Progress in Human Rights Protection is Slow, U.N. Secretary General Says
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Progress in Human Rights Protection is Slow, U.N. Secretary General Says

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United Nations Secretary General U Thant, addressing the Italian Society for International Organizations here today, stressed the fact that slow progress has been made in international efforts to provide “guarantees of human rights.” He said that “the horrors perpetrated by man against man in Nazi Germany” provoked determination among nations “never to allow the recurrence of the outrages and barbarities of the Nazis.”

“This determination,” he pointed out, “did not find unqualified support.” He noted that there had been “controversies” in the United Nations on the subject of the implementation of human rights covenants which are to translate into precise legal terms the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and to set up the machinery for their implementation.

“Either this year or next,” he said, “the Third Committee of the General Assembly (which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs), will discuss the problems arising out of the enforcement or implementation of these covenants. These problems will relate to such important questions as to who may complain against violations of civil and political rights and to whom; and how shall the progress in the recognition and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights be kept under review and assisted.”


He cited as one major barrier to effective implementation of the various conventions on human rights developed through the United Nations the contention that the provision of the Charter that nothing in it “shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state” as meaning that the UN “may not even discuss anything which is considered by a member state to relate to its domestic matters.”

The Secretary General said that the procedures for the protection of human rights as set forth in the Charter were clear. He described them as “discussion, study, recommendation, convention, conference, consultation with non-governmental organizations, establishment of commissions and subsidiary organs — including specifically an injunction to set up a Commission on Human Rights — and technical and advisory services.”

“While the value of these methods should not be exaggerated, neither should the services themselves be belittled,” he said. He asserted that these services “have been used in what can only be called an ever-increasing atmosphere of cooperation by member states with the United Nations in its efforts to promote and encourage human rights.”

He said that at the present time, Governments were “sincerely taking part in ever-increasing numbers in periodically reporting on human rights developments in their countries, not only on the progress made, but also on the problems met. The Governments are cooperating, too, in global studies of discrimination in such fields as education, political rights, religious rights and practices and of such rights as the right of everyone to be free from arbitrary arrest, detention and exile.”

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