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More recently, other intergovernmental organizations have also established, or begun to establish, regional human rights treaties and monitoring mechanisms. In addition, the UN, Inter-American, and African systems appoint individual experts to monitor human rights conditions in a range of priority areas, such as arbitrary detention and discrimination.

These experts are often called rapporteurs, and they carry out their work by receiving information from civil society, visiting countries, and reporting on human rights conditions and the ways in which they violate or comply with international norms.

Click on the image below to open a PDF version of the diagram with hyperlinks to each body. These overlapping umbrellas sometimes mean that a particular State will participate in, and report to, several supranational human rights bodies. For example, in the Western Hemisphere, all 35 independent countries are members of the Organization of American States and, as such, have signed the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, under which complaints can be brought against them before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In addition, each of these countries may or may not have ratified one or more of the core UN human rights treaties overseen by a treaty body — such as the Committee Against Torture — that accepts individual complaints.

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Additionally, each State may have agreed to bring inter-State disputes arising under a specific treaty, such as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to the International Court of Justice. Further, any of these States may also be a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it is obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in the prosecution of individuals suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or in the future aggression.

Although each of the various human rights bodies operates independently from the others, under a specific mandate and within the scope of its particular treaties, the provisions of the regional and universal human rights treaties are often highly similar. As such, each tribunal often looks to the jurisprudence of the others when deciding novel or delicate questions.

However, this does not mean that the various tribunals have reached consistent conclusions on similar matters.


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Neither does it mean that the jurisprudence of each body is as developed as the rest. Further, the fact that various systems exist does not mean that an individual complainant will be able to obtain redress before any or all of them. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. One of the great 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.

Human Rights Institute

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 and , respectively. Since then, the United Nations has gradually expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups, who now possess rights that protect them from discrimination that had long been common in many societies.

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It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The human rights that the Covenant seeks to promote and protect include:. The Second Optional Protocol was adopted in As mentioned, membership of the Charter-based bodies is through state representation, implying that states are involved in judging their own cases.

In the context of globalization and the end of the Cold War, one would have expected a revival of human rights as a genuine global venture capable of engaging and mobilizing mass constituencies. That such support has not been forthcoming must be seen as a disappointment Normand and Zaidi xxviii.

In this respect, some observations may serve to clarify certain flaws in the global human rights venture. The UN project as envisaged in the Charter was never meant to be legally enforceable by international means.

Whereas rights signify abstract commitment to protection of interests by law, human rights refer to interests directly connected to human dignity, viz. Such discourse obviously weakens the mission. This is one explanation why the global human rights deficit — manifested in impunity of state-related perpetrators of gross and systematic violations, structural non-implementation of the rights of the poor, lack of protection of non-dominant collectivities, and domestic violence against women and children — strongly persists.

Yet, national non-implementation is often of a structural nature, requiring primarily international political action.

Insofar as such action has been forthcoming, it has suffered from the almost inherent double standards in the world of states. Effective action requires decision-making by the UN Security Council and that implies consent on the part of its permanent members, including China, Russia, and the United States. Thus, gross and systematic violations of human rights cannot be effectively addressed in territories such as Chechnya and Tibet.

Likewise, the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights needs the full commitment of relevant development-oriented agencies, including the international financial institutions IFIs. Instead, member states appear to believe in setting up their own human rights mechanisms — not as complementary to the international framework but as an alternative — rather than committing themselves to truly supranational supervision and enforcement. Strikingly, even in academic circles the grounds of human rights, as expressed in the first article of the Declaration, are rarely discussed except for philosophical reflections on human dignity.

The downside of that obvious endeavour to avoid discussions that might touch upon the axiom of global universality is that concrete human rights tend to get detached from the fundamental values that lie at the core of each distinct human right. Let us take freedom of opinion and expression as an example here.

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Its ground — liberty — is often interpreted in such a way that the first part of Article 1 of the Declaration is dissociated from the second: The conception of freedom becomes unhinged from an accompanying conception of people as moral human beings, implying personal responsibility. Consequently, through the above interpretation the grand principle of human dignity loses its significance.

As the whole international venture for the protection of human dignity against the abuse of power is based on well functioning legal systems that connect enforceable national law to international law, efforts to realize these rights primarily require the creation of good governance based on the rule of law. In order to overcome the obstacles connected to failing and dictatorially ruled states, well functioning economies and policies to overcome cultural prejudice are essential. That would entail a shift of resources from purely juridical action towards policies supporting political transformation.

Simultaneously, non-state agencies or actors became more relevant in the whole international endeavour for structural protection of human dignity. Effective check on human rights-affecting actions by multinational corporations MNCs is primarily the duty of states under whose responsibility these companies operate.