67. Special emphasis should be given to measures to assist in the strengthening and building of institutions relating to human rights, strengthening of a pluralistic civil society and the protection of groups which have been rendered vulnerable. In this context, assistance provided upon the request of Governments for the conduct of free and fair elections, including assistance in the human rights aspects of elections and public information about elections, is of particular importance. Equally important is the assistance to be given to the strengthening of the rule of law, the promotion of freedom of expression and the administration of justice, and to the real and effective participation of the people in the decision-making processes.

 68. The World Conference on Human Rights stresses the need for the implementation of strengthened advisory services and technical assistance activities by the Center for Human Rights. The Center should make available to States upon request assistance on specific human rights issues, including the preparation of reports under human rights treaties as well as for the implementation of coherent and comprehensive plans of action for the promotion and protection of human rights. Strengthening the institutions of human rights and democracy, the legal protection of human rights, training of officials and others, broad-based education and public information aimed at promoting respect for human rights should all be available as components of these programs.

 69. The World Conference on Human Rights strongly recommends that a comprehensive program be established within the United Nations in order to help States in the task of building and strengthening adequate national structures which have a direct impact on the overall observance of human rights and the maintenance of the rule of law. Such a program, to be coordinated by the Center for Human Rights, should be able to provide, upon the request of the interested Government, technical and financial assistance to national projects in reforming penal and correctional establishments, education and training of lawyers, judges and security forces in human rights, and any other sphere of activity relevant to the good functioning of the rule of law. That program should make available to States assistance for the implementation of plans of action for the promotion and protection of human rights.

 70. The World Conference on Human Rights requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to submit proposals to the United Nations General Assembly, containing alternatives for the establishment, structure, operational modalities and funding of the proposed program.

 71. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that each State consider the desirability of drawing up a national action plan identifying steps whereby that State would improve the promotion and protection of human rights.

72. The World Conference on Human Rights on Human Rights reaffirms that the universal and inalienable right to development, as established in the Declaration on the Right to Development, must be implemented and realized. In this context, the World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the appointment by the Commission on Human Rights of a thematic working group on the right to development and urges that the Working Group, in consultation and cooperation with other organs and agencies of the United Nations system, promptly formulate, for early consideration by the United Nations General Assembly, comprehensive and effective measures to eliminate obstacles to the implementation and realization of the Declaration on the Right to Development and recommending ways and means towards the realization of the right to development by all States.

 73. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that non-governmental and other grass-roots organizations active in development and/or human rights should be enabled to play a major role on the national and international levels in the debate, activities and implementation relating to the right to development and, in cooperation with Governments, in all relevant aspects of development cooperation.

74. The World Conference on Human Rights appeals to Governments, competent agencies and institutions to increase considerably the resources devoted to building well-functioning legal systems able to protect human rights, and to national institutions working in this area. Actors in the field of development cooperation should bear in mind the mutually reinforcing interrelationship between development, democracy and human rights. Cooperation should be based on dialogue and transparency. The World Conference on Human Rights also calls for the establishment of comprehensive programm, including resource banks of information and personnel with expertise relating to the strengthening of the rule of law and of democratic institutions.

75. The World Conference on Human Rights encourages the Commission on Human Rights, in cooperation with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to continue the examination of optional protocols to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

76. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that more resources be made available for the strengthening or the establishment of regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights under the programs of advisory services and technical assistance of the Center for Human Rights. States are encouraged to request assistance for such purposes as regional and sub-regional workshops, seminars and information exchanges designed to strengthen regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights in accord with universal human rights standards as contained in international human rights instruments.

 77. The World Conference on Human Rights supports all measures by the United Nations and its relevant specialized agencies to ensure the effective promotion and protection of trade union rights, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant international instruments. It calls on all States to abide fully by their obligations in this regard contained in international instruments.

 
D. Human rights education

78. The World Conference on Human Rights considers human rights education, training and public information essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.

