Human Rights Concepts, Ideas and Fora

This section builds on materials from the Human Rights Reference Handbook by Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda, Dr. Theo van Banning, Gudrun D. Gudmundsdottir, Christine Chamoun and Dr. Willem J.M. van Genugten.

Human rights are at the core of international law and international relations. They represent basic values common to all cultures, and must be respected by countries worldwide. The aim of this Section is to describe the present situation in the field of human rights in theory and practice as well as promote the fundamental values they represent. The Section is divided into six parts:

Part I discusses the concept of human rights from its origins to the broad interpretation given to it today. First, the concept of human rights is introduced as well as general elements of international law, including the application of principles of human rights law. The emphasis is further laid on three major dimensions: standards (the human rights norms as defined in internationally agreed texts); supervision (the mechanisms to monitor compliance with human rights standards); and the ways in which respect for human rights is put into practice.

Part II gives an account of the principal organisations where human rights are discussed. States use these organisations to define new standards, to agree on procedures, and to supervise compliance. First examined is the universal system, meaning, in this context, the United Nations system. Thereafter, regional arrangements are discussed, focusing on the supervisory mechanisms in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Part III addresses substantive human rights as they are laid down in various international treaties. In order to avoid the traditional categorisations of human rights, they are grouped into twelve clusters of human rights. Each right is explained in detail and the latest developments in standard setting and supervision are set out.

Part IV deals with issues relating to protection of vulnerable groups. Again, twelve particularly vulnerable groups have been identified and it is stressed that the persons belonging to them require special attention. It is not sufficient merely to ensure that there is no discrimination against them: special measures are essential to protect and promote their rights.

Part V discusses relations between human rights and other fields, such as development, economic co-operation, environmental protection, armed conflict and terrorism.

Part VI examines the respective /the-human-rights-project/?CacheRefresh=1roles of various actors such as states, nongovernmental organisations, individual human rights defenders and multinational companies. The aim is to examine their work and ways to enhance respect for human rights. The role of the European Union in the promotion and protection of human rights is discussed.

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