The United Nations is the most important global player when it comes to human rights. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took up his position in January 2007 and has, like his predecessor Kofi Annan, declared that the protection of human rights is one of the UN’s three core tasks. Security and development are the other two.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal General Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. This is a unique international document which stipulates that all people share the same value and rights. Over the years, the significance of the document has grown and the declaration is the foundation for today’s extensive global and regional networks established to protect human rights. The 30 Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been further elaborated in a series of declarations and conventions.
Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The UN has designed a system to facilitate and monitor compliance with the regulations. Separate committees have been created for the eight major conventions that have come into force. These committees convene every year to examine the state of respect for each convention.
UN Human Rights Council
The UN Human Rights Council was set up in 2006. It is the UN’s key body for drafting human rights standards. The Council replaced the previous Commission on Human Rights.
Read more about the UN Human Rights Council
High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations General Assembly set up a High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1993. It is the High Commissioner’s task to promote and protect human rights through dialogue and advice to the UN’s Member States and through coordinating human rights-related activities within the UN system.
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The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is tasked with assisting refugees and protecting their rights. UNHCR’s work to protect refugees is based on the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Additional Protocol of 1967. The organisation is active in about 120 countries.
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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is tasked with protecting the rights of children and helping countries to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF’s head office is in New York, but the organisation is active in 191 countries. Primary care, vaccination, protection of vulnerable children, the prevention of HIV/AIDS, nutrition, water management and basic education are the focus of the organisation. Sweden is one of the largest donors to UNICEF.
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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has its headquarters in Paris. UNESCO does important work for human rights, through its ‘Education for All’ and other programmes.
Read more about UNCESCO