79. States should strive to eradicate illiteracy and should direct education towards the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The World Conference on Human Rights calls on all States and institutions to include human rights, humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law as subjects in the curricula of all learning institutions in formal and non-formal settings.

80. Human rights education should include peace, democracy, development and social justice, as set forth in international and regional human rights instruments, in order to achieve common understanding and awareness with a view to strengthening universal commitment to human rights.

81. Taking into account the World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy, adopted in March 1993 by the International Congress on Education for Human Rights and Democracy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and other human rights instruments, the World Conference on Human Rights recommends that States develop specific programs and strategies for ensuring the widest human rights education and the dissemination of public information, taking particular account of the human rights needs of women.

 82. Governments, with the assistance of intergovernmental organizations, national institutions and non-governmental organizations, should promote an increased awareness of human rights and mutual tolerance. The World Conference on Human Rights underlines the importance of strengthening the World Public Information Campaign for Human Rights carried out by the United Nations. They should initiate and support education in human rights and undertake effective dissemination of public information in this field. The advisory services and technical assistance programs of the United Nations system should be able to respond immediately to requests from States for educational and training activities in the field of human rights as well as for special education concerning standards as contained in international human rights instruments and in humanitarian law and their application to special groups such as military forces, law enforcement personnel, police and the health profession. The proclamation of a United Nations decade for human rights education in order to promote, encourage and focus these educational activities should be considered.

 
E. Implementation and monitoring methods

 83. The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments to incorporate standards as contained in international human rights instruments in domestic legislation and to strengthen national structures, institutions and organs of society which play a role in promoting and safeguarding human rights.

 84. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends the strengthening of United Nations activities and programs to meet requests for assistance by States which want to establish or strengthen their own national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.

 85. The World Conference on Human Rights also encourages the strengthening of cooperation between national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly through exchanges of information and experience, as well as cooperation with regional organizations and the United Nations.

 86. The World Conference on Human Rights strongly recommends in this regard that representatives of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights convene periodic meetings under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights to examine ways and means of improving their mechanisms and sharing experiences.

 87. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends to the human rights treaty bodies, to the meetings of chairpersons of the treaty bodies and to the meetings of States parties that they continue to take steps aimed at coordinating the multiple reporting requirements and guidelines for preparing State reports under the respective human rights conventions and study the suggestion that the submission of one overall report on treaty obligations undertaken by each State would make these procedures more effective and increase their impact.

88. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the States parties to international human rights instruments, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should consider studying the existing human rights treaty bodies and the various thematic mechanisms and procedures with a view to promoting greater efficiency and effectiveness through better coordination of the various bodies, mechanisms and procedures, taking into account the need to avoid unnecessary duplication and overlapping of their mandates and tasks.

 89. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends continued work on the improvement of the functioning, including the monitoring tasks, of the treaty bodies, taking into account multiple proposals made in this respect, in particular those made by the treaty bodies themselves and by the meetings of the chairpersons of the treaty bodies. The comprehensive national approach taken by the Committee on the Rights of the Child should also be encouraged.

90. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that States parties to human rights treaties consider accepting all the available optional communication procedures.

91. The World Conference on Human Rights views with concern the issue of impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations, and supports the efforts of the Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to examine all aspects of the issue.

92. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the Commission on Human Rights examine the possibility for better implementation of existing human rights instruments at the international and regional levels and encourages the International Law Commission to continue its work on an international criminal court.

 93. The World Conference on Human Rights appeals to States which have not yet done so to accede to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the Protocols thereto, and to take all appropriate national measures, including legislative ones, for their full implementation.

 94. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends the speedy completion and adoption of the draft declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.

95. The World Conference on Human Rights underlines the importance of preserving and strengthening the system of special procedures, rapporteurs, representatives, experts and working groups of the Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in order to enable them to carry out their mandates in all countries throughout the world, providing them with the necessary human and financial resources. The procedures and mechanisms should be enabled to harmonize and rationalize their work through periodic meetings. All States are asked to cooperate fully with these procedures and mechanisms.

