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Understanding how the UN Human Rights bodies function

In the post-World War II period, international consensus crystallized around the need to identify the individual rights and liberties which all governments should respect, and to establish mechanisms for both promoting States’ adherence to their human rights obligations and for addressing serious breaches. Thus, in the decade following the war, national governments cooperated in the establishment of the United Nations.

This Organization then prepared non-binding declarations or binding treaties which spelled out the specific liberties understood to be human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights violations were one of the key factors that led to the creation of the United Nations system. For the major challenge was to protect the human person, whatever his identity, culture or race.

Thus the United Nations was endowed with bodies and treaties capable of ensuring respect for and promotion of its fundamental principles of human rights.

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. These rights are guarantees by the UN system of human rights which has a concrete mandate. The UN system of human rights protection has two main tasks: it develops international human rights, and it monitors and protects existing human rights. Since the ratification of the Universal Declaration of HumanRights, several UnitedNations mechanisms for enforcing and protecting economic, social, and cultural rights have emerged.

However, Each State party has an obligation to take steps to ensure that everyone in the State can enjoy the rights set out in the treaties. The treaty body helps them to do this by monitoring implementation and recommending further action.

The treaty bodies perform a number of functions aimed at monitoring how the treaties are being implemented by their State parties. All treaty bodies, with the exception of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, are mandated to receive and consider reports submitted periodically by State parties detailing how they are applying the treaty provisions nationally.

Each of the treaty bodies publishes its interpretation of the provisions of its respective human rights treaty in the form of “general comments” or “general recommendations”. These cover a wide range of subjects, from the comprehensive interpretation of substantive provisions, such as the right to life or the right to adequate food, to general guidance on the information that should be submitted in State reports relating to specific articles of the treaties.

The conventions agreed by States and embodied by the treaties and organs most of the time suffer enforcement ; this is the reason why a military body composed of military forces of voluntary countries often intervene in States during crisis.

Since 2004, the human rights treaty body system has almost doubled in size with the addition of four new treaty bodies and three new optional protocols for individual complaints, of which one is already in force.

This growth has prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to request all stakeholders to rethink the future of treaty bodies and to come up with innovative and creative ideas to strengthen the system.

The final achievement would be to create an international World Order governed by the principles shaped and promoted by the UN Human rights system.

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