Human rights are "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled" Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in science and culture, the right to work, and the right to education.
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.
Ancient peoples did not have the same modern-day conception of universal human rights. The true forerunner of human-rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition that became prominent during the European Enlightenment. From this foundation, the modern human rights arguments emerged over the latter half of the 20th century.
17th-century English philosopher John Locke discussed natural rights in his work, identifying them as being "life, liberty, and estate (property)", and argued that such fundamental rights could not be surrendered in the social contract. In Britain in 1689, the English Bill of Rights and the Scottish Claim of Right each made illegal a range of oppressive governmental actions. Two major revolutions occurred during the 18th century, in the United States (1776) and in France (1789), leading to the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen respectively, both of which articulated certain human rights. Additionally, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 encoded into law a number of fundamental civil rights and civil freedoms.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— United States Declaration of Independence, 1776
Philosophers such as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Hegel expanded on the theme of universality during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1831 William Lloyd Garrison wrote in a newspaper called The Liberator that he was trying to enlist his readers in "the great cause of human rights" so the term human rights probably came into use sometime between Paine's The Rights of Man and Garrison's publication. In 1849 a contemporary, Henry David Thoreau, wrote about human rights in his treatise On the Duty of Civil Disobedience  which was later influential on human rights and civil rights thinkers. United States Supreme Court Justice David Davis, in his 1867 opinion for Ex Parte Milligan, wrote "By the protection of the law, human rights are secured; withdraw that protection and they are at the mercy of wicked rulers or the clamor of an excited people."
Many groups and movements have managed to achieve profound social changes over the course of the 20th century in the name of human rights. In Western Europe and North America, labour unions brought about laws granting workers the right to strike, establishing minimum work conditions and forbidding or regulating child labour. The women's rights movement succeeded in gaining for many women the right to vote. National liberation movements in many countries succeeded in driving out colonial powers. One of the most influential was Mahatma Gandhi's movement to free his native India from British rule. Movements by long-oppressed racial and religious minorities succeeded in many parts of the world, among them the civil rights movement, and more recent diverse identity politics movements, on behalf of women and minorities in the United States.
The foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 1864 Lieber Code and the first of the Geneva Conventions in 1864 laid the foundations of International humanitarian law, to be further developed following the two World Wars.
The League of Nations was established in 1919 at the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I. The League's goals included disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global welfare. Enshrined in its Charter was a mandate to promote many of the rights which were later included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The League of Nations had mandates to support many of the former colonies of the Western European colonial powers during their transition from colony to independent state.
Established as an agency of the League of Nations, and now part of United Nations, the International Labour Organization also had a mandate to promote and safeguard certain of the rights later included in the UDHR:
the primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.— Report by the Director General for the International Labour Conference 87th Session
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a non-binding declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, partly in response to the barbarism of World War II. The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights are part of the "foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behavior of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality.
...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— Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
The UDHR was framed by members of the Human Rights Commission, with Eleanor Roosevelt as Chair, who began to discuss an International Bill of Rights in 1947. The members of the Commission did not immediately agree on the form of such a bill of rights, and whether, or how, it should be enforced. The Commission proceeded to frame the UDHR and accompanying treaties, but the UDHR quickly became the priority. Canadian law professor John Humprey and French lawyer Rene Cassin were responsible for much of the cross-national research and the structure of the document respectively, where the articles of the declaration were interpretative of the general principle of the preamble. The document was structured by Cassin to include the basic principles of dignity, liberty, equality and brotherhood in the first two articles, followed successively by rights pertaining to individuals; rights of individuals in relation to each other and to groups; spiritual, public and political rights; and economic, social and cultural rights. The final three articles place, according to Cassin, rights in the context of limits, duties and the social and political order in which they are to be realized. Humphrey and Cassin intended the rights in the UDHR to be legally enforceable through some means, as is reflected in the third clause of the preamble:
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.— Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Some of the UDHR was researched and written by a committee of international experts on human rights, including representatives from all continents and all major religions, and drawing on consultation with leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. The inclusion of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights was predicated on the assumption that basic human rights are indivisible and that the different types of rights listed are inextricably linked. Though this principle was not opposed by any member states at the time of adoption (the declaration was adopted unanimously, with the abstention of the Soviet bloc, Apartheid South Africa and Saudi Arabia), this principle was later subject to significant challenges.
The onset of the Cold War soon after the UDHR was conceived brought to the fore divisions over the inclusion of both econonic and social rights and civil and political rights in the declaration. Capitalist states tended to place strong emphasis on civil and political rights (such as freedom of association and expression), and were reluctant to include economic and social rights (such as the right to work and the right to join a union). Socialist states placed much greater importance on economic and social rights and argued strongly for their inclusion.
Because of the divisions over which rights to include, and because some states declined to ratify any treaties including certain specific interpretations of human rights, and despite the Soviet bloc and a number of developing countries arguing strongly for the inclusion of all rights in a so-called Unity Resolution, the rights enshrined in the UDHR were split into two separate covenants, allowing states to adopt some rights and derogate others. Though this allowed the covenants to be created, it denied the proposed principle that all rights are linked which was central to some interpretations of the UDHR.
Although the UDHR is a non-binding resolution, it is now considered to be a central component of international customary law which may be invoked under appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries.
