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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $210.00

800 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm


Publication date:
May 2020

Imprint: OUP UK

The United Nations and Human Rights

A Critical Appraisal, Second Edition

Edited by Philip Alston and Frederic Megret

The very concept of human rights implies governmental accountability. To ensure that governments are indeed 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. Indeed, there is much doubt as to the effectiveness of much of the UN's human rights efforts. Inevitable instances of politicization and the hostile, or at best ambivalent, attitude of most governments, has often endangered the fragile progress made on the more technical fronts. In addition to significant actual and potential problems of duplication, overlapping and inconsistent approaches, there are major problems of under-funding 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.

These essays critically examine 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 of the Human Rights Council to replace the Commission on Human Rights. The book also looks at the relationship between the various bodies and the potential for major reforms and restructuring.

Readership : Academics, scholars, and advanced students of Public International Law; UN Law; International Human Rights Law; and the Law of International Institutions.

The Human Rights Mandate of the Principal Organs
1. Frederic Megret: The Security Council
2. Andrew Clapham: The General Assembly
3. Frederic Megret: The Economic and Social Council
4. Bruno Simma: The International Court of Justice
Subsidiary Human Rights Organs
5. Philip Alston: The Council and Commission on Human Rights
6. Asbjorn Eide: The Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
7. Jane Connors: The Commission on the Status of Women
Organs Monitoring Treaty Compliance
8. Patrick Thornberry: The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
9. Penny Parker: The Human Rights Committee
10. Andrew Byrnes: The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
11. Philip Alston: The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
12. Andrew Byrnes: The Committee against Torture
13. Philip Alston: The Committee on the Rights of the Child
14. Janet Lord & Michael Stein: The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
15. Olivier de Frouville: The Committee on Enforced Disappearances
16. Ryszard Cholewinski: The Committee on the Human Rights of Migrant Workers
The Governance of Human Rights
17. Andrew Clapham: The Secretary General
18. Andrew Clapham: The High Commissioner for Human Rights
19. Georges Minet: Human Rights Co-ordination within the UN System

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Philip Alston is an international lawyer whose teaching focuses primarily on human rights law and the law of international organizations. He directs the recently-established NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, part of the Institute for International Law and Justice. He is currently John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, NYU School of Law.

Frédéric Mégret is an Assistant-Professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University and the Canada Research Chair in the Law of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. He holds a Phd in international law from the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne and the Graduate Institute of International Studies of the University of Geneva. He is a graduate suma cum laude of Sciences Po Paris and the author of many articles on international human rights law, public international law, international criminal law and the laws of war.

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Special Features

  • Most of the contributors have been key participants in the United Nations Human Rights regime and all are ideally placed to critically evaluate its achievements and shortcomings.
  • This book is the only up to date and systematic study of the United Nation's human rights activity
  • The analysis is highly topical, particularly in view of recent UN reform, such as the new Human Rights Council and the new Human Rights Committee on Disappearances
  • Offers historical depth and contextualization of the evolution of the UN