96. The World Conference on Human Rights recommends that the United Nations assume a more active role in the promotion and protection of human rights in ensuring full respect for international humanitarian law in all situations of armed conflict, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

97. The World Conference on Human Rights, recognizing the important role of human rights components in specific arrangements concerning some peace-keeping operations by the United Nations, recommends that the Secretary-General take into account the reporting, experience and capabilities of the Center for Human Rights and human rights mechanisms, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.

98. To strengthen the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, additional approaches should be examined, such as a system of indicators to measure progress in the realization of the rights set forth in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There must be a concerted effort to ensure recognition of economic, social and cultural rights at the national, regional and international levels.

 
F. Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights

 99. The World Conference on Human Rights on Human Rights recommends that the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and other organs and agencies of the United Nations system related to human rights consider ways and means for the full implementation, without delay, of the recommendations contained in the present Declaration, including the possibility of proclaiming a United Nations decade for human rights. The World Conference on Human Rights further recommends that the Commission on Human Rights annually review the progress towards this end.

 100. The World Conference on Human Rights requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to invite on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all States, all organs and agencies of the United Nations system related to human rights, to report to him on the progress made in the implementation of the present Declaration and to submit a report to the General Assembly at its fifty-third session, through the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council. Likewise, regional and, as appropriate, national human rights institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, may present their views to the Secretary-General on the progress made in the implementation of the present Declaration. Special attention should be paid to assessing the progress towards the goal of universal ratification of international human rights treaties and protocols adopted within the framework of the United Nations system.

Scroll Down for:

  • ​Implementing Human Rights
  • Human Rights Council 
  • 1993 Human Rights Conference (left column)
  • Human Rights Commissioners (list)
  • List of Human Rights Issues


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The Right to Development


June 2016: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein made one of the most important statements of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva when he spoke of the significance of the General Assembly’s Declaration of the Right to Development three decades ago. The full text:

We are here to celebrate the Declaration on the Right to Development, which thirty years ago broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice.

It acclaimed long-lost freedoms and independence, and re-asserted equality for all nations and peoples – including their right to self-determination and their right to sovereignty over natural resources. But the Declaration’s central focus was on the human person. Placing individuals at the heart of the development process, it called for every member of society to be empowered to participate fully and freely in vital decisions. It demanded equal opportunities, and the equitable distribution of economic resources, including for people traditionally marginalized, disempowered and excluded from development, such as women, minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, older persons, persons with disabilities and the poor.

Bridging human rights with international relations, and building on the intrinsic interactions of human rights and development with peace and security, the Declaration demanded better governance of the international economic framework and re-defined development as far deeper, broader and more complex than the narrow, growth-and-profit focus of previous decades.

The wisdom of this multidimensional approach has stood the test of time. Today, the local and the global have become ever more connected, and from communication technology to climate change, global supply and value chains to access to medicines, the right to development is manifestly relevant.

Amid today’s slow global economic growth and low commodity prices, this thirtieth anniversary should remind the international community of development’s true purpose: to improve the well-being of all members of society. True development generates greater social justice, not deeper exploitation; and it reduces the towering inequalities which confiscate the fundamental rights of those who are marginalized and poor.

Some progress has been made in global efforts towards realizing the vision of the Declaration on the right to development. But that progress has been uneven, particularly for people in Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small-island developing States, and most other developing countries, as well as for disadvantaged people in both the Global North and South. Insufficiently regulated globalization, persistent poverty and rising inequalities continue to rob people of their rights, and they fuel multiple crises and conflicts. That violence in turn destroys hard-won development progress, and kills and displaces people wantonly, in a terrible downward spiral of avoidable suffering.

In contrast, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Climate Agreement set forth detailed and realistic programs that build on each other with the potential to transform the realization of human rights for millions of people. The 2030 Agenda, which promises to end extreme poverty within our generation, promotes an integrated vision of development with responsibilities that are shared by both the global North and South. This vision is clearly born of the Declaration on the right to development, which offers much needed prevention, since it promises solutions for root causes, including structural challenges, at all levels.