In 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were adopted by the United Nations, between them making the rights contained in the UDHR binding on all states. However, they came into force only in 1976, when they were ratified by a sufficient number of countries (despite achieving the ICCPR, a covenant including no economic or social rights, the US only ratified the ICCPR in 1992). The ICESCR commits 155 state parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals.
Since then numerous other treaties (pieces of legislation) have been offered at the international level. They are generally known as human rights instruments. Some of the most significant are:
The United Nations (UN) is the only multilateral governmental agency with universally accepted international jurisdiction for universal human rights legislation. All UN organs have advisory roles to the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council, and there are numerous committees within the UN with responsibilities for safeguarding different human rights treaties. The most senior body of the UN with regard to human rights is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations has an international mandate 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.— Article 1–3 of the United Nations Charter
The United Nations Human Rights Council, created at the 2005 World Summit to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has a mandate to investigate violations of human rights. The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and reports directly to it. It ranks below the Security Council, which is the final authority for the interpretation of the United Nations Charter. Forty-seven of the one hundred ninety-one member states sit on the council, elected by simple majority in a secret ballot of the United Nations General Assembly. Members serve a maximum of six years and may have their membership suspended for gross human rights abuses. The Council is based in Geneva, and meets three times a year; with additional meetings to respond to urgent situations.
Independent experts (rapporteurs) are retained by the Council to investigate alleged human rights abuses and to provide the Council with reports.
The Human Rights Council may request that the Security Council refer cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) even if the issue being referred is outside the normal jurisdiction of the ICC.
In addition to the political bodies whose mandate flows from the UN charter, the UN has set up a number of treaty-based bodies, comprising committees of independent experts who monitor compliance with human rights standards and norms flowing from the core international human rights treaties. They are supported by and are created by the treaty that they monitor, With the exception of the CESCR, which was established under a resolution of the Economic and Social Council to carry out the monitoring functions originally assigned to that body under the Covenant, they are technically autonomous bodies, established by the treaties that they monitor and accountable to the state parties of those treaties – rather than subsidiary to the United Nations, though in practice they are closely intertwined with the United Nations system and are supported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the UN Centre for Human Rights.
Each treaty body receives secretariat support from the Human Rights Council and Treaties Division of Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva except CEDAW, which is supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). CEDAW formerly held all its sessions at United Nations headquarters in New York but now frequently meets at the United Nations Office in Geneva; the other treaty bodies meet in Geneva. The Human Rights Committee usually holds its March session in New York City.
There are many regional agreements and organizations promoting and governing human rights.
The African Union (AU) is a supranational union consisting of fifty-three African states. Established in 2001, the AU's purpose is to help secure Africa's democracy, human rights, and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing an end to intra-African conflict and creating an effective common market.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) is a quasi-judicial organ of the African Union tasked with promoting and protecting human rights and collective (peoples') rights throughout the African continent as well as interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and considering individual complaints of violations of the Charter. The Commission has three broad areas of responsibility:
In pursuit of these goals, the Commission is mandated to "collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples, rights, organise seminars, symposia and conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples' rights and, should the case arise, give its views or make recommendations to governments" (Charter, Art. 45).
With the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (under a protocol to the Charter which was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in January 2004), the Commission will have the additional task of preparing cases for submission to the Court's jurisdiction. In a July 2004 decision, the AU Assembly resolved that the future Court on Human and Peoples' Rights would be integrated with the African Court of Justice.
The Court of Justice of the African Union is intended to be the "principal judicial organ of the Union" (Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union, Article 2.2). Although it has not yet been established, it is intended to take over the duties of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as act as the supreme court of the African Union, interpreting all necessary laws and treaties. The Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights entered into force in January 2004 but its merging with the Court of Justice has delayed its establishment. The Protocol establishing the Court of Justice will come into force when ratified by 15 countries.
There are many countries in Africa accused of human rights violations by the international community and NGOs
The Organization of American States (OAS) is an international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. Its members are the thirty-five independent states of the Americas. Over the course of the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, the return to democracy in Latin America, and the thrust toward globalization, the OAS made major efforts to reinvent itself to fit the new context. Its stated priorities now include the following:
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the IACHR) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, also based in Washington, D.C. Along with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica, it is one of the bodies that comprise the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights. The IACHR is a permanent body which meets in regular and special sessions several times a year to examine allegations of human rights violations in the hemisphere. Its human rights duties stem from three documents:
The Inter-Americal Court of Human Rights was established in 1979 with the purpose of enforcing and interpreting the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Its two main functions are thus adjudicatory and advisory. Under the former, it hears and rules on the specific cases of human rights violations referred to it. Under the latter, it issues opinions on matters of legal interpretation brought to its attention by other OAS bodies or member states.
There are no Asia-wide organisations or conventions to promote or protect human rights. Countries vary widely in their approach to human rights and their record of human rights protection.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geo-political and economic organization of 10 countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The organisation now also includes Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. In October 2009, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was inaugurated, and subsequently, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration was adopted unanimously by ASEAN members on 18 November 2012.
The Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACHR) was adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States on 22 May 2004.
