What is a UN Convention?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first international declaration by member states of the United Nations to abide by a moral code of rights. It was an international response to the horrors of the holocaust and the Second World War.

In 1966 the Universal Declaration was followed by the two International Covenants - the first two treaties on human rights to put a duty to implement on those member states which had signed and ratified the treaties.


In addition to the International Bill of Rights there are other core human rights treaties, covenants or conventions.

Covenants, statutes, protocols and conventions are legally-binding for those States that ratify or accede to them but none of these instruments are legal entities in themselves. Signing a treaty merely shows that you are exploring how to ratify.

Ratification also ensures that national legislation will conform to the intentions of the treaties.

Implementation is monitored through various committeees of experts who monitor how member states are doing - and then ‘name and shame' those that are doing badly.