Promoting Human Rights through the United Nations
The United States has a long history of supporting UN human rights mechanisms, beginning with our deep involvement in founding the UN and our efforts to ensure that the organization would hold the promotion of human rights as one of its core pillars. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt led the effort to develop the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the first document in human history to spell out the basic civil, political, economic, and social rights that all human beings should enjoy. The UN works to defend and promote human rights through three key mechanisms within the UN system:
Human Rights Treaties
Over the past six decades a number of human rights treaties have been adopted to further develop international human rights standards, including the protection of women's rights, the rights of the child, and the rights of those with disabilities. There are ten treaty bodies, comprised of independent experts, that monitor implementation of the core treaty bodies.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
OHCHR works to promote and protect human rights in the field by monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and strengthening the capacity of national institutions to provide adequate human rights protection. In addition, it provides administrative support to the Human Rights Council and advises the Secretary-General on human rights matters. Most of OHCHR's activities are funded through voluntary contributions from UN member states.
Human Rights Council (HRC)
The Human Rights Council is the only global intergovernmental body addressing human rights; it is composed of 47 member states, elected for three year terms by the General Assembly and based on equitable geographical distribution. The Council meets several times throughout the year, passing resolutions on individual human rights situations (such as Burma), ordering inquiries into allegations of human rights violations (such as Libya), and appointing special rapporteurs—independent experts—on a range of subjects to investigate particular countries or human rights issues. The Council also scrutinizes the human rights record of all UN member states through a peer-review process called Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Click here to be redirected to UNA-USA's page on the U.S. engagement with the Human Rights Council and check out UNA-USA's human rights factsheets linked below.