The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, is the oldest organisation working for European integration. It is an international organisation with legal personality recognised under public international law and has observer status with the United Nations. The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg in France. The Council of Europe is responsible for both the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. These institutions bind the Council's members to a code of human rights which, though strict, are more lenient than those of the United Nations charter on human rights. The Council also promotes the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the European Social Charter. Membership is open to all European states which seek European integration, accept the principle of the rule of law and are able and willing to guarantee democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The Council of Europe is separate from the European Union, but the latter is expected to accede to the European Convention and potentially the Council itself. The EU also has a separate human rights document; the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The European Convention on Human Rights defines and guarantees since 1950 human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. All 47 member states of the Council of Europe have signed this Convention and are therefore under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In order to prevent torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 of the Convention), the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture was established.
Several theoretical approaches have been advanced to explain how and why human rights become part of social expectations.
One of the oldest Western philosophies on human rights is that they are a product of a natural law, stemming from different philosophical or religious grounds.
Other theories hold that human rights codify moral behavior which is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution (associated with Hume). Human rights are also described as a sociological pattern of rule setting (as in the sociological theory of law and the work of Weber). These approaches include the notion that individuals in a society accept rules from legitimate authority in exchange for security and economic advantage (as in Rawls) – a social contract.
Natural law theories base human rights on a "natural" moral, religious or even biological order which is independent of transitory human laws or traditions.
Socrates and his philosophic heirs, Plato and Aristotle, posited the existence of natural justice or natural right (dikaion physikon, δικαιον φυσικον, Latin ius naturale). Of these, Aristotle is often said to be the father of natural law, although evidence for this is due largely to the interpretations of his work of Thomas Aquinas.
Some of the early Church fathers sought to incorporate the until then pagan concept of natural law into Christianity. Natural law theories have featured greatly in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suárez, Richard Hooker, Thomas Hobbes, Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, and John Locke.
In the Seventeenth Century Thomas Hobbes founded a contractualist theory of legal positivism on what all men could agree upon: what they sought (happiness) was subject to contention, but a broad consensus could form around what they feared (violent death at the hands of another). The natural law was how a rational human being, seeking to survive and prosper, would act. It was discovered by considering humankind's natural rights, whereas previously it could be said that natural rights were discovered by considering the natural law. In Hobbes' opinion, the only way natural law could prevail was for men to submit to the commands of the sovereign. In this lay the foundations of the theory of a social contract between the governed and the governor.
Hugo Grotius based his philosophy of international law on natural law. He wrote that "even the will of an omnipotent being cannot change or abrogate" natural law, which "would maintain its objective validity even if we should assume the impossible, that there is no God or that he does not care for human affairs." (De iure belli ac pacis, Prolegomeni XI). This is the famous argument etiamsi daremus (non-esse Deum), that made natural law no longer dependent on theology.
John Locke incorporated natural law into many of his theories and philosophy, especially in Two Treatises of Government. Locke turned Hobbes' prescription around, saying that if the ruler went against natural law and failed to protect "life, liberty, and property," people could justifiably overthrow the existing state and create a new one.
The Belgian philosopher of law Frank van Dun is one among those who are elaborating a secular conception of natural law in the liberal tradition. There are also emerging and secular forms of natural law theory that define human rights as derivative of the notion of universal human dignity.
The philosopher John Finnis argues that human rights are justifiable on the grounds of their instrumental value in creating the necessary conditions for human well-being. Interest theories highlight the duty to respect the rights of other individuals on grounds of self-interest:
Human rights law, applied to a State's own citizens serves the interest of states, by, for example, minimizing the risk of violent resistance and protest and by keeping the level of dissatisfaction with the government manageable— Niraj Nathwani in Rethinking refugee law
The most common categorization of human rights is to split them into civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.
Civil and political rights are enshrined in articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the ICCPR. Economic, social and cultural rights are enshrined in articles 22 to 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the ICESCR. The UDHR included both economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights because it was based on the principle that the different rights could only successfully exist in combination:
The ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his social, economic and cultural rights— International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
This is held to be true because without civil and political rights the public cannot assert their economic, social and cultural rights. Similarly, without livelihoods and a working society, the public cannot assert or make use of civil or political rights (known as the full belly thesis)
Although accepted by the signaturies to the UDHR, most of them do not in practice give equal weight to the different types of rights. Western cultures have often given priority to civil and political rights, sometimes at the expense of economic and social rights such as the right to work, to education, health and housing. For example, in the United States there is no universal access to healthcare free at the point of use. That is not to say that Western cultures have overlooked these rights entirely (the welfare states that exist in Western Europe are evidence of this). Similarly the ex Soviet bloc countries and Asian countries have tended to give priority to economic, social and cultural rights, but have often failed to provide civil and political rights.
Another categorization, offered by Karel Vasak, is that there are three generations of human rights: first-generation civil and political rights (right to life and political participation), second-generation economic, social and cultural rights (right to subsistence) and third-generation solidarity rights (right to peace, right to clean environment). Out of these generations, the third generation is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition. This categorisation is at odds with the indivisibility of rights, as it implicitly states that some rights can exist without others. Prioritisation of rights for pragmatic reasons is however a widely accepted neccessity. Human rights expert Philip Alston argues:
If every possible human rights element is deemed to be essential or necessary, then nothing will be treated as though it is truly important.— Philip Alston
He, and others, urge caution with prioritisation of rights:
...the call for prioritizing is not to suggest that any obvious violations of rights can be ignored.— Philip Alston
Priorities, where necessary, should adhere to core concepts (such as reasonable attempts at progressive realization) and principles (such as non-discrimination, equality and participation.— Olivia Ball, Paul Gready
Some human rights are said to be "inalienable rights." The term inalienable rights (or unalienable rights) refers to "a set of human rights that are fundamental, are not awarded by human power, and cannot be surrendered."
