Issues in Depth

Human Rights

What Are Human Rights?

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

Human Rights

Promoting respect for human rights is a core purpose of the United Nations and defines its identity as an organization for people around the world. Member States have mandated the Secretary-General and the UN System to help them achieve the standards set out in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To do so, the UN System uses all the resources at its disposal, including its moral authority, diplomatic creativity and operational reach. Member States, however, have the primary responsibility for protecting human rights of their populations.

International Law and Justice

Among the greatest achievements of the United Nations is the development of a body of international law—conventions, treaties and standards—central to promoting economic and social development, as well as to advancing international peace and security. Many of the treaties brought about by the United Nations form the basis of the law that governs relations among nations. While the work of the UN in this area does not always receive attention, it has a daily impact on the lives of people everywhere. 

Peace and Security

Saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war was the main motivation for creating the United Nations, whose founders lived through the devastation of two world wars. Since its creation, the UN has often been called upon to prevent disputes from escalating into war, or to help restore peace when armed conflict does break out, and to promote lasting peace in societies emerging from wars.

Oceans and the Law of the Sea

Life itself arose from the oceans. The ocean is vast, covering 140 million square miles, some 72 per cent of the earth's surface. Not only has the oceans always been a prime source of nourishment for the life it helped generate, but from earliest recorded history it has served for trade and commerce, adventure and discovery. It has kept people apart and brought them together.

Even now, when the continents have been mapped and their interiors made accessible by road, river and air, most of the world's people live no more than 200 miles from the sea and relate closely to it.

AIDS

In June 1981, scientists in the United States reported the first clinical evidence of a disease that would later become known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Its cause, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was identified in 1983.

Since the start of the epidemic around 78 million (71 million–87 million) have become infected with HIV and around 35 million (29.6 million–40.8 million) people have died of AIDS-related illnesses. In 2015, there were 36.7 million (34.0 million–39.8 million) people living with HIV.

Decolonization

When the United Nations was founded in 1945, some 750 million people, nearly a third of the world's population, lived in Territories that were dependent on colonial Powers. Today, fewer than 2 million people live under colonial rule in the 17 remaining non-self-governing territories. The wave of decolonization, which changed the face of the planet, was born with the UN and represents the world body’s first great success.

Climate Change

Climate change is one of the major challenges of our time and adds considerable stress to our societies and to the environment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

Children

The UN agency for children

In the aftermath of World War II, the plight of Europe’s children was grave, and a new agency created by the United Nations stepped in to provide food and clothing and health care to these children.

In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the UN and began a successful global campaign against yaws, a disfiguring disease affecting millions of children, and one that can be cured with penicillin.

Atomic Energy

The UN and the nuclear age were born almost simultaneously. The horror of the Second World War, culminating in the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, brought home the need to address the nuclear issue. By its first resolution, the General Assembly established the UN Atomic Energy Commission to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.  And a landmark address by United States President Dwight D.

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