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“Catalysing change: Ratification as a pledge for the Human Rights 75 initiative

The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2023 marked an occasion to renew the ground-breaking commitments made by States in 1948. The Declaration promises the universality of human rights, upholding the diversity, strengths, and achievements of many communities striving to address today’s global challenges. The Declaration has inspired the norms and standards that are embodied in the core human rights treaties and their optional protocols today. These instruments aim to realise the rights contained in the Declaration, by making human rights legal entitlements and establishing legally binding obligations for States.

Ratifying these instruments is essential in translating the human rights outlined in the Declaration into reality while demonstrating a commitment to the international community. In 2023, States were called upon to formally re-commit to the protection and respect of human rights by ratifying outstanding human rights instruments.

What is ratification?

When a State ratifies an international human rights instrument, it legally commits to implement its provisions. By depositing instruments of ratification, a State expresses its consent to be bound by the treaty. Ratification is preceded by the signature of the treaty. Upon the signature, the State is obliged not to act contrary to the object and purpose of the instrument. The State may use the time between the signature and ratification to enact the necessary legislation to ensure the application of the instrument nationally.

What is accession?

Accession is the act when a State accepts to become a party to a treaty that has already been negotiated and signed by other States. It has the same legal effect as ratification. Accession usually takes place after the treaty has entered into force.

What are the steps for formalizing a ratification or accession?

Model instruments of ratification or accession can be found on the United Nations Treaty Collection website. These templates are available in all six UN languages. The date is indicated in the instrument of ratification or accession. This is the date on which the State becomes bound by the treaty. More information is available in the Treaty Handbook.

Once completed and signed by the competent authority in the State, e.g., the Head of State or Government or the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the signed copy of the original instrument can be emailed to [email protected] for deposit. However, the originals must be delivered to the Treaty Section as soon as they arrive at the Permanent Missions in New York; the Depositary Unit office is at 2 UN Plaza, 323 E 44th Street, 5th Floor, Room DC2-0500, Tel: 1-212 963 504. New York, NY 10017 USA.

There may be a ceremony for the deposit of instruments.  (Photos of Treaty Ceremonies). 

Access the ratification toolkits