The adherence to the principle of indivisibility by the international community was reaffirmed in 1995:
All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and related. The internationl community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis— Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, World Conference on Human Rights, 1995]]
This statement was again endorsed at the 2005 World Summit in New York (paragraph 121).
The UDHR enshrines, by definition, rights that apply to all humans equally, whichever geographical location, state, race or culture they belong to.
Proponents of cultural relativism suggest that human rights are not all universal, and indeed conflict with some cultures and threaten their survival.
Rights which are most often contested with relativistic arguments are the rights of women. For example Female genital mutilation occurs in different cultures in Africa, Asia and South America. It is not mandated by any religion, but has become a tradition in many cultures. It is considered a violation of women's and girl's rights by much of the international community, and is outlawed in some countries.
Universalism has been described by some as cultural, economic or political imperialism. In particular, the concept of human rights is often claimed to be fundamentally rooted in a politically liberal outlook which, although generally accepted in Europe, Japan or North America, is not necessarily taken as standard elsewhere.
For example, in 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by saying that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law. The former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, and of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad both claimed in the 1990s that Asian values were significantly different from western values and included a sense of loyalty and foregoing personal freedoms for the sake of social stability and prosperity, and therefore authoritarian government is more appropriate in Asia than democracy. This view is countered by Mahathir's former deputy:
To say that freedom is Western or unAsian is to offend our traditions as well as our forefathers, who gave their lives in the struggle against tyranny and injustices.
An appeal is often made to the fact that influential human rights thinkers, such as John Locke and John Stuart Mill, have all been Western and indeed that some were involved in the running of Empires themselves.
Relativistic arguments tend to neglect the fact that modern human rights are new to all cultures, dating back no further than the UDHR in 1948. They also don't account for the fact that the UDHR was drafted by people from many different cultures and traditions, including a US Roman Catholic, a Chinese Confucian philosopher, a French zionist and a representative from the Arab League, amongst others, and drew upon advice from thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi.
Michael Ignatieff has argued that cultural relativism is almost exclusively an argument used by those who wield power in cultures which commit human rights abuses, and that those who's human rights are compromised are the powerless. This reflects the fact that the difficulty in judging universalism versus relativism lies in who is claiming to represent a particular culture.
Although the argument between universalism and relativism is far from complete, it is an academic discussion in that all international human rights instruments adhere to the principle that human rights are universally applicable. The 2005 World Summit reaffirmed the international community's adherence to this principle:
The universal nature of human rights and freedoms is beyond question.— 2005 World Summit, paragraph 120
Companies, NGOs, political parties, informal groups, and individuals are known as non-State actors. Non-State actors can also commit human rights abuses, but are not subject to human rights law other than International Humanitarian Law, which applies to individuals.
Multi-national companies play an increasingly large role in the world, and are responsible for a large number of human rights abuses. Although the legal and moral environment surrounding the actions of governments is reasonably well developed, that surrounding multi-national companies is both controversial and ill-defined. Multi-national companies' primary responsibility is to their shareholders, not to those affected by their actions. Such companies are often larger than the economies of the states in which they operate, and can wield significant economic and political power. No international treaties exist to specifically cover the behavior of companies with regard to human rights, and national legislation is very variable. Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the right to food stated in a report in 2003:
the growing power of transnational corporations and their extension of power through privatization, deregulation and the rolling back of the State also mean that it is now time to develop binding legal norms that hold corporations to human rights standards and circumscribe potential abuses of their position of power.— Jean Ziegler
In August 2003 the Human Rights Commission's Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights produced draft Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights. These were considered by the Human Rights Commission in 2004, but have no binding status on corporations and are not monitored.
Realism and national loyalties have been described as a destructive influence on the human rights movement because they deny people's innately similar human qualities.
With the exception of non-derogable human rights (international conventions class the right to life, the right to be free from slavery, the right to be free from torture and the right to be free from retroactive application of penal laws as non-derogable), the UN recognises that human rights can be limited or even pushed aside during times of national emergency – although
the emergency must be actual, affect the whole population and the threat must be to the very existence of the nation. The declaration of emergency must also be a last resort and a temporary measure— United Nations. The Resource
Rights that cannot be derogated for reasons of national security in any circumstances are known as peremptory norms or jus cogens. Such International law obligations are binding on all states and cannot be modified by treaty.
The human rights enshrined in the UDHR, the Geneva Conventions and the various enforced treaties of the United Nations are enforceable in law. In practice, many rights are very difficult to legally enforce due to the absence of consensus on the application of certain rights, the lack of relevant national legislation or of bodies empowered to take legal action to enforce them.
There exist a number of internationally recognized organisations with worldwide mandate or jurisdiction over certain aspects of human rights:
The ICC and other international courts (see Regional human rights above exist to take action where the national legal system of a state is unable to try the case itself. If national law is able to safeguard human rights and punish those who breach human rights legislation, it has primary jurisdiction by complementarity. Only when all local remedies have been exhausted does international law take effect.
In over 110 countries National human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been set up to protect, promote or monitor human rights with jurisdiction in a given country. Although not all NHRIs are compliant with the Paris Principles, the number and effect of these institutions is increasing. The Paris Principles were defined at the first International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Paris on 7–9 October 1991, and adopted by United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolution 1992/54 of 1992 and the General Assembly Resolution 48/134 of 1993. The Paris Principles list a number of responsibilities for national institutions.
