Human Rights, UDHR and UN

What is Human Rights?

The history of human rights is that of the struggle against the exploitation of one person by another. It is based on the recognition of basic rights founded on the concept of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.

{tocify} $title={Table of Contents

The recognition was consolidated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Its preamble asserted “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”

Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being", and which are "inherent in all human beings" regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others, and it is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture and execution.


Human Rights are commonly understood as “inalienable fundamental rights” to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. Human Rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian. At the international level, human rights have become a movement. It can be studied in many ways which are called the constituents of Human Rights. They may be civil rights, political, economic, cultural, or social rights. They are also called somewhere Fundamental Rights. Being a humankind one must have some rights from birth and hence they are the birthrights of every human being. They are also the rights of freedom to everyone irrespective of caste, creed, sex, region, colour, profession, etc.

Human Rights is a 20th-century term for what had been traditionally known as “Natural Rights” or in a more appealing phase, the Rights of Man. The notion of the Rights of Man and other such concepts of human rights are as old as humanity. These rights of men had a place almost in all the ancient societies of the world, though they were not referred to by that time.

The term “Human Rights” is comparatively of recent origin. But the idea of human rights is as old as the history of human civilization. Human Rights are deeply rooted in the historical past. The history of mankind has been firmly associated with the struggle of individuals against injustice, exploitation and disdain.


Broadly speaking, “Human Right” means the right to life, liberty, equality and the dignity of an individual irrespective of caste, creed or sex. Human rights are always natural. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states this term signifies the rights which belong equally to every individual. It envisages that all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights and are entitled to enjoy all rights

Definition of Human Rights

According to United Nations, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

According to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.


According to Social Work Dictionary-1995, “ Human Rights is the opportunity to be accorded some prerogatives and obligations of social fulfilment as are according to all others without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.”


Salient Features of Human Rights

Office of The High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR) mentioned some of the most important characteristics of Human Rights in “The Human Rights: A Basic Handbook For Un Staff

§  Human rights are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each person;

§  Human rights are universal, meaning that they are applied equally and without discrimination to all people;

§  Human rights are inalienable, in that no one can have his or her human rights taken away other than in specific situations – for example, the right to liberty can be restricted if a person is found guilty of a crime by a court of law;

§  Human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, for the reason that it is insufficient to respect some human rights and not others.

In practice, the violation of one right will often affect the respect of several other rights. All human rights should therefore be seen as having equal importance and being equally essential to respect for the dignity and worth of every person.


Nine Characteristics of Human Rights

There are some general characteristics of Human Rights, as such:-

1. Human Rights are Inalienable - Human rights are conferred on an individual due to the very nature of his existence. They are inherent in all individuals irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, sex and nationality. Human rights are conferred to an individual even after his death. The different rituals in different religions bear testimony to this fact. 

2. Human Rights are Essential and Necessary - In the absence of human rights, the moral, physical, social and spiritual welfare of an individual is impossible. Human rights are also essential as they provide suitable conditions for the material and moral upliftment of the people. 

3. Human Rights are in connection with human dignity - To treat another individual with dignity irrespective of the fact that the person is a male or female, rich or poor etc. is concerned with human dignity. 

4. Human rights are irrevocable - They cannot be taken away by any power or authority because these rights originate with the social nature of man in the society of human beings and they belong to a person simply because he is a human being. As such human rights have similarities to moral rights. 

5. Human Rights are Necessary for the fulfilment of the purpose of life - Human life has a purpose. The term “human right” is applied to those conditions which are essential for the fulfilment of this purpose. No government has the power to curtail or take away the rights which are sacrosanct, inviolable and immutable. 

6. Human Rights are Universal – Human rights are not a monopoly of any privileged class of people. Human rights are universal in nature, without consideration and without exception. The values such as divinity, dignity and equality which form the basis of these rights are inherent in human nature. 

