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Development of Human Rights in the United Nations

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Studies
Wordcount: 2648 words Published: 18th May 2020

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The United Nations came together and began to compile a list of what they considered to be a right to every human, no matter their nationality. These rights are an outline that was created in hopes of providing a basic level of decent existence to each person. In order to be applicable to every person on Earth, however, each nation must ratify these human rights. There is a right to an adequate standard of living according to the United Nations, but not every nation has ratified it, therefore, this right along with many others has been left inapplicable to millions.

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With regard to the right to an adequate standard of living, one can examine the historical occurrences that caused this right to be included by the United Nations. Throughout history there are many instances where people have had to live in a manner that one would consider substandard. The standard of living that is experienced by citizens often has a direct correlation to the governments that they live under. The events that caused the need for the UN to create the right to an adequate standard of living means that humanity developed a stronger sense of collective empathy. This collective moral evolution was a positive influence on creation of the right to adequate housing.

There are many historical occurrences in which people were forced to go without adequate housing, food, water, and even had their safety at risk due to their governments and threats from outside governments. However, the fact that millions of people had to endure truly horrific conditions trying to survive can certainly be viewed as a negative. This shows that specific nations could not be trusted to ensure an adequate standard of living. Due to this the United Nations had to step in and ensure that it became an overall right of the people and not one left to specific nations to oversee.

Article II of the ICESCR states that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families (Nickel, 2019).  The General Comments states that an adequate standard of living encompasses housing, food, water, and social security. Although these are human rights dictated by the United Nations, not every nation is bound to hold to them and ensure their citizens are guaranteed this right, or any other right set forth by the UN. Nations must individually ratify the UN’s Human Rights.

The 3AQ is a shortened way to say availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality. The 3AQ when applied to the right to an adequate standard of living makes that right more progressive because they make the right more all encompassing. The more all encompassing a right becomes the less likely that right is considered to be up for interpretation and therefore more susceptible to corruption.  The more progressive a right is the more protection is affords people because it does not allow for others to impose their own interpretations of that right.

The United Nations ensuring that the right to an adequate standard of living is a right that is desperately in need of being enforced from a global perspective. There are many people who do not have an adequate standard of living, and from a historical perspective, anyone can fall victim to circumstances that can prevent them from attaining that standard of living. Once every nation ratifies the Human Rights set forth by the United Nations, each person will have an equal chance at their lives. Everyone must embrace the overall rights of each human, as a human, first, before their rights as individual citizens with individual national alliances.


Nickel, J. (2019). Human Rights. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2019 Edition. Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights-human/#GeneIdeaHumaRigh

Where there are laws and guidelines there are those who intentionally or unintentionally break those laws and guidelines. When laws or guidelines are bent or broken, the United Nations needs to be informed so that the correct next steps can be taken to address the bent or broken laws or guidelines. The United Nations needs a way to know about and investigate violations of the Human Rights they have set forth. Article 38 outlines how complaints are filed with the United Nations.

The source of the rules with regard to customary international law includes many sources. These sources include treaties, international customs, general principles of law (as recognized by civilized countries), the decisions of national and lower courts, and finally scholarly writings (Harvard Law Review, 2016). The United Nations utilizes these sources when determining how to apply Human Rights in specific situations. Some situations are more difficult than others because of the sources.

Indigenous peoples are protected under the UN’s Human Rights. This protection is known as UNDRIP, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous peoples were not protected for a long time by the UN but rather their protection was determined by tribal treaties signed with governments. These treaties were not always honored, leaving many indigenous peoples without protection. However, the increasing need for natural resources has left indigenous lands at risk due to the amount of natural resources that can be found there. It is because of this that indigenous people are facing an increased risk of harm and therefore are at an increased need of protection. Customary law has is not often on the side of the indigenous peoples which has resulted in the continued victimization of the indigenous people from a global perspective.

Utilizing many sources in order to determine Human Rights and the application of those rights helps many combine the good that can come from a diaspora of cultures. However, in regards to the rights of indigenous peoples the customary laws are not known for protection or justice for indigenous peoples. The increase awareness of indigenous peoples and the plights they face has recently begun to make headlines, educating a populace who perhaps had no knowledge surrounding the legal deficit that exists for indigenous peoples. The creation of UNDRIP is the start of lessening that deficit and the future of extinguishing said deficit at some point in the future.


Harvard Law Review. (2016). The Double Life of International Law: Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries. Harvard Law Review, 129(6). Retrieved from harvardlawreview.org/2016/04/the-double-life-of-international-law-indigenous-peoples-and-extractive-industries/

The United Nations Human Rights Committee is made up of 18 elected independent experts. This committee reviews how nations are implementing the rights that the United Nations established. The committee reviews implementations at intervals. The first interval is one year after a nation joins. After that initial review, the committee can review a nation whenever they feel it is necessary, which is usually every four years.

The United Nations is made up of several treaty bodies. Each body has the ability to comment on any provision(s) that directly relate to their specific human right. These comments are referred to as general comments. One could view these general comments as commentary made by the experts to be compiled as a whole on the overall issue of human rights in order to have a comprehensive understanding of each right, as well as, to implement any changes that are deemed necessary by these experts if the changes are agreed upon.