Universal jurisdiction is a controversial principle in international law whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. The state backs its claim on the grounds that the crime committed is considered a crime against all, which any state is authorized to punish. The concept of universal jurisdiction is therefore closely linked to the idea that certain international norms are erga omnes, or owed to the entire world community, as well as the concept of jus cogens. In 1993 Belgium passed a law of universal jurisdiction to give its courts jurisdiction over crimes against humanity in other countries, and in 1998 Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an indictment by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon under the universal jurisdiction principle. The principle is supported by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations as they believe certain crimes pose a threat to the international community as a whole and the community has a moral duty to act, but others, including Henry Kissinger (who has himself been accused of war crimes by several commentators), argue that state sovereignty is paramount, because breaches of rights committed in other countries are outside states' sovereign interest and because states could use the principle for political reasons.
Human rights violations occur when any state or non-state actor breaches any of the terms of the UDHR or other international human rights or humanitarian law. In regard to human rights violations of United Nations laws. Article 39 of the United Nations Charter designates the UN Security Council (or an appointed authority) as the only tribunal that may determine UN human rights violations.
Human rights abuses are monitored by United Nations committees, national institutions and governments and by many independent non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture, Freedom House, International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Anti-Slavery International. These organisations collect evidence and documentation of human rights abuses and apply pressure to promote human rights.
The key landmark is the Bill of Rights (1689), which established the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown ... providing for the regular meeting of Parliament, free elections to the Commons, free speech in parliamentary debates, and some basic human rights, most famously freedom from 'cruel or unusual punishment.
The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was to create a framework for a universal code based on mutual consent. The early years of the United Nations were overshadowed by the division between the Western and Communist conceptions of human rights, although neither side called into question the concept of universality. The debate centered on which "rights" – political, economic, and social – were to be included among the Universal Instruments
ACCREDITED BY THE INTERNATIONAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In accordance with the Paris Principles and the ICC Sub-Committee Rules of Procedure, the following classifications for accreditation are used by the ICC:
A: Compliance with the Paris Principles;
A(R): Accreditation with reserve – granted where insufficient documentation is submitted to confer A status;
B: Observer Status – Not fully in compliance with the Paris Principles or insufficient information provided to make a determination;
C: Non-compliant with the Paris Principles.
Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty or AI) is a London-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights. The organization says it has more than seven million members and supporters around the world.
The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for "a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments."Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961, following the publication of the article "The Forgotten Prisoners" in The Observer on 28 May 1961, by the lawyer Peter Benenson. Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place. Amnesty considers capital punishment to be "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights". The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its "defence of human dignity against torture", and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the third longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights, and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to set standards for the movement as a whole.Civil and political rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.
Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples' physical and mental integrity, life, and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, color, age, political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, and disability; and individual rights such as privacy and the freedoms of thought, speech, religion, press, assembly, and movement.
Political rights include natural justice (procedural fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights of participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right of self-defense, and the right to vote.
Civil and political rights form the original and main part of international human rights. They comprise the first portion of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (with economic, social, and cultural rights comprising the second portion). The theory of three generations of human rights considers this group of rights to be "first-generation rights", and the theory of negative and positive rights considers them to be generally negative rights.Council of Europe
The Council of Europe (CoE; French: Conseil de l'Europe, CdE) is an international organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, covers approximately 820 million people and operates with an annual budget of approximately half a billion euros.The organisation is distinct from the 28-nation European Union (EU), although it is sometimes confused with it, partly because the EU has adopted the original European Flag which was created by the Council of Europe in 1955, as well as the European Anthem. No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an official United Nations Observer.Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does have the power to enforce select international agreements reached by European states on various topics. The best known body of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Council's two statutory bodies are the Committee of Ministers, comprising the foreign ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the national parliaments of each member state. The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states. The Secretary General heads the secretariat of the organisation. Other major CoE bodies include the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and the European Audiovisual Observatory.
The headquarters of the Council of Europe are in Strasbourg, France. English and French are its two official languages. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress also use German, Italian, Russian, and Turkish for some of their work.European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953. All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity.The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Any person who feels his or her rights have been violated under the Convention by a state party can take a case to the Court. Judgments finding violations are binding on the States concerned and they are obliged to execute them. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitors the execution of judgements, particularly to ensure payment of the amounts awarded by the Court to the applicants in compensation for the damage they have sustained. The compensations imposed under ECHR can be large; in 2014 Russia was ordered to pay in excess of $2 billion in damages to former shareholders of Yukos.The Convention has several protocols, which amend the convention framework.European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR or ECtHR; French: Cour européenne des droits de l’homme) is a supranational or international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights. The court hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols.
An application can be lodged by an individual, a group of individuals, or one or more of the other contracting states. Aside from judgments, the Court can also issue advisory opinions. The Convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states are contracting parties to the Convention. The Court is based in Strasbourg, France.Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States. The organization focuses on protecting and expanding rights for LGBT individuals, most notably advocating for marriage equality, anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation, and HIV/AIDS advocacy. The organization has a number of legislative initiatives as well as supporting resources for LGBT individuals.Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The group pressures some governments, policy makers and human rights abusers to denounce abuse and respect human rights, and the group often works on behalf of refugees, children, migrants and political prisoners.
