UNRIC Library Backgrounder: Human Rights


One of the most significant achievements of the United Nations 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 United Nations 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 United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1945 and 1948, respectively. In 1966, the Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together with the Declaration, they are known as the International Bill of Human Rights.  Since then, the United Nations has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, migrant workers and their families, refugees, minorities and other groups who are vulnerable to discrimination and violations of human rights in many societies and require special protection for the enjoyment of their human rights.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights works to strengthen and coordinate UN efforts for to promote and protect the human rights of all people. As human rights plays a central role in the Organization’s work in the key areas such as peace and security, humanitarian assistance, and development, every UN body and specialized agency is involved to some degree in the protection of human rights.

Basic Facts about the United Nations, 42nd Edition © 2017

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States holding a Declaration of Human Rights poster in English. 1 November 1949. United Nations, Lake Success, New York (UN Photo #1292)

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May 2022
not an official document – for information only

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