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“As the Covenants turn 50, it is time to turn norms into action” – UN experts

Human Rights Day – Thursday 10 December 2015

GENEVA (9 December 2015) – Speaking ahead of Human Rights Day 2015, the largest body of independent experts of the United Nations Human Rights system renews its commitment with the implementation of the Covenants, the two key human rights treaties which, together with the Universal Declaration on Human rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights.

On Human Rights Day, the 55 independent mechanisms of the Human Rights Council –‘Special Procedures’– join a year-long campaign* to promote full ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966.

“The Covenants have spurred considerable normative developments and institutional building at international level, which have been matched by developments at national and local levels. Around the world, courts and tribunals, national human rights institutions, civil society activism and increasing public awareness have all contributed to making human rights a major legitimacy test for public and private policies and practices. We call for their universal ratification.

Despite these positive developments, human rights remain under severe threat, including from conflict, poverty and inequality, the adverse impact of climate change, the backlash against women’s human rights, abuses by non-state actors and attacks against the universality of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Faced with these multiple challenges, determination to redress these violations as well as address their root causes should be even stronger. All must play their part in ensuring that each and every human right codified in these Covenants is guaranteed and implemented in practice for all human beings without discrimination. The interrelatedness and interdependence between all rights must be recognized; no human right can be fully enjoyed in isolation.

As independent experts covering 55 human rights mandates, we help transform norms into reality. We strive for positive change in people's lives by undertaking critical analysis of State practice in compliance with their obligations and of the impact of private actors on human rights. By reaching out equally to all parts of society, from senior government officials to grassroots communities we identify early signs of human rights violations and call for timely action.
We urge all States to live-up to their duty to respect human rights and to fully cooperate with all of us as mandate holders appointed according to the rules of procedure of the Human Rights Council. States should honour their standing invitations and accept requests for country visits and provide timely and substantive responses to alleged human rights violations that we bring to their attention.

Civil society is a key partner in improving the situation of human rights worldwide and in the fulfilment of our mandates. We strongly encourage civil society to continue to engage with us. Victims of human rights violations, their family members, witnesses, human rights defenders and members of civil society must be able to cooperate with us freely without fear of intimidation, reprisals or censorship. We call all States to ensure that all such acts are halted immediately and break the cycle of impunity by holding the perpetrators accountable.

Full cooperation from all concerned, in particular States, is indispensable. Recognizing human rights challenges and asking for assistance in facing them will only demonstrate the maturity of political leaders and their genuine commitment to uphold the dignity of all people. The 2030 agenda provides an excellent opportunity to develop a more holistic approach in which continued engagement will ultimately foster improvement of the situation of human rights.

The adoption of the Covenants was a strong affirmation that all human beings have inalienable rights and freedoms. Half a century later, let us all make this conviction a daily reality for all.”

(*) More information on “Our Rights, Our Freedoms, Always,” campaign: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/HRDay2015/Pages/HRD2015.aspx

‘Special procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic human rights issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 41 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 78 active mandate holders. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates. Lear more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

The experts:
Country mandates: 
Thematic mandates: 

For more information and media inquiries, please contact Nathalie Rondeux (+41 22 917 9251 / nrondeux@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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