Human Rights Watch in 1997 shared in the Nobel Peace Prize as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and it played a leading role in the 2008 treaty banning cluster munitions.The organization's annual expenses totaled $50.6 million in 2011 and $69.2 million in 2014, and $75.5 million in 2017.Human rights activists
Human rights defenders or human rights activists are people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. They can be journalists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers, trade unionists, lawyers, teachers, housing campaigners, and so on. They can defend rights as part of their jobs or in a voluntary capacity. As a result of their activities, they can sometimes be the subject of reprisals and attacks of all kinds, including smears, surveillance, harassment, false charges, arbitrary detention, restrictions on the right to freedom of association, and physical attacks.Human rights in China
Human rights in China is a highly contested topic, especially for the fundamental human rights periodically reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), on which the government of the People's Republic of China and various foreign governments and human rights organizations have often disagreed. PRC authorities, their supporters, and other proponents claim that existing policies and enforcement measures are sufficient to guard against human rights abuses. However other countries and their authorities (such as the United States Department of State, Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others), international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights in China and Amnesty International, and citizens, lawyers, and dissidents inside the country, state that the authorities in mainland China regularly sanction or organize such abuses. Jiang Tianyong, 46, is the latest lawyer known for defending government critics to be jailed. According to the news over the past two years more than 200 have been detained in the ongoing crackdown on criticism in China.NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as foreign governmental institutions such as the U.S. State Department, regularly present evidence of the PRC violating the freedoms of speech, movement, and religion of its citizens and of others within its jurisdiction. Authorities in the PRC claim to define human rights differently, so as to include economic and social as well as political rights, all in relation to "national culture" and the level of development of the country. Authorities in the PRC, referring to this definition, claim that human rights are being improved. They do not, however, use the definition used by most countries and organisations. PRC politicians have repeatedly maintained that, according to the PRC Constitution, the "Four Cardinal Principles" supersede citizenship rights. PRC officials interpret the primacy of the Four Cardinal Principles as a legal basis for the arrest of people who the government says seek to overthrow the principles. Chinese nationals whom authorities perceive to be in compliance with these principles, on the other hand, are permitted by the PRC authorities to enjoy and exercise all the rights that come with citizenship of the PRC, provided they do not violate PRC laws in any other manner.
Numerous human rights groups have publicized human rights issues in China that they consider the government to be mishandling, including: the death penalty (capital punishment), the one-child policy (which China had made exceptions for ethnic minorities prior to abolishing it in 2015), the political and legal status of Tibet, and neglect of freedom of the press in mainland China. Other areas of concern include the lack of legal recognition of human rights and the lack of an independent judiciary, rule of law, and due process. Further issues raised in regard to human rights include the severe lack of worker's rights (in particular the hukou system which restricts migrant labourers' freedom of movement), the absence of independent labour unions (which have since been changing), and allegations of discrimination against rural workers and ethnic minorities, as well as the lack of religious freedom – rights groups have highlighted repression of the Christian, Tibetan Buddhist, Uyghur Muslim, and Falun Gong religious groups. Some Chinese activist groups are trying to expand these freedoms, including Human Rights in China, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. Chinese human rights attorneys who take on cases related to these issues, however, often face harassment, disbarment, and arrest.According to the Amnesty International report from 2016/2017 the government continued to draft and enact a series of new national security laws that presented serious threats to the protection of human rights. The nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists continued throughout the year. Activists and human rights defenders continued to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention. The report continues that police detained increasing numbers of human rights defenders outside of formal detention facilities, sometimes without access to a lawyer for long periods, exposing the detainees to the risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Booksellers, publishers, activists and a journalist who went missing in neighboring countries in 2015 and 2016 turned up at detention in China, causing concerns about China’s law enforcement agencies acting outside their jurisdiction.Human rights in India
Human rights in India is an issue complicated by the country's large size & population, widespread poverty, lack of proper education & its diverse culture, even though being the world's largest sovereign, secular, democratic republic. The Constitution of India provides for Fundamental rights, which include freedom of religion. Clauses also provide for freedom of speech, as well as separation of executive and judiciary and freedom of movement within the country and abroad. The country also has an independent judiciary and well as bodies to look into issues of human rights.The 2016 report of Human Rights Watch accepts the above-mentioned faculties but goes to state that India has "serious human rights concerns. Civil society groups face harassment and government critics face intimidation and lawsuits. Free speech has come under attack both from the state and by interest groups. Muslim and Christian minorities accuse authorities of not doing enough to protect their rights. But in the recent years, more emphasis is given to minority rights & freedom of speech.The government is yet to repeal laws that grant public officials and security forces immunity from prosecution for abuses."Human rights in Saudi Arabia
Human rights in Saudi Arabia are the subject of protection or violation by the government, which enforces Wahhabi religious laws under absolute rule of the Saudi royal family.The strict regime ruling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is consistently ranking among the "worst of the worst" in Freedom House's annual survey of political and civil rights.Qorvis MSLGroup, a US subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, amid the execution of political protesters and opponents, has been working with Saudi Arabia for more than a decade to whitewash its record of human rights abuses.
