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The United Nations and Human Rights (2nd Edition): A Critical Appraisal

Edited by Frédéric Mégret, Philip Alston


The very concept of human rights implies governmental accountability. To ensure that governments are held accountable for their treatment of citizens and others, the United Nations has established a wide range of mechanisms to monitor compliance, and to seek to prevent as well as respond to violations. The panoply of implementation measures that the UN has taken since 1945 has resulted in a diverse and complex set of institutional arrangements, the effectiveness of which varies widely. Inevitable instances of politicization and the hostile or ambivalent attitude of most governments has often endangered the fragile progress made on the more technical fronts. In addition, there are major problems of underfunding and insufficient expertise. The complexity of these arrangements and the difficulty in evaluating their impact makes a comprehensive guide of the type provided here all the more indispensable. This book critically examines the functions, procedures, and performance of each of the major UN organs dealing with human rights, including the Security Council and the International Court of Justice as well as the more specialized bodies monitoring the implementation of human rights treaties. Significant attention is devoted to the considerable efforts at reforming the UN’s human rights machinery, as illustrated most notably by the creation and operation of the Human Rights Council. The book also looks at the relationship between the various bodies and the potential for major reforms and restructuring.

Bibliographic Information

Frédéric Mégret, editor

Philip Alston, editor

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