7. Human Rights are never absolute – Man is a social animal and he lives in a civic society, which always puts certain restrictions on the enjoyment of his rights and freedoms. Human rights as such are those limited powers or claims, which are contributory to the common good and which are recognized and guaranteed by the State, through its laws to the individuals. As such, each right has certain limitations. 

8. Human Rights are Dynamic - Human rights are not static, they are dynamic. Human rights go on expanding with socio-eco-cultural and political developments within the State. Judges have to interpret laws in such ways as are in tune with the changed social values. For eg. The right to be cared for in sickness has now been extended to include free medical treatment in public hospitals under the Public Health Scheme, free medical examinations in schools, and provisions for specially equipped schools for the physically handicapped. 

9. Rights as limits to state power - Human rights imply that every individual has legitimate claims upon his or her society for certain freedom and benefits. So human rights limit the state’s power. These may be in the form of negative restrictions, on the powers of the State, from violating the inalienable freedoms of the individuals, or in the nature of demands on the State, i.e. positive obligations of the State.


Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Civilization, an advanced state of social development— has created a society where the rights of people become prominent: the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. These rights are inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, as these entitlements are inherent to all human beings. The modern world came in the same platform to formulate and codified fundamental human rights as an inborn legacy through the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). After obtaining independence, Bangladesh, a densely populated country, became a member of the United Nations in 1974 and since then it has been working to promote the provisions of UDHR through the various state mechanisms: judiciary, law enforcement agencies etc.


The notion of human rights first came to light through religions and traditions. Magna Carta (1215), the petition of Rights (1628), the Bill of Rights (1688), the French Revolution (1789) and the American Bill of Rights (1791) significantly contributed to the development of human rights. After World War II, the United Nations was set up in 1945 to make the world a better living place. Consequently, the UDHR was adopted on 10th December 1948 as giving enumeration of “human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

Rights to life, liberty and property, with nearly two dozen specific rights are included in the UDHR  whereas Articles 1 to 3 is considered basic philosophy, Article 3 to 21 are dealing with civil and political rights and Article-23 to 27 deal with economic, social and cultural rights. Article-28 speaks of social and international order and in the meantime, Article 29 to 30 provides limitations.

The constitution of Bangladesh and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Bangladesh has ratified all the core human rights treaties (ICCPR, ICESCR, CERD, CEDAW, CAT, and CRC) and is subjected to the UDHR. As with UDHR, the Constitution of Bangladesh has incorporated provisions regarding fundamental rights ranging from Article-27 to 47 to protect and promote the human rights of its citizens. Article-27 states, “all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law” while Article-31 refers to “to enjoy the protection of the law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any a person shall be taken except in accordance with the law.” Article-32 says “the right to life, liberty and security of person.”


Agencies working on Human Rights issues

Internationally, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other agencies are working on this issue. So, governments, as well as different NGOs, are working on this ground. National Human Rights Commission, AIN o Salish Kendra, Odhikar, ECDO, Transparency International Bangladesh all are well-mentioned organizations.

Criminal Justice System in Bangladesh

Law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are the major organs of our criminal justice system. Maintaining peace, prosperity and security is the obligation of Law enforcement agencies and for establishing these; we have ‘the police force’. Bangladesh police force was formed under Indian Police Act-1861 during the Queen Victoria regime. The year 2004, three special units were formed to help the regular police: Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Cheetah and Cobra. Supreme Court, District courts and lawyers are part of the judiciary.


Roles of Criminal Justice Systems to establish Human Rights

“Discipline, Security, Prosperity”—is the motto of the police force which are prominently involved in the task of keeping peace and protecting citizens’ life. The recent measures adopted by the police force promoting human rights are:

a) The country’s first Victim Support Center was established in 2009 by Bangladesh police where 270 victims sought support in the very initial year. The centre is staffed by police officers and NGO representatives to provide support with medical, legal and counselling services together with short term accommodation facilities for the victims.

b) The Bangladesh Police Women’s Network has been established as a national and regional milestone towards the implementation of the Women Policing Strategy. And the broader goal of police reform with a view to foster women's development at national, regional and international levels and support more women to play a larger role in Bangladesh police.

c) Approximately 20,000 Community Policing Forums are presently in operation across the country and in 2009, nine large-scale community consultations were organized to discuss local problems and find local solutions.

d) Judiciary has also introduced- Prison reform- Paralegal and Case Coordinator committees have carried out a pilot project in the five districts which releases 4,000.


