The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights


The United Nations represented ideologies, political systems, religious and cultural backgrounds, and various stages of economic development. They aimed at ensuring the document they were drafting gave a picture of various cultural traditions and integrate common values inbuilt in the world’s principal legal systems, religious and philosophical traditions (Mertus 81).

Role of UN in general

The commission every now and then searches areas with existing standards that ought to be developed further to deal with new and growing concerns in the world. Today the Commission has directed its efforts towards safeguarding people against torture and other forms of inhuman acts especially those in the custody of security agents or in detention centers. It is also working on the promotion of the rights of indigenous populations. The working group of the Commission is also focusing on the right to development and structural adjustment programs. All the complaints from any country in the world are brought to the attention of this working group which is a sub-commission of the United Nations General Assembly and the Commission itself from where an action is taken (Marcondes 49).

Under the vigilance of the Economic and Social Council, various UN bodies other agencies are on the move to control such acts of violence.

United Nations body focused on the sources of all these conflicts in its process of controlling such inhuman acts of violence (Baehr & Gordenker 59)

The majority of nations in the world spend too many funds on arms, whereas in some nations this represents the major portion of the budget. Some of these weapons find their way in illegal hands which are used in the oppression of human beings and general violation of human rights and this impact on various sectors of nations such as education and agriculture which are crucial in the development process. The UN has directed most of its efforts in the disarmament process in a diplomatic way to avoid further wars and civil conflicts in a country or between nations of the world. Because of this sensitive process, the UN has established a department for disarmament affairs that provides information on the armament progress of nations on the globe. It also provides disarmament standards and goals in cooperation with other UN organizations. It conducts research in this program for a safer future by organizing seminars and conferences with aim of reaching a disarmament agreement.

The UN Security Council has dedicated its efforts towards conflict resolution and peacekeeping in worse affected nations. Some of its members are permanent including China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Others are ten which are elected by the UN General Assembly after a period of two years. The body tries to resolve the problem peacefully through the use of a mediator whenever it is faced with a problem that poses a threat to international peace and safety. It can also use sanctions in the conflict resolution process if the parties involved prove not to heed the decision made. These missions of peacekeeping allow this Security Council to oversee the process of cease-fire and also involve in the process of providing a conducive environment for peace by building a consensus with the parties involved in the conflicts. This peacekeeping mission has now undergone a transformation where operations now occur within one country. This is due to exposure to information, global public view, and governments are now aware of what is going on in the country than was in the past. This has been the success of the UN in providing education to nations of the world through the UNESCO body where people are informed and know what is right to them and what people to elect in the new government who will foster and respect human rights.

Perpetrators of human rights in such exercises are normally taken to the international criminal court to defend themselves. Also, the international court of justice was created to aid in the resolution of conflicts between states but the criminal court deals only with responsible perpetrators or individuals. This has stopped other nations from infringing on the rights of other nations and has also eliminated neocolonialism and countries now enjoy their own freedom without being under pressure of another nation. Individuals have also played a crucial role in the culture of peace and even to an international level. State organizations and institutions have eminent men and women who provide standards that can be varied to meet the new needs and this requires each person to establish a culture of peace if the UN is to achieve its objectives fully. Peace on earth is achievable and is making progress everywhere.

Role of UN in Decolonization

When the United Nations was set up in 1945, 750 million people—just about one-third of the world’s population—lived in territories classed as non-self-governing. By the 21st century, fewer than 1 million people lived in such territories. Such a revolution was far from predictable at the conclusion of the Second World War. Though the Atlantic Charter had announced the Allies’ intention to ‘respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live’ (Gilbert, & Churchill, 1986), Roosevelt and Churchill differed powerfully on the future of the colonies. Aboard the ship on which the Atlantic Charter was signed, Roosevelt forced Churchill on the question of Britain’s colonial possessions. In the year 1942, Churchill affirmed in a speech to Parliament, later affirmed at Yalta, that ‘I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.’ (Gilbert, & Churchill, 1986)

The terms in the UN Charter about the Trusteeship System and non-self-governing territories show that these differences were not determined. The question of trusteeship had been lost from the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals drafted in October 1944. When it was raised at the Yalta Conference of February 1945, Churchill alleged that the proposed UN trusteeships were a device whereby the United States would take apart the British Empire. US negotiators sought to guarantee him that trusteeships were not intended to be valid to the Empire, but Churchill’s objections led to an explanation in the Conference procedure that survives mainly intact as Article 77 of the Charter: trusteeships would apply merely to existing League Mandates, former enemy territories, and territories willingly submitted to the system. Other non-self-governing territories would be subject to a vaguer system of compulsions for their administering powers as provided for in Article 73.

The key difference between the trust territories and the other non-self-governing territories was that the former were unambiguously fated for independence. All but a handful of the island territories had attained it by the late 1960s; the last trust territory, Palau, became independent in the year 1994. Non-self-governing territories, by contrast, were to remain subject to the seemingly compassionate control of colonial power. This did not stop the tide of decolonization that saw the association of the United Nations double between 1945 and 1960. Sixteen non-self-governing territories remain, with a total population of about 700,000.

