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Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN role in human rights respect

© UNICEF/ HQ02-0144/Susan Markisz
In May 2002, the UN Special Session of the General Assembly on Children focused attention on making progress for children and investing in them as keys to building global peace and security.

The United Nations has repeatedly emphasized the need to integrate human rights into the broad range of its activities. It is essential to recognize the potential of almost all UN human rights mechanisms and procedures for contributing to the protection and promotion of children’s rights.

Human rights treaties

The creation of a body of international human rights law is one of the United Nations’ great achievements. The United Nations has helped negotiate more than 70 human rights treaties and declarations—many focused on the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, persons with disabilities, minorities and indigenous peoples. Together, these treaties and declarations have helped create a ‘culture of human rights’ throughout the world, providing a powerful tool to protect and promote all rights. In accordance with the treaties, States parties have set up treaty body committees that may call upon States to respond to allegations, adopt decisions and publish them along with criticisms or recommendations. For the full text of the core human rights treaties, see the links at right.

World Conferences and Summits

The standards articulated in the international covenants and conventions have been reinforced through declarations and plans of action that have emerged from a series of World Conferences organized by the United Nations. These conferences have gained importance as real forums for deciding on national and international policy regarding such global issues as the environment, human rights and economic development. They focus world attention on these issues and place them squarely on the global agenda.

UNICEF's work in the area of child rights is informed by the World Summit for Children (1990), as well as by the World Conference on Education for All (1990), the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), the World Summit for Social Development (1995), the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995), the Millennium Summit (2000), and the World Summit and Special Session on Children (2005). The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, in particular, recognized that the human rights of children constitute a priority for action within the United Nations system. At the 2005 Special Session on Children, Member States committed themselves to improving the situation of children.

Other mechanisms for protecting human rights

The United Nations promotes respect for the law and protection of human rights in many other ways, including:

Monitoring the human rights records of nations: The treaty body committees receive technical, logistical and financial support from the United Nations. The United Nations also has an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization by all people of human rights.

Appointing ‘special procedures’ to address specific country situations or broader issues: The United Nations may also appoint experts (sometimes titled special rapporteurs, representatives or independent experts), to address a specific human rights issue or particular country. These experts may conduct studies, visit specific countries, interview victims, make specific appeals and submit reports and recommendations.

These procedures include a number of child-specific procedures and many broader procedures which increasingly make reference to children's rights. Child specific procedures include the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the impact of armed conflict on children.

Many broader procedures increasingly include references to children's rights in the context of their particular mandates. Such procedures include the Special Rapporteurs on the right to education; on torture; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on violence against women; on freedom of religion or belief; and on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and also an Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty.

Country-specific Special Rapporteurs—who focus on the human rights situations in particular countries and regions and can receive individual complaints—and the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons have also singled out violations of children’s rights. Some other relevant mechanisms include Working Groups on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and on Arbitrary Detention.



Human rights resources

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