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Evolution of International Human Rights Law
The concepts of humanitarian intervention, self-determination, and providing relief to the wounded and other victims of armed conflicts can be viewed as the roots of human rights law. Modern international human rights law dates from Second World War and its aftermath.
 

On 25 June 1945 in San Francisco, 50 nations signed the Charter of the United Nations which reaffirmed the importance of human rights . Article 1 of the Charter states that one of the aims of the United Nations is to achieve international cooperation in "promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion", thus enshrining the principle of non-discrimination. The Charter is a legally binding document which sets forth the "inherent dignity" and the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" and all United Nations Member States must fulfil, in good faith, the obligations they have assumed under it.

However, the goals of the Charter are of a general nature. For those goals to be achieved, specific "human rights and freedoms" needed to be defined first, then laws and mechanisms to ensure their implementation by Member States had to be elaborated. For these purposes, the Commission on Human Rights, established in 1945, was entrusted with the task of drawing up an International Bill of Human Rights. The Commission is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the United Nations principal organs and the main body for the coordination of the economic and social activities within the United Nations system. A major step in drafting the International Bill of Human Rights was realized on 10 December 1948, when the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights "as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations". The Declaration specified human rights referred to in the Charter of the United Nations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights constitutes the first part of the International Bill of Human Rights.

The other parts of the Bill, designed to elaborate the content of the provisions of the Declaration, were adopted on 16 December 1966: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as an Optional Protocol to the ICCPR allowing for complaints to be made by individuals about violations of their rights as embodied in the Covenant. In 1989, the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty was adopted by the General Assembly.

The adoption of these two Covenants endorsed the General Assembly resolution of 1950 that "the enjoyment of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights are interconnected and interdependent".

Other core international human rights treaties further elaborate human rights, establish new standards to prevent and prohibit specific abuses like torture and genocide and to protect especially vulnerable populations, such as refugees, women and children. They include: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.

See also
The United Nations and Human Rights




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