The United Nations Trusteeship System fluctuated from the League of Nations Mandates System in both scope and purpose. The Mandates System had confined itself exclusively to the colonial possessions of former enemy states; chapter XII of the UN Charter potentially applied to all colonies as well as dependencies. In practice, nonetheless, the Trusteeship System chiefly affected territories earlier held under League mandates. All Class B in addition to C mandates, except South-West Africa, were relocated to the Trusteeship System, with Japanese mandated territories being transferred to the United States as trust territories. Even though it was imagined that additional territories might be added by agreement, this merely happened once, with the addition of Italian Somaliland in the year 1949. (Murray, 1956) A suggestion to set up Jerusalem as a trust territory of the United Nations itself was never put into practice.

The conflicting objectives of the two systems were more momentous. Whereas the Covenant of the League of Nations had imagined the independence only of Class A mandates, the UN Charter deserted such differences in favor of a general compulsion to promote ‘progressive improvement’ towards self-government or independence, depending on the particular situation of each territory and ‘the liberally expressed wishes of the peoples concerned. Trusteeship agreements were also more responsive to local circumstances and were to be agreed upon ‘by the states directly concerned’—subject to endorsement by the General Assembly or, in the case of ‘strategic areas’, the Security Council (UN Charter, arts. 76(b), 79, 83, 85).

In pursuit of these purposes, the Charter created a Trusteeship Council whose general powers as well as occasional enthusiasm to go against the wishes of the administering authorities made out its work from that of the Permanent Mandates Commission. The Council’s basic responsibilities were to believe reports from the administering power, to recognize petitions from inhabitants, and to offer for periodic visits. The power to consider reports was increased by a further stipulation enabling the Council to devise a questionnaire on the political, economic, social, as well as educational progression of the inhabitants of the trust territories, which was to form the basis of an annual report to the UN General Assembly. This fundamentally mirrored the practice that had developed over time in the Mandates Commission, while there was a slow move towards greater importance on supervision of, rather than cooperation with, the administering power (Brownlie, 1998). The ability to receive and reflect on petitions from the inhabitants of trust territories also revealed earlier practice; compared with the halting and largely unproductive procedure reluctantly allowed by the Mandates Commission, nonetheless, the Trusteeship Council was relatively active.

Possibly the most significant power exercised by the Trusteeship Council was through its missions to the trust territories themselves. Administering powers had abandoned such a function for the Mandates System: Lord Lugard, for instance, stated that it would be impractical for the Commission to take on the policy of challenging the whole management of any mandatory Power by visiting the territory in order to listen to all who criticized it. Such a route would be a sign for trouble.’ (“Minutes”, 1925) In the first decade of the Trusteeship Council, only one mission was sent, but from 1956 the Council began sending missions more regularly, including eight to observe plebiscites or elections.

The eleven territories that were administered under the Trusteeship System all attained independence. British Togoland united with the Gold Coast, a non-self-governing territory also managed by Britain, becoming Ghana in 1957; French Togoland became Togo in 1960. Italian Somaliland joined the colony of British Somaliland to become an independent Somalia in 1960. French Cameroons became Cameroon in 1960; it was joined the subsequent year by the southern part of British Cameroons, the northern part of which united with Nigeria. Tanganyika became independent in the year 1961, uniting in 1964 with the former territory of Zanzibar to form Tanzania. Western Samoa gained its independence in 1962, the same year that Ruanda-Urundi divided into the two sovereign states of Rwanda and Burundi. Nauru became independent in 1968; New Guinea united with the non-self-governing territory of Papua to become independent Papua New Guinea in 1975. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was dissolved in 1986, with Northern Mariana Islands becoming a commonwealth under US sovereignty and the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia entering compacts of free alliance with the United States as independent countries. Palau also concluded a compact of free association with the United States in 1986, but it was not accepted until 1993, entering into force the following year. The last trusteeship agreement was, consequently, terminated on 10 November 1994 (Fox & Roth, 2000).

By a resolution on 25 May 1994, the Trusteeship Council adjusted its rules of procedure to eliminate the compulsion to meet yearly, agreeing instead to meet as required. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali suggested that the Council be eradicated through a Charter amendment, but Malta, among others, urged that the Trusteeship Council be recast as a forum through which member states could work out their collective trusteeship over areas of common fear, such as the environment and the high seas eagerness for such a move, but since the Council no longer meets, has almost no staff, and uses no UN resources there has been little momentum to shut it down.


Baehr, P. & Gordenker L. The United Nations: Reality and Ideal.

Gregory H. Fox and Brad R. Roth (eds.), Democratic Governance and International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law, 5th edn. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 571.

Marcondes, D. Democracy Promotion by worldwide Organizations: The Task of the United Nations.

Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume 7: Road to Victory, 1941-1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986), 254.

Mertus, J. The United Nations and Human Rights: a Guide for a New Era. Minutes of the Permanent Mandates Commission, Seventh Session (1925), 128.

N. Murray, Jr, The United Nations Trusteeship System (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1957), 79-116

Cite this paper

Select style


DemoEssays. (2023, January 5). The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights. Retrieved from


DemoEssays. (2023, January 5). The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights.

Work Cited

"The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights." DemoEssays, 5 Jan. 2023,


DemoEssays. (2023) 'The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights'. 5 January.


DemoEssays. 2023. "The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights." January 5, 2023.

1. DemoEssays. "The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights." January 5, 2023.


DemoEssays. "The Role of the UN in the Promotion of Human Rights." January 5, 2023.