Human Rights Day, 10 December

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights, 14-25 June 1993, Vienna, Austria

On 25 June 1993, representatives of 171 States adopted by consensus the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights (download brochurePDF document), thus successfully closing the two-week World Conference and presenting to the international community a common plan for the strengthening of human rights work around the world.

The conference was marked by an unprecedented degree of participation by government delegates and the international human rights community. Some 7,000 participants, including academics, treaty bodies, national institutions and representatives of more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- two thirds of them at the grass-roots level -- gathered in Vienna to review and profit from their shared experiences.

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action marks the culmination of a long process of review and debate over the current status of human rights machinery in the world. It also marks the beginning of a renewed effort to strengthen and further implement the body of human rights instruments that have been painstakingly constructed on the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948.

In his presentation of the document to the final plenary session, Mr. Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General of the Conference, said that the Vienna Declaration provides the international community with a new "framework of planning, dialogue and cooperation" that will enable a holistic approach to promoting human rights and involve actors at all levels -- international, national and local.

The final document agreed to in Vienna, which was endorsed by the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly (resolution 48/121, of 1994), reaffirmed the principles that had evolved during the past 45 years and further strengthened the foundation for additional progress in the area of human rights. The recognition of interdependence between democracy, development and human rights, for example, prepared the way for future cooperation by international organizations and national agencies in the promotion of all human rights, including the right to development.

Similarly, the Conference took historic new steps to promote and protect the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples by, respectively, supporting the creation of a new mechanism, a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, subsequently appointed in 1994; recommending the proclamation by the General Assembly of an international decade of the world's indigenous peoples , which led to the proclamation of two decades (1995-2004 and 2005-2014); and calling for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the year 1995. As of today, all countries, except for Somalia and the United States of America, have ratified the Convention.

The Vienna Declaration also makes concrete recommendations for strengthening and harmonizing the monitoring capacity of the United Nations system. In this regard, it called for the establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights by the General Assembly, which subsequently created the post on 20 December 1993 (resolution 48/141). Mr. José Ayala Lasso was nominated by the Secretary-General as the first High Commissioner and assumed office on 5 April 1994.

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