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United Nations instruments

31 May, 2023

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. As of October 2021, there are 45 thematic and 13 country mandates, including:

Individuals have increasingly acquired the means to vindicate their rights at the international level. Since the early 1970s, international complaint mechanisms have developed apace, and complainants can now bring claims to the United Nations concerning violations of their rights contained in the nine so-called ‘core’ human rights treaties.

The nine treaties concern:

(i) civil and political rights;

(ii) torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(iii) racial discrimination;

(iv) gender discrimination;

(v) rights of persons with disabilities;

(vi) protection of all persons from enforced disappearance;

(vii) rights of migrant workers and members of their families;

(viii) economic, social and cultural rights;

(ix) rights of the child.

The complaint mechanisms are designed to be accessible to the layperson. It is not necessary to be a lawyer or even familiar with legal and technical terms to bring a complaint under the treaties concerned.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights make clear that global companies are responsible for conditions in its supply chain, regardless of where the work is preformed and what the employment relationship is.

Negotiations for a binding UN treaty started in 2014. Global unions are pushing for a legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.