Human Rights and application of UDHR in Bangladesh

Important Articles of UDHR-1948

Article 12: (Confidentiality)- 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.

Article 16: (Marriage & Family)- 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 to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.  

Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. 

The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 22 (Social Security)- Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation 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

Article 25 (Basic Human Needs)- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and 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. 

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.


The relationships between Human Rights related articles in the Bangladesh Constitution in relation to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are shown in the following. It's mainly included with 

-Basic Human Rights;

-Fundamental Rights;

-Civil, Political, Social and Economic;

-Social Welfare Rights; and

-Women's Rights.

Some Key Articles regarding Human Rights in Bangladesh and Application of UDHR

Basic Human Rights






Others of UDHR


Participation of women in national life




No torture, 05

Provision of basic necessities




Free and compulsory education




The right to privacy, 21

Equality before law



No discrimination on the ground so religions



Marriage and Family, 16

Equality of opportunities and equality of opportunities in public employment

19 & 29


Protection with respect to trial and punishment


10, 08


Freedom of movement




Freedom of assembly




Freedom of association




Freedom of thoughts and conscience, and speech




Freedom of profession and occupation




Freedom of religion




Rights to property




Protection of home and correspondence






Enforcement of fundamentals rights






Credit: Md. Mohinuddin (


Role of UN upholding Human Rights

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

The name “United Nations” was suggested by US President Franklin Roosevelt. It was first used in the Declaration of the United Nations made on January 1, 1942. At San Francisco Conference, it was unanimously adopted as the name of the new international organization as a tribute to the late President of the United States. India had not achieved its independence by then and yet it became one of the founder members of the United Nations.


All nations pledged themselves to the UN Charter. In the UN Charter, they pledged “to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war” They also promised to “promote social progress and better standards of life.” The Charter came into force on October 24, 1945, after a majority of the signatories deposited their instruments of ratification. Since then every year, the 24th of October is celebrated as United Nations Day.

Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the United Nations can take action on the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, such as peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production, and more.

The UN also provides a forum for its members to express their views in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other bodies and committees. By enabling dialogue between its members, and by hosting negotiations, the Organization has become a mechanism for governments to find areas of agreement and solve problems together.


The UN Charter

The Charter is the Constitution of the United Nations Organisation. It was made in October 1944 by the Dumbarton Oaks (Washington DC) Conference. It lays down the rules which govern the organisation and functions of the UNO and all its organs. The Charter has a Preamble, 19 Chapters and 111 Articles which explain the purposes, principles, organs, and operating methods of the UN.

Purposes of the UN

§  The purposes of the UN are defined in Article 1 of the UN Charter. These are:
§  To maintain international peace and security and to take adequate steps to avert wars.
§  To develop friendly relations among nations on the basis of equality.
§  To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character.
§  To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.


Principles of the UN

The principles are the means to achieve the objectives of the UN. These are contained in Article 2 of the UN Charter:

§  All the member states are equal.
§  The member states shall fulfil their obligations to the UN honestly.
§  The member states shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means.
§  The member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against any other state.
§  The member states shall give to the UN every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the UN Charter.
§  The states which are not members of the UN should also act in accordance with these principles for the maintenance of international peace and security.
§  No member state shall interfere in the internal affairs of any other state.


Activities/Functions of United Nations

Maintain international peace and security

The united nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the second world war, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. These activities often overlap and should reinforce one another, to be effective. The UN security council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. The general assembly and the secretary-general play major, important, and complementary roles, along with other un offices and bodies.

Protect Human Rights

The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the organization.  In 1948, the universal declaration of human rights brought human rights into the realm of international law.  Since then, the organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.


