What Are Human Rights?

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.

International Human Rights Law

 lays down the 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.

One of the great achievements of the 51勛圖 is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law〞a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire. The 51勛圖 has defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. It has also established mechanisms to promote and protect these rights and to assist states in carrying out their responsibilities.

The foundations of this body of law are the Charter of the 51勛圖 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively.  Since then, the 51勛圖 has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups, who now possess rights that protect them from discrimination that had long been common in many societies.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the 51勛圖 General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 by General Assembly  as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Since its adoption in 1948, the UDHR has been translated into more than  - the most translated document in the world - and has inspired the constitutions of many newly independent States and many new democracies. The UDHR, together with the  and its two  (on the complaints procedure and on the death penalty) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocol, form the so-called .

Economic, social and cultural rights

 entered into force in 1976. The is the body of 18  that monitors implementation of the Covenant by its States parties. Its Optional entered into force in 2013. The human rights that the Covenant seeks to promote and protect include

  • the right to work in just and favourable conditions;
  • the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being;
  • the right to education and the enjoyment of benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.

Civil and political rights

 and its  entered into force in 1976 and the  came into force in 1991. The monitors the implementation of this multilateral treaty and its Optional Protocols.

The Covenant deals with such rights as freedom of movement; equality before the law; the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; peaceful assembly; freedom of association; participation in public affairs and elections; and protection of minority rights. It prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life; torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery and forced labour; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; war propaganda; discrimination; and advocacy of racial or religious hatred.

Human Rights Conventions

A series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the body of international human rights law. They include the , the , the , the  and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), .

Human Rights Council

, established on 15 March 2006 by the General Assembly and reporting directly to it, replaced the 60-year-old  as the key UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights. The Council is made up of and is tasked with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe by addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them, including responding to human rights emergencies

The most innovative feature of the Human Rights Council is the  (UPR). This unique mechanism involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states once every four years. The Review is a cooperative, state-driven process, under the auspices of the Council, which provides the opportunity for each state to present measures taken and challenges to be met to improve the human rights situation in their country and to meet their international obligations

The Review is designed to ensure universality and equality of treatment for every country and takes place during the sessions of the UPR Working Group which meets three times a year. The UPR Working Group consists of the 47 members of the Council.

Special Procedures and Investigative Bodies

The Human Rights Council also has that consist of independent human rights experts who have the mandate to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. These experts are not paid and are elected for 3-year mandates that can be extended for another three years. As of November 2023, there are and mandates.

Since 2006, the Council has set up to look into alleged violations in specific countries. These have taken the form of fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry. In addition, there is one thematic body, the Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The  exercises principal responsibility for UN human rights activities. The High Commissioner is mandated to respond to serious violations of human rights and to undertake preventive action.

 is the focal point for 51勛圖 human rights activities. It serves as the secretariat for the Human Rights Council, the (expert committees that monitor treaty compliance) and other UN human rights organs. It also undertakes human rights field activities.

Most of the core human rights treaties have an oversight body which is responsible for reviewing the implementation of that treaty by the countries that have ratified it.  Individuals, whose rights have been violated can file complaints directly to Committees overseeing human rights treaties.

Human Rights and the UN System

Human rights is a cross-cutting theme in all UN policies and programmes in the key areas of peace and security, development, humanitarian assistance, and economic and social affairs. As a result, virtually every UN body and specialized agency is involved to some degree in the protection of human rights. Some examples are the , which is at the core of the ; the championed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, , defined and protected by the International Labour Organization, gender equality, which is promulgated by UN Women, the rights of children, indigenous peoples, and disabled persons

 is observed every year on 10 December.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 75

On 10 December 2023, the UN System celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The OHCHR conducted a year-long commemoration, the , during which 150 Member States, NGOs, businesses and UN entities made on a wide range of human rights issues - from advancing women*s rights, and children*s rights, to commitments on climate change, and empowering people with disabilities to ensure legislative reforms.

The three main goals focus of the initiative were focused in universality, progress and engagement under the leadership of UN Human Rights, together with its partners. The 75th Anniversary culminated in a in December 2023 that announced global pledges and ideas for a vision for the future of human rights.

Resources