The Charter of the United Nations requires that all member states “promote and encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”. In order to provide a common understanding of these rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. In simple language, it describes the rights shared by all human beings, and sets “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.
In the years since, the principles of the Universal Declaration have been elaborated and given greater legal force through the negotiation of a series of international treaties, notably the:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Convention Against Torture
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
Convention on the Rights of the Child
However, there remained a number of disagreements between countries, notably about the relative importance of different types of rights.
In 1993, the nations of the world came together in Vienna to reaffirm their commitment to human rights, and to find more effective ways of working together to put the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into practice. One of the major achievements of the Vienna Declaration was that it managed to move the international debate beyond this impasse and renew the focus on realising the ideals of the Universal Declaration.
The Vienna Declaration affirmed the equal importance of all human rights, declaring them to be universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.
Universal: It is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.