Deliver Humanitarian Aid

One of the purposes of the united nations, as stated in its charter, is "to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character."  the UN first did this in the aftermath of the second world war on the devastated continent of Europe, which it helped to rebuild.  The organization is now relied upon by the international community to coordinate humanitarian relief operations due to natural and man-made disasters in areas beyond the relief capacity of national authorities alone.

Promote Sustainable Development

From the start of 1945, one of the main priorities of the united nations was to “achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”  Improving people’s well-being continues to be one of the main focuses of the UN. The global understanding of development has changed over the years, and countries now have agreed that sustainable development – a development that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity, greater social well-being, and protection of the environment – offers the best path forward for improving the lives of people everywhere.


Uphold International Law

The UN Charter, in its preamble, set an objective: "to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained". Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the organization.  This work is carried out in many ways - by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties - and by the security council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security if it deems this necessary.  These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty.  As such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN member states are bound by it.  The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.


Weaknesses and limitations of the UN

a) It lacks adequate funds to meet all its objectives.
b) The veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council has virtually left this powerful UN organ at the mercy of the “Big-Five” ie USA, the UK, Russia France and China. Hence, the need is to reform the UN system from c) The urgent need is to democratize the UN. Democracy and transparency must characterize the Working of all the organs of the UN. The Security Council needs to be expanded and restructured. Almost all countries now advocate the need for an increase in the permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.
d) There has been a big increase in the number of members of the UN. As such, the UN Security Council needs an expansion for giving due representation to all continents and major powers of the world.
e) The issue of Veto Power needs to be debated and amended.
f) The General Assembly should be made stronger. It should be turned into a forum for consensus on important global issues.
g) The voice of the smaller nations should carry equal weight in all UN decisions.
h) The rules and practices of the UN institutions need reform in the light of past experience.
i) The organisation and the functioning of the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat demand a complete over-hauling.
j)  The UN peacekeeping role needs to be restructured technically and financially.


How does the UN promote and protect human rights?

The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization.  In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law.  Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.

High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has led responsibility in the UN system for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The office supports the human rights components of peacekeeping missions in several countries and has many countries and regional offices and centres. The High Commissioner for Human Rights regularly comments on human rights situations in the world and has the authority to investigate situations and issue reports on them. 

Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, established in 2006, replaced the 60-year-old UN Commission on Human Rights as the key independent UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights.

Human Rights Treaty Bodies

The human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

Special Procedures

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are prominent, independent experts working on a voluntary basis, who examine, monitor, publicly report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.


The UN Development Group’s Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism (UNDG-HRM) advances human rights mainstreaming efforts within the UN development system. 

Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect

The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action; the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect leads the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect.


What legal instruments help the UN protect human rights?

The International Bill of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was the first legal document protecting universal human rights.   Together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the three instruments form the so-called International Bill of Human Rights. A series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the body of international human rights law.


Democracy, based on the rule of law, is ultimately a means to achieve international peace and security, economic and social progress and development, and respect for human rights – the three pillars of the United Nations mission as set forth in the UN Charter. At the 2005 World Summit, all the world’s governments reaffirmed “that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives” and stressed, “that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing”. Democratic principles are woven throughout the normative fabric of the United Nations. The 2009 Guidance Note on Democracy of the Secretary-General sets out the United Nations framework for democracy based on universal principles, norms and standards and commits the Organization to principled, coherent and consistent action in support of democracy.


What other UN offices and bodies are responsible for protecting human rights?

Security Council

The UN Security Council, at times, deals with grave human rights violations, often in conflict areas.  The UN Charter gives the Security Council the authority to investigate and mediate, dispatch a mission, appoint special envoys, or request the Secretary-General to use his good offices.  The Security Council may issue a ceasefire directive, dispatch military observers or a peacekeeping force.  If this does not work, the Security Council can opt for enforcement measures, such as economic sanctions, arms embargos, financial penalties and restrictions, travel bans, the severance of diplomatic relations, a blockade, or even collective military action.

