The United Nations Human Rights Treaties

The UN Human Rights Treaties

The UN human rights treaties are at the core of the international system for the promotion and protection of human rights. Every UN member state is a party to one or more of the nine major human rights treaties. It is a universal human rights legal system which applies to virtually every child, woman or man in the world.


The successful implementation of the human rights treaty standards, whether at the international or national level, depends on their accessibility to the victims of human rights abuse. This means both familiarity with the standards and access to remedial mechanisms. The purpose of this website is to enhance access by making materials associated with the treaty system available in electronic and user-friendly form.

Dates of Information Provided on and The History of the Website began in the late 1990's as part of a review of the UN human rights treaty system conducted in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Originally an internal database to serve the review project, it was made public as a service to researchers, advocates and members of the public who found the UN website difficult to navigate. Until late 2011 it was regularly updated with the assistance of Gillian Collins, whose untimely passing ended our daily efforts to improve access and to serve as an easy-to-understand gateway to the burgeoning human rights treaty system. At the same time, over the years the UN website adopted many of our organizational tools and its search facilities improved -- although the exponential growth in treaty body meeting time, numbers of documents, different working methods and variety of products, continue to challenge accessibility by the human rights victims and their advocates who need it most. In addition, the UN website does not contain a complete historical record of the output of the human rights treaty system since its inception, including volumes of information that were painstakingly included and organized on the database.

The site, therefore, has been modified in its purpose and function. It retains the historical record and adds self-help links to the UN website for the purpose of updating information after 2011.

In our view, where international human rights legal bodies are truly independent, expert and non-discriminatory, they can offer a valuable service. Under these conditions, the capacity of individual victims to reach such bodies -- especially those victims who do not live in free and democratic societies that are governed by the rule of law -- can be a crucial driver for improving the human condition.