Most evidently, the right to development forcefully calls for individuals to be free to participate in vital decisions. At the international level, it addresses multiple challenges which originate in our failure to adequately regulate globalization. The engines of globalization – among them, trade, investment, finance, and intellectual property - must be made compatible with the human rights obligations of States. Global development cannot mean that people are denied access to essential medicines, that small- farmers are denied fair earnings, or that already impoverished people are further burdened with unsustainable national debt.

Thus the 2030 Agenda addresses many of these systemic obstructions that disadvantage the poor – among them, distorted trade frameworks and weak international governance over powerful transnational actors, including the vectors of financial speculation. It promises better regulation of global financial markets, and an enhanced voice for developing countries in international economic and financial institutions. It commits all States to cooperate in fostering international development and endorses the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries.

Recognizing that all human rights work together – and that together, they build the core conditions for development and peace – the Agenda makes strong commitments to provide access to justice for all, with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, and an end to corruption. This echoes the Declaration's emphatic call for "equal attention and urgent consideration" to the implementation, promotion and protection of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights – and its insistence that the promotion of, respect for and enjoyment of one so-called “category” of human rights “cannot justify the denial of other human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The 2030 Agenda is a child of the right to development. As such, it must not be stunted by indifferent action, malnourished by failed commitments or denied safe passage to its fullest realization. But the right to development extends even beyond the massive global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals. It offers a framework in which to address gaps and failures in responsibility, accountability and regulation in both national and global governance.

Trade and investment policies and agreements can have profound implications on the realization of human rights, with potential adverse impacts in relation to food, water and sanitation, health, indigenous persons, equity and democratic decision-making. Both within the multilateral context and increasingly in bilateral and regional Free Trade agreements, we are also seeing similar regulations relating to services, intellectual property, investment and trade plus issues. Recently, sprawling modern pacts known as mega-regionals have begun changing the landscapes of trade and investment in quite unprecedented ways. The right to development guides the international community, and individual States, to ensure human rights in this context.

For our part, my Office will continue to reach out to all States and stakeholders to carry out our individual and collective obligations in realizing the right to development. As the Declaration so clearly states, everyone, without distinction, is entitled to a social and international order in which human rights and freedoms can be realized. That includes the millions of youth facing unemployment in countries both North and South; the people of formerly affluent nations now crumbling under the burdens created by economic and financial crises; the millions of women, men and children locked in the prison of poverty, and those suffering war and displacement.

The thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration on the right to development must renew in us the spirit of multilateral action for the common good – which is our only hope for survival on this small and fragile planet that we share.

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Implementing Human Rights


In the decades after the adoption of the Universal Declaration its provisions were incorporated into international treaties that gave them the force of law. Their implementation is overseen by expert bodies that began work on the dates indicated below:

1. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by 177 States in 2015) Its 18-member expert oversight committee began work in 1970.

2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (ratified by 168 States in 2015). Its 18-member expert body, known as the Human Rights Committee, began work in 1977 and oversees also the Covenant's two Optional Protocols;


3.  The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by 164 States in 2015) does not provide for an expert treaty body but gives the Economic and Social Council a general mandate to oversee its implementation. In 1978, ECOSOC created an 18-member expert body, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that first met in 1987. Subsequently, the Human Rights Council called for the regularization of the Committee so that its establishment is consistent with other treaty bodies (resolution 4/7). 

4.  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (ratified by 189 States in 2015). Its 23-member expert body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,  began work in 1982 and oversees also the Convention's Optional Protocol.

5.  The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (ratified by 158 States in 2015). Its 10-member expert body, the Committee against Torture began work in 1987. The Optional Protocol to the Convention is overseen by a separate Subcommittee of experts that began work in 2007.

6.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by 195 States in 2015) and its three Optional Protocols. Its 18-member expert Committee on the Rights of the Child began work in 1991 and oversees all four instruments.