Concluding observations are made by the same treaty bodies. They are made after each treaty body reviews a state report. Concluding observations are essentially the determination of the experts of the states implementation of human rights. While general comments are made on specifics that each treaty body oversees, concluding observations take the report as a whole and allow the treaty bodies to comment.

The views of the United Nations is to protect humanity and to guide those who hold positions of power over others to do what is best for the many and not just the few. These views help treaty bodies and committees to navigate reports and violations. They are able to create the overall human rights list because of their views. These views are what tie in the importance of the comments and observations that are made on reports.

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Recently, the United Nations has had an increasing issue with regards to the future of not only humanity but the planet. State reports are still being filed to the UN, but implementations are not occurring as expected. Over the past few years the world has seen a rise in nationalism in several nations. Nationalism is counterproductive to the goals the United Nations have set. Instead of working to make the world a better place, nationalism as caused many to instead look to make their own nations a better place, no matter the cost to others (specifically other nations).

Individual communications refer to complaints made to the United Nations by individuals instead of individual nations. One can file a complaint with the United Nations, and in fact many do every year. One needs only look to the indigenous people, and those who help refugees to see the media covering individual communications. Individual communications allows the United Nations to hear from ordinary people and the interpretation of what they are enduring or what others are enduring that they are witnessing. This provides the UN with unique first hand information that they may not have obtained through other routes like state reports.

The United Nations is probably best known for their stance against genocide, in all forms. From a legal standpoint, they are to help settle issues that arise in terms of international disputes. They were also in charge of regulating warfare, protecting civilians during war, the treatment of wounded combatants, prisoners of war, as well as the trials of war criminals. The most famous legal actions taken by the United Nations were the trials of Nuremburg and Tokyo after WWII. During these trials the United Nations oversaw the trials of people charged with crimes against humanity.

In order to have a complaint be deemed admissible to the specific treaty body, there must be two conditions met. The first condition that must be met is that the nation in which the complaint is against must have agreed to the treaty. The second condition is that the treaty body itself must have acknowledgement by said nation to have authority over said specific treaty (OHCHR, 2019). If these conditions are not met, or if only one condition is met the complaint cannot be brought before the treaty body.

Merit is determined by examining if all the essential information was provided to the treaty body. In addition, the complainant must have followed the legal path that is present in their nation. For example, merit would not be given to a complaint if the complainant did not take the matter to any lower courts or higher courts before bringing the complaint before the United Nations. The United Nations operates much like the Supreme Court does in the United States. They only address issues once all legal avenues have been pursued.

The United Nations has the ability to a great deal of good in the world, but the amount of good they can do is currently limited. If a nation, that has not agreed to the human rights treaties, violates the treaties, the United Nations cannot do anything to address those nations’ violations. Until every nation signs the treaties there will be people who are suffering, and cannot even file a complaint with the United Nations. Until this occurs, the United Nations can only continue the work they currently do in hopes that more nations will agree to the treaties.


OHCHR. (2019). Human Rights Treaty Bodies- Individual Communications. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Retrieved from ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/tbpetitions/Pages/IndividualCommunications.aspx

The United Nations reviews how the nations that have agreed to the human rights treaties, implement what they must in order to be compliant to those treaties. No matter the nation or the treaty, the United Nations is bound to examine each nation and how that nations actions are influencing the citizens of that nation, as well as, if the terms outlined in the treaties are being met by those nations. In order to achieve this goal, the United Nations conducts periodic reviews of the actions of those nations that have agreed to the treaties. In addition, citizens who live in those nations that have agreed to the terms outlined in the treaties may file individual complaints to the United Nations against their nation. Both reviews and complaints play a crucial role in determining how the United Nations are able to ensure the treaties are being followed and that citizens are being protected.

In regards to the General Human Rights Treaties anyone can file a complaint as long as the nation in which they reside has signed the treaty. Nations that have not signed the treaties are not bound by the treaties. If an individual complaint is brought forward, and the criterion is met the treaty bodies can address the complaint. If a complaint does not have merit, it will not be addressed by the treaty bodies.

Universal periodic review was established in 2006 (UNHRC, 2019). This is applicable to all 193 US member states. Periodic reports are six hours long whereas initial reports are nine hours long. Initial reports are when a member state hits their one year anniversary of being a member and the council reviews their work in implementation of the guidelines set forth by the human rights treaties. Universal periodic review also allows the UN to treat each member state equally in regards to reviewing the human rights record of each nation. This process also allows information to be shared between nations so that nations are better able to adhere to the guidelines they agreed to when they signed the treaties.

Both individual communications and universal periodic review are needed to fully address human rights on a global scale, universal periodic review is more helpful when determining how nations are adhering to the treaties. Universal periodic review does not give precedent to one nation over another. In addition, it ensures that a nation cannot attempt to prevent a complaint from being made and a violation from being discovered. There are nations that would attempt to prevent a citizen from filing a complaint against them. Universal periodic review ensures that every nation is examined, in a fair manner.

Human rights must be safe guarded; there are those in positions of power who do not have the best interest of their citizens in mind when governing them. By ensuring each member nation will be examined for their good works and their bad works it enforces accountability. Individual communications gives voice to those who may believe they have no voice. Ensuring that human rights are being given to each person is the foundation for a future that is rooted in equality and fairness. This process encourages that fairness.


  • UNHRC. (2019). Basic Facts about the UPR. United Nations Human Rights Council. Retrieved from ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/upr/pages/basicfacts.aspx


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