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Background Information and Publications:


Virtually every United Nations body and specialized agency is involved to some degree in the protection of human rights. One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law, which, for the first time in history, provides us with a universal and internationally protected code of human rights, one to which all nations can subscribe and to which all people can aspire.

Not only has the Organization painstakingly defined a broad range of internationally accepted rights including economic, social and cultural, as well as political and civil rights; it has also established mechanisms with which to promote and protect these rights and to assist governments in carrying out their responsibilities.

Human rights law

The foundations of this body of law are the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. Since then, the United Nations has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, disabled persons, minorities, migrant workers and other vulnerable groups, who now possess rights that protect them from discriminatory practices that had long been common in many societies. Rights have been extended through groundbreaking General Assembly decisions that have gradually established their universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness with development and democracy.

Human rights action

Education campaigns have tirelessly informed the worlds public of their inalienable rights, while numerous national judicial and penal systems have been enhanced with United Nations training programmes and technical advice. The United Nations machinery to monitor compliance with human rights covenants has acquired a remarkable cohesiveness and weight among Member States.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights works to strengthen and coordinate United Nations work for the protection and promotion of all human rights of all persons around the world. The Secretary-General has made human rights the central theme that unifies the Organizations work in the key areas of peace and security, development, humanitarian assistance and economic and social affairs.

Human Rights Day Observance [10 December]

Background Information on World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - South Africa, 31 August-7 September 2001

Source: Basic Facts About the UN, 2000. Sales No. E.00.I.21

Background Information and Publications:

- OHCHR Contact

- UN and Human Rights

- Independence of the Judiciary

- Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

- Women and Violence

- Children's Rights

- UN Briefing Papers: Human Rights Today

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