 7.  The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ratified by 48 States in 2015), Its 14-member expert Committee on Migrant Workers, began work in 2004. 

   8.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by 156 States in 2015), and its Optional Protocol, are overseen by the 18-member expert Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that began work in 2009.

  9. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance  (ratified by 47 States), is overseen by the 10-member expert Committee on Enforced Disappearances that began work in 2011.


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Human Rights High Commissioners

  • 1994-1997: José Ayala-Lasso (Ecuador)
  • 1997-2002: Mary Robinson (Ireland)
  • 2002-2003: Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazil)
  • 2003-2004: Mr. Bertrand Ramcharan (Guyana)
  • 2004-2008: Louise Arbour (Canada)
  • 2008-2014: Navanethem Pillay (South Africa)
  • 2014-present: Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (Jordan)


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The Human Rights Council


June 2006: The UN General Assembly voted on 15 March 2006 to create a new 47-member Human Rights Council. It will replace the 53-member Human Rights Commission, the only subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council mentioned in the UN Charter. The vote of 170 to four with three abstentions saw the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau in opposition, and Belarus, Iran and Venezuela sitting on the fence.

How meaningful was the Assembly action? What effect will the new Council have on the actual human rights situation in the world? Only time can provide definitive answers but the background to the creation of the HRC can indicate what we should expect.

Essential History: The Human Rights Commission was established in 1946 at the first session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and it played a valuable role in formulating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the landmark Covenants on civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights that gave it legal force. It has also shaped international legal instruments to protect and promote the status of women, the rights of minorities, freedom of information, and to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language or religion. In membership, it grew from the original 18 to 21 in 1961, 32 in 1966, 43 in 1979, and 53 in 1990. Members were elected for three-year terms by ECOSOC (membership 54) on the basis of regional representation: Africa - 15, Asia - 12, Latin American-Caribbean - 11, Western European and Other - 10, and Eastern Europe - 5.

The Commission's role in overseeing the implementation of rights — through experts, "special rapporteurs," and working groups mandated to study and report on problematic national and thematic situations — has been much less stellar. For much of its existence the politics of the Cold War turned the Commission's annual meetings into a ritualistic face-off between East and West, with apartheid and the Middle East serving as mobilizing issues. Western countries focused mainly on civil and political rights; developing countries and members of the Eastern Bloc stressed the equal importance of economic, social and cultural rights. Those splits filled the annual 6-week meetings of the Commission with shrill finger-pointing debates that had everything to do with gaining political advantage and little with improving situations of abuse.

With the end of the Cold War, there was hope that the pattern would change. At the 1993 Human Rights Conference in Vienna, developing countries agreed to the creation of a new post of High Commissioner for Human Rights on the explicit but unwritten understanding that politicized attacks on particular countries would give way to dialogue and cooperation aimed at improving conditions on the ground. A particularly important part of the deal for developing countries was that economic and social rights, including the right to development, would be accorded the same importance as political rights. 

The UN Center on Human Rights in Geneva was significantly strengthened with the appointment of the High Commissioner, and economic and social rights did move into the mainstream of discussions in the Commission, but with little impact on the "real" world. The High Commissioner for Human Rights made the rounds of problem countries but nothing much happened. There was little easing of pressure from Western governments and non-governmental allies to publicly indict the countries they considered the worst human rights offenders. Countries thus targeted sought to shield themselves by becoming members of the Commission, casting it into increasing disrepute.

Membership Issues: In May 2001, the United States failed for the first time since 1947 to win the endorsement of the "Western European and Other" (WEO) Group for election to the Human Rights Commission. In the 54-member Economic and Social Council, it got only 29 votes; the countries endorsed by the WEO Group, Austria, Sweden, and France, won handily. The European lack of support for the United States was a reaction to the Bush administration's campaign against the International Criminal Court. The 1998 Statute of the ICC had been signed by the Clinton administration, but that was withdrawn and Washington began a drive to have countries sign bilateral agreements exempting American citizens from the purview of the Court. Although the United States returned to the Commission in 2003, Washington became a strong critic of the system for selecting its members.

