Engaging UN Agencies

Engaing UN Agencies in Integrating Human Rights into their work
Much of Rights and Humanity’s early work at the international level involved persuading UN agencies that their work would be significantly improved if they integrated human rights norms and principles into their policies and activities. We successfully ensured integration of human rights into the works of WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP and UNCTAD as well as other UN agencies.


Proud to be associated with the noble goal of respect for human rights at the UN’s inception, by the mid-1980s some UN agencies had come to fear association with the human rights agenda, lest they should be considered to be involved in political activity.

They argued that involvement in human rights would have serious repercussions on the financial support they received from member states. This view was exacerbated by the failure to recognise the critical importance of human rights in the development process.

We knew from our work with WHO on AIDS that integrating human rights norms and principles into their work would considerably strengthen the outcomes.

At a public lecture held by Rights and Humanity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1988, we invited Dr Richard Jolly, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director of Programmes, to discuss UNICEF’s work in the light of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was one of the first papers to articulate UNICEF’s work from a rights perspective.

At the same time, Rights and Humanity published a booklet with the objectives of de-politicising human rights, demonstrating their importance for the achievement of human development and encouraging all UN agencies to adopt a human rights approach to their work. By inviting the eleven UN agencies featured to write the articles we encouraged them all to consider their work in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Over the years, Rights and Humanity has worked extensively with the UN, acting as policy consultants and trainer UN staff.

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