Third Committee of the General Assembly

The General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) examines a range of issues, including human rights questions.  The Committee also discusses questions relating to the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right to self-determination.  The Committee also addresses important social development questions.


Various Other UN Bodies

Different intergovernmental bodies and interdepartmental mechanisms based at the United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General, address a range of human rights issues. The General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)and their subsidiary organs make policy decisions and recommendations to the Member States, the United Nations system and other actors.  The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, has the mandate to discuss indigenous issues, including human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights interacts with and provides advice and support on human rights issues to these bodies and mechanisms.

The Office also works to mainstream human rights in all areas of work of the Organization, including development, peace and security, peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs. Human rights issues are also addressed in the context of the post-conflict UN peacebuilding support activities.



The Secretary-General appoints special representatives, who advocate against major human rights violations:

a) Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

b) Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

c) Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children

The ‘Human Rights Up Front Initiative is an initiative by the UN Secretary-General to ensure the UN system takes early and effective action, as mandated by the Charter and UN resolutions, to prevent or respond to serious and large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. The initiative underlines a shared responsibility among the various UN entities to work together to address such violations. HRuF seeks to achieve this by effecting change at three levels: cultural, operational and political.  These changes are gradually transforming the way the UN understands its responsibilities and implements them. The initiative has been progressively rolled-out since late 2013. Through various presentations, letters and policy documents, the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General have presented HRuF to the General Assembly and to staff and UN system leaders. 


UN Peace Operations

Many United Nations peacekeeping operations and political and peacebuilding missions also include human rights-related mandates aimed at contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights through both immediate and long-term action; empowering the population to assert and claim their human rights; and enabling State and other national institutions to implement their human rights obligations and uphold the rule of law. Human rights teams on the groundwork in close cooperation and coordination with other civilian and uniformed components of peace operations, in particular, in relation to the protection of civilians; addressing conflict-related sexual violence and violations against children; and strengthening respect for human rights and the rule of law through legal and judicial reform, security sector reform and prison system reform. 

Commission on the Status of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women.  UN Women, established in 2010, serves as its Secretariat.


The UN Commission on Human Rights

Although human rights are fundamental to all functions of the UN, human rights issues mainly fall under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This council is made up of fifty-three member states elected by ECOSOC the UN Commission on Human Rights initiates studies and fact-finding missions and discusses specific human rights issues. It has the responsibility for initiating and drafting human rights declarations and conventions.

ECOSOC also supervises intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), which are specialized agencies that function independently with their own charter, budget, and staff but are affiliated with the UN by special agreements. IGOs report to the ECOSOC and may be asked to review reports from certain UN bodies that are relevant to their area of focus.

Some intergovernmental organizations that work to protect human rights include:

a) International Labor Organization (ILO) – Develops international labour standards and provides technical assistance training to governments.

b) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – Works with other UN bodies, governments, and non-governmental organizations to provide community-based services in primary healthcare, basic education, and safe water and sanitation for children in developing countries. Human rights are fundamental to its programming.

c) United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – Promotes economic and political empowerment of women in developing countries, working to ensure their participation in development planning and practices, as well as their human rights.

d) United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -Pursues intellectual cooperation in education, science, culture, and communications and promotes development through social, cultural, and economic projects.


World Health Organization (WHO)

Conducts immunization campaigns, promotes and coordinates research, and provides technical assistance to countries that are improving their health systems.

The UN Security Council, comprising fifteen-member states, is responsible for making decisions regarding international peace and security. It can make recommendations and decisions for action, including providing humanitarian aid, imposing economic sanctions, and recommending peacekeeping operations. The Security Council has been responsible for establishing international tribunals to prosecute serious violations of humanitarian law. For example, special tribunals have been set up to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and acts of genocide in Rwanda.

The Secretariat is the administrative arm of the UN, responsible for overseeing the programs and policies established by the other UN organs. The position of UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, currently held by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, is part of the UN Secretariat.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post