Dear colleagues of the United Nations,
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms lies at the heart of all aims and
objectives of the United Nations and is one of the central purposes of the United Nations Charter. As members of
the United Nations Organization, we have a special responsibility to ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all
people without distinction. Substantial progress has been made over the past 50 years in terms of establishing
international laws and standards to protect human rights, but this is over- shadowed by the disturbing reality that
grave human rights violations continue to occur worldwide on a daily basis.
In the years ahead, therefore, emphasis must be placed on the implementation of
human rights standards and on the prevention of human rights violations. We must transform principles into concrete
action. In doing so, our goal must be to main- stream human rights throughout the United Nations system, as called
for by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. I am heartened by the visible determination of United Nations agencies to
integrate human rights into their work.
This handbook has been developed to assist United Nations colleagues under- stand
and appreciate the human rights system within the context of the United Nations Organization. The following
chapters provide an overview of human rights instruments and developments; the role of United Nations organs in
protecting human rights; the international mechanisms which have evolved to monitor imple- mentation of rights and
process complaints; strategies engaged to promote and pro- tect human rights within the United Nations; and the
role of my Office and other United Nations partners.
I urge colleagues to familiarize themselves with the standards and mechanisms of
human rights, to seek inspiration from and make more frequent use of human rights instruments. I urge colleagues to
integrate human rights into their offices on a day-to-day basis and to be conscious of their role in helping others
to assert and achieve their human rights. A human rights-based approach to development, peace and security is the
surest guarantee of success. We must dedicate ourselves to achiev- ing our goal – all human rights for all – in the