UN Protecting Human Rights – Important Look at the Global Efforts

The role of the United Nations (UN) protecting human rights is crucial. The UN commitment to promoting and preserving fundamental rights can be traced back to its inception. Since the horrors of World War II the UN has developed human rights laws to serve the needs of vulnerable groups.

Women, children, persons with disabilities, and marginalised groups are all included.

A pivotal framework the UN relies on when protecting human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The treaty outlines the rights of all individuals and their entitlements. The UN is steadfast in protecting these rights, despite international political and cultural differences. As the world has evolved, the organisation has stood firm in its commitment to foster a global environment where human rights are universally respected and upheld.

Key Takeaways

  • The UN protecting human rights and promoting it worldwide, tailors its efforts to suit all vulnerable groups.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights serves as a cornerstone for the UN protecting human rights and related activities and initiatives.
  • Despite the challenges, the UN remains committed to ensuring the respect and protection of human rights for all people.

United Nations and Human Rights

The role of the UN protecting human rights and promoting it worldwide is significant. It has been instrumental in establishing international law related to human rights through concepts and treaties.

Impact of UN on Global Human Rights

The UN has several specialised entities and institutions working to implement and safeguard human rights. One such organisation is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The OHCHR is a UN agency that tackles human rights issues and offers support to:

  • governments,
  • civil society,
  • national institutions, and
  • the public.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is responsible for facilitating and coordinating human rights activities within the UN system. This role provides guidance and ensures that human rights are integrated into the UN’s strategies, policies, and programs.

The UN’s impact on global human rights is seen through a variety of initiatives. They range from addressing humanitarian crises to providing specialised resources and publications to raise public awareness. By promoting a human rights-based approach in crises, the UN aims to secure the participation of affected populations in preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.


The UN efforts in protecting and promoting human rights have been crucial in shaping international norms. And they provide a framework for countries to develop human rights policies and practices. Through the work of the OHCHR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN plays a pivotal role in ensuring human rights are respected and protected worldwide.

UN’s Role in Peace and Security

The United Nations’ role in maintaining international peace and security is vital. It does so by addressing threats which include:

  • diplomacy,
  • sanctions, and
  • military intervention.

A fundamental purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security. It does so by preventing and removing threats and suppressing acts of aggression. This helps protect human rights throughout the world.

UN Peace Operations

The UN Security Council often mandates peace operations to address conflicts and protect human rights. Such operations include

  • military,
  • police, and
  • civilian personnel.

They work together to build sustainable peace.

These missions operate under the principles of:

  • impartiality,
  • consent of the parties, and
  • no force.

With exception force may be necessary in cases of self-defence or in defence of the mandate.

Peace operations take many forms, including:

  • peacekeeping,
  • political missions, and
  • peace enforcement.

Their primary objectives are to:

  • create a secure environment,
  • support the establishment of local governance,
  • demobilise and reintegrate armed groups, and
  • address the underlying causes of conflict.

Protection of Civilians

One of the essential components of the UN operations is to maintain international peace and security. Faced with persistent threats to civilian populations, particularly in post-conflict situations, the UN has increasingly recognised its responsibility to protect and assist vulnerable populations.

During the planning and implementation of peace operations, the protection of civilians is of the utmost priority. That means:

  • Identifying and addressing risks faced by affected populations.
  • Establishing and maintaining a secure environment.
  • Promoting respect for human rights.
  • Coordinating efforts to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

To maximise the impact on protecting civilians, the UN uses:

  • training and guidance materials,
  • best practices, and
  • accountability mechanisms.

This allows peace operations to adapt to the complexities of their mandates and local contexts.


The UN role in peace and security is multifaceted and integral to the overarching mission of protecting human rights. By employing peace operations and dedicating resources to protect civilians, the UN addresses threats to international peace and security. Thus creating a more stable and secure world for all.

International Human Rights Law

Treaties and Conventions

International human rights law encompasses treaties and conventions that states are obliged to respect, protect, and fulfill. Two significant examples are the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They further define the fundamental rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These treaties, along with other essential conventions, help shape and enforce international human rights law.

The International Bill of Human Rights incorporates the UDHR, ICCPR, and ICESCR, offering a comprehensive framework of legally binding standards. These instruments work in unison to promote and protect human rights on a global scale.

In addition, international human rights law includes the following documents.

  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and
  • provisions relating to international human rights law.


Protecting human rights shows the importance of the United Nation’s role to ensure states adhere to their obligations arising from international human rights treaties. The UN supports states in the implementation of laws, policies, and practices by translating international human rights norms into national legislation. The UN has accountability measures to monitor and report on human rights violations. It also has human rights mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and treaty bodies. These structures encourage states to uphold their human rights commitments and provide remedies for those whose rights have been violated.

Cultural and Political Rights

Focus on Cultural Rights

Cultural rights are essential for preserving the diversity and heritage of various communities. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples underscores the importance of cultural rights, stating that indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy all human rights, both individually and collectively.

Cultural rights ensure that people have access to their own cultural heritage, as well as the opportunity to participate in the cultural life of their choice. The UN Special Rapporteur on cultural rights emphasises that cultural diversity should not be seen as an opposition to universality. Some governments and other actors may misuse it as an excuse.