Saudi Arabia is one of approximately thirty countries in the world with judicial corporal punishment. In Saudi Arabia's case this includes amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as "sexual deviance" and drunkenness. In the 2000s, it was reported that women were sentenced to lashes for adultery; the women were actually victims of rape, but because they could not prove who the perpetrators were, they were deemed guilty of committing adultery. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and is varied according to the discretion of judges, and ranges from dozens of lashes to several hundreds, usually applied over a period of weeks or months. In 2004, the United Nations Committee Against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded defending "legal traditions" held since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.
The courts continue to impose sentences of flogging as a principal or additional punishment for many offences. At least five defendants were sentenced to flogging of 1,000 to 2,500 lashes. Flogging was carried out in prisons.In 2009, Mazen Abdul-Jawad was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and five years in prison for bragging on a Saudi TV show about his sexual exploits.In 2014, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi's sentence was increased to 1,000 lashes and ten years' imprisonment after he was accused of apostasy in 2012. The lashes were due to take place over 20 weeks. The first round (50) were administered on January 9, 2015, but the second round has been postponed due to medical problems. The case was internationally condemned and put a considerable amount of pressure on the Saudi legal system.
In October 2015, UK pensioner and cancer victim Karl Andree, then 74, faced 360 lashes for home brewing alcohol. His family feared the punishment could kill him. However, he was released and returned home in November that year.In 2016, a Saudi man was sentenced to 2,000 lashes, ten years in prison and a fine of 20,000 riyals($5,300) for making tweets critical of Islam, and denying the existence of God.In September 2018, the official Twitter account of the Saudi Arabia prosecutors issued a warning to punish those who share anything satirical on social media that "affects public order, religious values and public morals". The punishment included a five-year prison term and a fine of 3 million riyals ($800,000). The government of Saudi Arabia has arrested a few intellectuals, businessmen and activists last year following the same reason.Human rights in the United States
Human rights in the United States comprise a series of rights which are legally protected by the Constitution of the United States, including the amendments, state constitutions, conferred by treaty and customary international law, and enacted legislatively through Congress, state legislatures, and state referenda and citizen's initiatives. Federal courts in the United States have jurisdiction over international human rights laws as a federal question, arising under international law, which is part of the law of the United States.The human rights record of the United States of America is a complex matter with varying opinions; first and foremost the Federal Government of the United States has, through a ratified constitution, guaranteed unalienable rights to citizens of the country, and also to some degree, non-citizens. These rights evolved over time through constitutional amendments, supported by legislation and judicial precedent. Along with the rights themselves, the periphery of the population who had access to these rights has expanded over time. Today, the United States has a vibrant civil society and strong constitutional protections for many civil and political rights.On a number of human rights issues, the United States has been internationally criticized for its human rights record, including the least protections for workers of most Western countries, the imprisonment of debtors, and the criminalization of homelessness and poverty, the invasion of the privacy of its citizens through surveillance programs, police brutality, police impunity, the incarceration of citizens for profit, the mistreatment of prisoners and juveniles in the prison system, having the longest prison sentences of any country, being the last Western country with a death penalty, abuses of illegal immigrants, including children, facilitating state terrorism and the continued support for foreign dictators who commit abuses (including genocide), forced disappearances, extraordinary renditions, extrajudicial detentions, torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and black sites, and extrajudicial targeted killings (Disposition Matrix).Some observers give the U.S. high to fair marks on human rights, while others charge it with a persistent pattern of human rights violations.International human rights law
International human rights law (IHRL) is the body of international law designed to promote human rights on social, regional, and domestic levels. As a form of international law, international human rights law are primarily made up of treaties, agreements between sovereign states intended to have binding legal effect between the parties that have agreed to them; and customary international law. Other international human rights instruments, while not legally binding, contribute to the implementation, understanding and development of international human rights law and have been recognized as a source of political obligation.The relationship between international human rights law and international humanitarian law is disputed among international law scholars. This discussion forms part of a larger discussion on fragmentation of international law. While pluralist scholars conceive international human rights law as being distinct from international humanitarian law, proponents of the constitutionalist approach regard the latter as a subset of the former. In a nutshell, those who favors separate, self-contained regimes emphasize the differences in applicability; international humanitarian law applies only during armed conflict.
On the other hand, a more systemic perspective explains that international humanitarian law represents a function of international human rights law; it includes general norms that apply to everyone at all time as well as specialized norms which apply to certain situations such as armed conflict between both state and military occupation (i.e. IHL) or to certain groups of people including refugees (e.g. the 1951 Refugee Convention), children (the Convention on the Rights of the Child), and prisoners of war (the 1949 Third Geneva Convention).Intersex
Intersex people are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies". Such variations may involve genital ambiguity, and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female.Intersex people were previously referred to as hermaphrodites, "congenital eunuchs", or congenitally "frigid". Such terms have fallen out of favor; in particular, the term "hermaphrodite" is considered to be misleading, stigmatizing, and scientifically specious. Medical description of intersex traits as disorders of sex development has been controversial since the label was introduced in 2006.Intersex people face stigmatization and discrimination from birth or discovery of an intersex trait. This may include infanticide, abandonment and the stigmatization of families. Globally, some intersex infants and children, such as those with ambiguous outer genitalia, are surgically or hormonally altered to create more socially acceptable sex characteristics. However, this is considered controversial, with no firm evidence of good outcomes. Such treatments may involve sterilization. Adults, including elite female athletes, have also been subjects of such treatment. Increasingly these issues are considered human rights abuses, with statements from international and national human rights and ethics institutions. Intersex organizations have also issued statements about human rights violations, including the Malta declaration of the third International Intersex Forum.In 2011, Christiane Völling became the first intersex person known to have successfully sued for damages in a case brought for non-consensual surgical intervention. In April 2015, Malta became the first country to outlaw non-consensual medical interventions to modify sex anatomy, including that of intersex people.Some intersex persons may be assigned and raised as a girl or boy but then identify with another gender later in life, while most continue to identify with their assigned sex.Marital rape
Marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent. The lack of consent is the essential element and need not involve violence. Marital rape is considered a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Although, historically, sexual intercourse within marriage was regarded as a right of spouses, engaging in the act without the spouse's consent is now widely recognized by law and society as a wrong and as a crime. It is recognized as rape by many societies around the world, repudiated by international conventions, and increasingly criminalized.
