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UN Documentation: Human Rights  

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Human rights are fundamental to the United Nations. The Preamble of the UN Charter states:

We the peoples of the United Nations [are] determined... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.

One of the early acts of the General Assembly was to draft and adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, resolution 217 A of 10 December 1948. 

More recent UN actions include the adoption of international human rights treaties, the creation of the position of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1993 and the establishment of the Human Rights Council in 2006. There is on-going discussion about how to reform the treaty-body system. 

During its 60th session, the General Assembly adopted the World Summit Outcome, resolution 60/1 of 16 September 2005, which called, inter alia, for strengthening of the UN's human rights mechanisms. Reform of the human rights mechanisms is ongoing and the documentation is changing to reflect the changes. This guide provides an overview of current practice, as well as guidance on the historical documentation. 

The UN Yearbook on Human Rights was published for the years 1946-1988 (list of sales numbers). 

Key Resources

  • UN OHCHR - Charter-based Body Database
    OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) maintained database including documents for the Human Rights Council, its predecessor and their subsidiaries and parent organs.
  • UN OHCHR - Treaty Body Database
    Includes documents submitted to any of the UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies. Filter by convention, country, type of document, document symbol, and/or date.
  • UN OHCHR - Universal Human Rights Index
    Provides access to country-related documents submitted to any of the UN human rights bodies, including the special procedures.
  • UN OHCHR - Universal Periodic Review Database
    Includes documents submitted to the UPR as well as related material; Search by session or by country.
  • Official Document System (ODS)
    United Nations official document system: provides full text search of documents issued since 1993; resolutions of all principal organ & Security Council plenary documents since 1946 ; older documents are added regularly. Includes the Daily Journals of New York and Geneva.
  • Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs
    Analytical studies of the decisions of the UN principal organs under each of the Articles of the Charter ; Comprehensive summary of the decisions of United Nations Organs, together with review of related material, organized by Charter Articles.
  • UN Meetings Coverage and Press Releases
    Available online from October 1995. Press Releases are not official documents but provide timely information on the current activities of the principal organs and subsidiary bodies, including summaries of meetings.
  • UN Yearbook
    The Yearbook of the United Nations is the principal reference work of the UN and provides a detailed overview of the Organization's activities during the course of a year. All the Yearbooks, 1945 to the most recent, are available online and provide citation to the documentation and include the full text of resolutions.
  • UN-I-QUE
    UN Info Quest (UN-I-QUE) provides citation to the symbols for documents throughout the history of the organization: each record within UN-I-QUE is historically comprehensive. UN-I-QUE does not provide citation to all documents, but to certain documents of a recurrent nature.
  • UNBISnet - Bibliographic Records
    UNBISnet is the catalogue of the UN Library in New York. In addition to the library's holdings it accesses multilingual versions of UN documents (1993-present), citation to documents (1979-present) ; metadata and online links to older documents are added regularly.

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