Importance of Political Rights

Political rights are crucial for a democratic and inclusive society. They encompass fundamental freedoms such as the right to vote, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peacefully. The UN has established covenants to protect these rights and ensure that individuals have the chance to participate in their own governance and enjoy political freedom.

By guaranteeing political rights, people can actively engage in the decision-making processes, holding governments accountable and promoting transparency. Upholding these rights helps to create a more equitable and just society, where everyone’s voice is heard, and human rights are respected.

Gender and Sexuality

The United Nations has consistently been working on protecting human rights, with a special emphasis on gender and sexuality issues. It has taken significant steps to address discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The UN Human Rights Council adopted the historical 2016 resolution aimed at protecting individuals against violence and discrimination based on gender and sexuality.

Most human rights treaties do not allow gender discrimination. Despite progress made in securing women’s rights globally, millions of women and girls experience discrimination, violence, and denial of their equality and autonomy. The UN addresses these issues through organisations such as the Office for the Commission for Human Rights, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights across civil, political, economic, social, and cultural life.

Resolutions about extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution based on sexual orientation or gender identity have raised UN concerns since 2003. It has consistently called attention to related killings. These resolutions highlight the importance of protecting individuals from violence and discrimination, regardless of their sex or gender.


The UN has striven to protect human rights relating to gender and sexuality. It has implemented resolutions to promote gender equality. And has worked towards the eradication of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The UN effort contributed to a more inclusive and equal global society, while much work remained to be done

Role of Civil Society and Independent Experts

Civil society should protect human rights. Diverse and independent organisations and actors contribute by raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and monitoring the implementation of laws and treaties. OHCHR acknowledges the importance of civil society in ensuring sustainable human rights protection.

The primary function of civil society in the human rights arena is to provide a voice for marginalised communities and individuals. By amplifying concerns and advocating for their rights, civil society organisations help ensure that all people can access the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled.

Independent experts, appointed by the UN, are another critical aspect of human rights protection. These specialists, referred to as – special procedures – contribute their knowledge and impartiality to monitor, advise, and report on human rights issues. They often work alongside civil society organisations, providing technical expertise and guidance to support their efforts.


Civil society and independent experts are integral components of the global human rights protection system. By raising awareness, advocating for change, and providing support to national and international efforts, they contribute to upholding the principles and values enshrined in international human rights law.

Challenges in Protecting Human Rights

The United Nations (UN) faces several challenges in its mission to protect human rights worldwide. One significant obstacle is the persistence of:

  • detention,
  • torture,
  • arbitrary arrest, and
  • arbitrary interference by some governments and non-state actors.

International human rights law condemns these practices. Yet, the UN struggles to enforce accountability and hold perpetrators responsible.


Detention, especially when it’s indefinite and without due process, is a significant challenge to human rights protection. Prisons in some countries are often overcrowded and inhumane, leading to dire living conditions and the increased risk of human rights violations. The UN attempts to monitor detention centres and calls for their improvement, but its power is limited by sovereignty concerns and political will.


Torture remains a pressing issue. And is still practiced by some governments and armed groups to extract information or intimidate people. Though it is prohibited under international law, the enforcement of this prohibition is difficult due to the clandestine nature of torture. The UN works to raise awareness about the devastating effects of torture and to support the rehabilitation of victims, but progress is slow and uneven.

Arbitrary Arrests

Arbitrary arrests and detentions are widespread challenges that the UN must confront. These arrests often occur when individuals are targeted for their beliefs, opinions, or affiliations, without any evidence of illegal activity. Such actions are an infringement on their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. The UN advocates for the abolition of arbitrary arrest and the strengthening of judicial independence, but it faces resistance from governments that prioritise their own interests above human rights.


The UN encounters numerous hurdles in its mission to protect human rights, particularly when it comes to addressing issues like detention, torture, arbitrary arrest, and arbitrary interference. The organisation’s ability to make progress in these areas is often constrained by political, legal, and practical barriers. Nevertheless, the UN remains committed to promoting and protecting human rights for all, advocating for better laws and practices, and fostering a global culture of respect for human dignity.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the UN enforce international human rights conventions?

The UN ensures the enforcement of international human rights conventions through treaty bodies that monitor the implementation of specific treaties and human rights standards. When countries ratify these treaties, they commit to ensuring the rights within their territories and periodically report their progress to the UN. The treaty bodies can make recommendations and provide guidance to countries to improve their human rights situations.

What are the primary mechanisms for the UN to protect human rights?                                                                          

The main mechanisms for the UN to protect human rights include treaty-based bodies, like the committees, and Charter-based bodies, such as the Human Rights Council. The Council investigates human rights violations, conducts monitoring, and fosters cooperation among member states to improve human rights protection worldwide. It can also establish specialised commissions of inquiry and adopt resolutions to address specific human rights situations.

How does the UN support countries in safeguarding human rights?

The UN supports countries in safeguarding human rights through technical assistance, capacity-building programmes, and providing guidance on implementing human rights obligations. The UN collaborates with governments, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders to ensure comprehensive protection and promotion of human rights at the national level.

What role do UN peacekeeping missions play in protecting human rights?                                                                       

UN peacekeeping missions play a crucial role in protecting human rights, especially in conflict-affected regions. They work to prevent human rights abuses, promote rule of law, and support national institutions in ensuring human rights protection. Peacekeeping missions often have dedicated human rights components that monitor and report abuses, provide training to security forces, and collaborate with national human rights institutions.