The issues of sexual and domestic violence within marriage and the family unit, and more specifically, the issue of violence against women, have come to growing international attention from the second half of the 20th century. Still, in many countries, marital rape either remains outside the criminal law, or is illegal but widely tolerated. Laws are rarely being enforced, due to factors ranging from reluctance of authorities to pursue the crime, to lack of public knowledge that sexual intercourse in marriage without consent is illegal.
Marital rape is more widely experienced by women, though not exclusively. Marital rape is often a chronic form of violence for the victim which takes place within abusive relations. It exists in a complex web of state governments, cultural practices, and societal ideologies which combine to influence each distinct instance and situation in varying ways. The reluctance to criminalize and prosecute marital rape has been attributed to traditional views of marriage, interpretations of religious doctrines, ideas about male and female sexuality, and to cultural expectations of subordination of a wife to her husband—views which continue to be common in many parts of the world. These views of marriage and sexuality started to be challenged in most Western countries from the 1960s and 70s especially by second-wave feminism, leading to an acknowledgment of the woman's right to self-determination (i.e., control) of all matters relating to her body, and the withdrawal of the exemption or defense of marital rape.
Most countries criminalized marital rape from the late 20th century onward—very few legal systems allowed for the prosecution of rape within marriage before the 1970s. Criminalization has occurred through various ways, including removal of statutory exemptions from the definitions of rape, judicial decisions, explicit legislative reference in statutory law preventing the use of marriage as a defense, or creating of a specific offense of marital rape. In many countries, it is still unclear whether marital rape is covered by the ordinary rape laws, but in some it may be covered by general statutes prohibiting violence, such as assault and battery laws.Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (commonly known as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)) is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The office was established by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993 in the wake of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.
The office is headed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who co-ordinates human rights activities throughout the UN System and acts as the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The current High Commissioner is Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who succeeded Zeid Raad Al Hussein of Jordan on 1 September 2018.In 2018–2019, the department had a budget of US $201.6 million (3.7% of the regular UN budget), and approximately 1,300 employees based in Geneva and New York City. It is an ex officio member of the Committee of the United Nations Development Group.United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.
On 25 April 1945, 50 governments met in San Francisco for a conference and started drafting the UN Charter, which was adopted on 25 June 1945 in the San Francisco Opera House, and signed on 26 June 1945 in the Herbst Theatre auditorium in the Veterans War Memorial Building. This charter took effect on 24 October 1945, when the UN began operation.
The UN's mission to preserve world peace was complicated in its early decades during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union and their respective allies. Its missions have consisted primarily of unarmed military observers and lightly armed troops with primarily monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles. The organization's membership grew significantly following widespread decolonization which started in the 1960s. Since then, 80 former colonies had gained independence, including 11 trust territories, which were monitored by the Trusteeship Council. By the 1970s its budget for economic and social development programmes far outstripped its spending on peacekeeping. After the end of the Cold War, the UN shifted and expanded its field operations, undertaking a wide variety of complex tasks.The UN has six principal organs: the General Assembly; the Security Council; the Economic and Social Council; the Trusteeship Council; the International Court of Justice; and the UN Secretariat. The UN System agencies include the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, and UNICEF. The UN's most prominent officer is the Secretary-General, an office held by Portuguese politician and diplomat António Guterres since 1 January 2017. Non-governmental organizations may be granted consultative status with ECOSOC and other agencies to participate in the UN's work.
The organization, its officers and its agencies have won many Nobel Peace Prizes.
Other evaluations of the UN's effectiveness have been mixed. Some commentators believe the organization to be an important force for peace and human development, while others have called the organization ineffective, corrupt, or biased.United Nations Human Rights Council
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The 38th session of the UNHRC began June 18, 2018. It ended on July 7, 2018. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 (by resolution A/RES/60/251) to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR) that had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members. UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, former president of the council Doru Costea, the European Union, Canada, and the United States have accused the UNHRC of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and many allege an anti-Israel bias – the Council has resolved more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world combined. The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the UN’s special procedures.Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a historic document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on 10 December 1948 as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. Of the then 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favor, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote.The Declaration consists of 30 articles affirming an individual's rights which, although not legally binding in themselves, have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, economic transfers, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws. The Declaration was the first step in the process of formulating the International Bill of Human Rights, which was completed in 1966, and came into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them.
Some legal scholars have argued that because countries have constantly invoked the Declaration for more than 50 years, it has become binding as a part of customary international law. However, in the United States, the Supreme Court in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain (2004), concluded that the Declaration "does not of its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law." Courts of other countries have also concluded that the Declaration is not in and of itself part of domestic law.