UN Charter and Human Rights

Pre-UN International Effort: The League of the Nations (LN)

  • President Wilson in 1918 presented 14 points programme to end war and create a world dedicated to JUSTICE and FAIR Dealing.
  • The War ended after the Paris Peace Conference 1919.
  • Treaty of Versailles 1919 created the league of Nations.
  • The Covenant of the LN, including amendment, 1924
  • Total 26 Articles

Objectives of the LN

  • Adopted in order to promote international co-operation
  • To achieve international peace and security
  • Understanding of International Law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments
  • Maintenance of Justice for people.

Contribution of the LN towards Human Rights

  • Restoration of peace by friendly international relations
  • Dispute resolution through Council

Article 22 and 23 are Contributory

Article 23:

  • Principle of Well-being and Development of people of colonial territories
  • Freedom of Conscience and religion
  • Prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade

Article 23: Landmark

  • Secure and maintain fair and Humane conditions of labour for men and women and children
  • Just treatment
  • Traffic in women and children and drugs
  • Trade in arms
  • Freedom of communications and of transit and equitable treatment for the commerce
  • International concern for the prevention and control of disease.

Contribution of LN on Slavery

  • LN convinced most of the world to eradicate slavery and to halt the slave trade.
  • In 1924, the Council established a Temporary Slavery Commission and charged it with studying the existence of slavery throughout the world.
  • This led to the promulgation of the Slavery Convention of 1926.

Slavery: First Issue of Human Rights

According the Slavery and, Forced Labor Conventions
“the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.”

WWII and establishment of UN

Franklin Roosevelt, in his 1941 State of the Union address, had stressed the importance of “four freedoms”

  1. Freedom from Want
  2. Freedom from Fear
  3. Freedom of expression
  4. Freedom of worship

UN History:

(International Peace Conference in The Hague in 1899 over 25 nations met for ten weeks to codify the laws of war)

1941 – Roosevelt and Churchill sign “Atlantic Charter”
1942 – 26 Allied nations sign Declaration by United Nations.
1944 – Blueprint of UN developed during Dumbarton Oaks Conference
1945 – 50 countries adopt Charter of United Nations on June 25 in San Francisco

UN HR System: 3 main components

  1. Adoption of International HR Standards (binding and non-binding)

  2. Monitoring mechanisms: Treaty-based Committees and Charter-based bodies such as Special Rapporteurs, experts, working groups,

  3. Technical assistance through the Voluntary Fund for Advisory Services and Technical Assistance in the field of Human Rights.

UN HR Mechanisms

  1. Charter-based

  2. Treaty-based

UN Charter and Human Rights

recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and unalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world…

Article 1 (3)
respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
Article 55. Principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote:

  • higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development;
  • solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational co-operation; and
  • universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Article 56

All Members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the Organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article 55.

Role of ECOSOC for Human Rights

Articles 61-72 of the UN Charter

  • Studies and reports with respect to international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters
  • Makes recommendations to the General Assembly, to the Members of the United Nations, and to the specialized agencies concerned.
  • Recommendations for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
  • Prepares draft conventions for submission to the General Assembly
  • Calls international conferences with the rules prescribed by the UN
  • Coordinates the activities of the specialized agencies through consultation
  • Takes appropriate steps to obtain regular reports from the specialized agencies.
  • Communicates its observations on these reports to the General Assembly.
  • functions as within its competence in connection with the carrying out of the recommendations of the General Assembly.
  • Performs services at the request of Members of the United Nations and at the request of specialized agencies.
  • The Economic and Social Council shall set up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights, and such other commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions. (Article 68)

Charter-based HR System

  • 1946- Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
  • The Name and mandate was changed to COUNCIL OF HUMAN RIGHTS in 2006 by GA Resolution)
  • Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
  • Commission on Status of Women (CSW)
  • Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice,
  • UN specialized agencies, such ILO and WHO.
  • OHCHR since 1994

Role of NGOs:

The Economic and Social Council may make suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations which are concerned with matters within its competence. Such arrangements may be made with international organizations and, where appropriate, with national organizations after consultation with the Member of the United Nations concerned. (Article 71)

Development of HR treaty system

  • UDHR as Guardian of ALL HR Standards.
  • Drafted between January 1947 and December 1948 by eight-members Commission on Human Rights headed by Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Following over 1,400 votes the GA unanimously passed the Declaration on December 10, 1948,
  • eight abstentions Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia.
  • Adopted in 10th Dec. 1948
  • As Landmark Declaration
  • 30 Articles
  • Individual as a subject matter
  • Rights-based (Art. 29 Duty)
  • Both CPR and ESCR
  • Guidelines for Human Rights

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