International Bill of Human Rights

The International Bill of Human Rights refers to a collection of three key international human rights documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Together, these three instruments form the cornerstone of international human rights law and are often referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the UDHR is a landmark document that sets out a comprehensive range of fundamental human rights and freedoms. It recognises the inherent dignity and equal rights of all individuals, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. The UDHR includes civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and has been widely regarded as a universal standard for human rights.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, the ICCPR focuses on civil and political rights. It guarantees a wide range of rights, including the right to life, freedom from torture and cruel treatment, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and the right to participate in public affairs. The ICCPR establishes obligations for states parties to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR): Also adopted in 1966, the ICESCR addresses economic, social, and cultural rights. It recognises the right to work, the right to just and favourable conditions of work, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing, and housing, the right to education, and the right to enjoy cultural life. The ICESCR imposes obligations on states parties to take steps, to the maximum of their available resources, to progressively realise these rights.

These three instruments are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. They provide a comprehensive framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural aspects. Although the UDHR is not a legally binding document, the ICCPR and ICESCR are legally binding treaties, and states that have ratified these covenants are obligated to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights enshrined in them. Together, they form the International Bill of Human Rights serving as a reference point for the development of national legislation, policies, and practices, as well as guiding the work of international organisations, civil society, and human rights defenders in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.
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