Substantive Issues: Another significant element contributing to Washington's discomfiture with the Commission was its increasing focus on economic, social and cultural rights. Most of the issues subject to study by the Commission's "special mechanisms" (experts, working groups etc.) came to be initiated by developing countries and reflected their concerns. Meanwhile, the United States found itself with ever fewer allies in its attempts to put the spotlight on particular countries. In 2003, for instance, Washington gave up altogether on the effort to put China on the Commission's watch-list.

Particularly problematic for Washington in recent years has been the set of "Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights." Adopted in August 2003 by the Sub Commission on Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, the Norms were initially rejected by the Commission itself on the grounds that it had not asked for them, but in 2005, it forwarded them to ECOSOC with the request that the Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative on the matter. In July 2005 the Secretary-General appointed John Ruggie, a former aide (and primary architect of the UN's "Global Compact" with business.) In his first interim report in February 2006 Mr. Ruggie was roundly critical of the Norms.

What's New About the Council: As a body of the General Assembly (to which it will report), the Council will have its members elected by the full membership of the United Nations (now 193 countries), not ECOSOC (54 members). The vote will be secret, and focused on individual States, not regional slates. The support of half the membership will be required for election. (The Secretary-General's recommendation that a two-thirds vote in the Assembly be required proved unacceptable to developing countries.)

To discourage countries with bad rights records from seeking membership — and to eliminate the accusation of double standards that was frequently leveled at the Commission — the Council will "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments." The review is to be "in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States" and "shall" be a "cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs." The modalities and necessary time allocation of the universal periodic review mechanism are to be agreed upon within one year after the holding of the Council's first session. (The Assembly called for elections to the Council on 9 May and the convening of the first meeting on 19 June. It asked ECOSOC to abolish the Human Rights Commission on 16 June. At some point an amendment of the Charter will be required, for Article 68 reads: "The Economic and Social Council shall set up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights.")

Further, when electing members of the Council, Member States "shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto. The General Assembly may also, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, " suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights."

Far from avoiding scrutiny by becoming members of the Council, those elected are enjoined to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, fully cooperate with the Council and be reviewed under the universal periodic review mechanism during their term of membership."

The Council will convene a minimum of three sessions during the year, for a total of 10 weeks, and it can be called into special session when occasion requires. The Assembly instructed that the Council: "Contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies." It will "assume, review and, where necessary, improve and rationalize" all mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the Commission. The review is to be completed within a year of the Council's first session. Although the Council will operate under the rules of procedure of the General Assembly, the role of non-governmental organizations in its work will be the same as it was in the Commission.

Substantively, the Council will continue the Commission's primary mandate of promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and addressing situations of gross and systematic violations. It will promote human rights education and learning as well as advisory services, technical assistance and capacity-building. In addition to its traditional role "as a forum for dialogue on thematic issues on all human rights" and recommending "the further development of international law in the field of human rights," it will make recommendations to promote effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system.

Regional Distribution: The 47 seats in the Council will be distributed geographically as follows: 13 Africa; 13 Asia; 8 Latin American-Caribbean; 7 Western European and Others; and 6 Eastern Europe. Council members will serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.

Will All This Make a Difference?
Given the current world situation, it is difficult to see how the HRC can make a real difference in world realities. Perhaps the atmospherics will improve in the Council, and perhaps that will result in real improvements on the ground. But we wouldn't bet on it.


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List of Human Rights issues


The following list of Human Rights Issues in alphabetical order shows the current state of international cooperation. These are matters on which governments have agreed to study or act.

