The “Action 2 Initiative” stems from the report of the Secretary-General entitled “Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change” (A/57/387 of 9 September 2002). In that report, the Secretary General stated that “The promotion and protection of human rights is a bedrock requirement for the realization of the Charter’s vision of a just and peaceful world”.

Among the 36 actions for reform identified by the Secretary-General is "Action  2 ", which calls for joint UN action to strengthen human rights related actions at the country level.  It also calls for enhanced support for the efforts of interested Member States in establishing and strengthening national human rights promotion and protection systems consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

In response to this call, a year-long collaborative process was launched, and culminated in the development and adoption, by twenty-one heads of UN departments and agencies, of the Action 2 Plan of Action and work plan.

The Plan of Action’s underlying strategy is to build the capacity of UN country teams, which are crucial entry points and vehicles for implementation of the Plan. Country teams are also best placed to provide support tailored to national needs of Member States.

The main goal of the Plan is to support the sustainability of national human rights protection systems through coordinated and strengthened UN system-wide support, including by promotion of human rights-based approach. Integrating human rights throughout the UN system in all its humanitarian, development and peacekeeping work, and promoting a human rights approach to programming, are essential for the implementation of the Plan of Action which would help to promote the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).