  • Adequate Housing
  • Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context
  • Toolkit on the right to adequate housing
  • Administration of Justice
  • Expert Consultation on the Administration of Justice
  • Albinism
  • Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism
  • Business and Human Rights
  • Business and Human Rights
  • Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
  • Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights
  • Children
  • Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  • OHCHR Thematic reports on children
  • Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • United Nations Study on Violence against Children
  • Civil and Political Rights
  • Human Rights Committee (HRC)
  • Climate change
  • Human Rights and climate Change
  • Rio+20 - United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
  • Coercive measures
  • Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures
  • Unilateral coercive measures and human rights
  • Cultural rights
  • Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
  • Death penalty
  • Death penalty
  • Democracy
  • Equal participation in political and public affairs
  • Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
  • Rule of Law - Democracy and Human Rights
  • Detention
  • Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • Development (Good Governance and Debt)
  • Development - Good governance
  • Human rights and the financial crisis
  • Independent expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights
  • Open-ended working group on the right to development
  • Right to development
  • Disability and Human Rights
  • Human Rights of persons with disabilities
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
  • Disappearances
  • Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)
  • Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
  • Discrimination
  • A special focus on discrimination
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Portal (ESCR)
  • Open-ended Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Education
  • Human rights education and training
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • Environment
  • Human Rights and the Environment
  • Rio+20 - United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
  • Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
  • Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
  • Executions
  • Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
  • Food
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to food
  • Toolkit on the Right to Food
  • Forced evictions
  • Forced evictions
  • Freedom of Opinion and Expression
  • Freedom of expression and advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • OHCHR Seminar on effective measures and best practices to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • Freedom of Religion and Belief
  • Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • Health
  • Consultation on Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
  • Toolkit on the Right to Health
  • HIV/AIDS
  • HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
  • Human Rights Defenders
  • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
  • Human rights education and training
  • Human rights education and training
  • United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training
  • World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing)
  • Human Rights Indicators
  • Human Rights Indicators
  • Humanitarian action
  • OHCHR and the World Humanitarian Summit
  • Independence of Judiciary
  • Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Fellowship programme
  • Main page Indigenous
  • Open-ended inter-sessional Working Group on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples
  • Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
  • United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples
  • Working group on indigenous populations
  • Internal Displacement
  • Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
  • International Order
  • Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order
  • International Solidarity
  • Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity
  • Land and Human Rights
  • Land and Human Rights
  • Mercenaries
  • Special Rapporteur on use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
  • Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
  • Migration
  • Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)
  • Migration and Human Rights
  • Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
  • Minorities
  • Fellowship programme
  • Main page Minorities
  • Special Rapporteur on minority issues
  • Nationality
  • Right to a Nationality and Statelessness
  • Older persons
  • Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons
  • Older persons
  • Plans of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
  • National Plans of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
  • Poverty
  • Human rights dimension of poverty
  • Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • The draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights: the rights of the poor
  • Privacy
  • Right to Privacy in the Digital Age
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
  • Racism
  • Ad-Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary standards
  • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • Durban Review Conference (2009)
  • Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent
  • Group of Independent Eminent Experts
  • Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
  • International Decade for People of African Descent
  • Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism
  • Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
  • World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban (2001)
  • Rule of Law
  • Rule of Law
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Situations
  • Working Group on Situations
  • Slavery
  • Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
  • Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
  • Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
  • Social Security
  • Toolkit on the Right to Social Security
  • Terrorism
  • Independent expert on Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • The Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights
  • Torture
  • Committee against Torture (CAT)
  • Special Rapporteur on torture
  • Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
  • United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture
  • Trade and Investment
  • Business and human rights
  • Trade and investment
  • Traditional values
  • Human rights and traditional values
  • Trafficking in Persons
  • Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
  • Transitional Justice
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence
  • Treaty Body Strengthening
  • Treaty Body Strengthening
  • Urbanization and Human Rights
  • Urbanization and Human Rights
  • Violent extremism
  • Human rights and preventing and countering violent extremism
  • Water and sanitation
  • Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • Toolkit on the Right to Water and Sanitation
  • Women
  • Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
  • Women's Rights and Gender main page
  • Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
  • Youth
  • Human rights of youth

WHO chart on Health consequences of violence against children

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