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Progress and Challenges Encountered in the Implementation of Human Rights

7 pages
1730 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Undoubtedly, it is difficult to achieve enduring structural improvements in human rights. Traditionally, issues to do with Human Rights have conventionally been considered as the exclusive domain of individual countries. It was not until the 20th century that any reference to a human rights condition occurring in a nation was subject to debate at the Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. Despite international recognition of the issue and attempts to ensure that human rights atrocities do not occur, absolute success in the endeavors are yet to be realized. In response to the occurrence, this report will outline the progress and problems encountered in the implementation of human rights.


De Schutter (2014) state that at the moment, there has been profound progress in legislative infrastructure which is at the disposal of the international community courtesy of the United Nations. According to Donnelly and Whelan (2017), historically, the United Nations has been engaged in activities that resulted in the creation of an efficient system whose aims were to ensure that there was a complete execution of universally agreed upon human rights standards. The activities were spearheaded by a sanctioned organ of the institution called the Commission for Human Rights in conjunction with other bodies formed through international conventions. These organizations included agencies like the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture (Donnelly, 2013).

Currently, these bodies are tasked with the primary responsibility of providing oversight to human right issues in UN member States (Kent, 2013). Donnelly (2013) states that the bodies occasionally assemble and review State reports containing legislative, administrative as well as judicial efforts taken by nations who are members of the UN to ensure that acceptable standards of Human Rights are upheld. Smith (2018) states that after scrutiny of the reports, they provide resolutions which must be adopted by the countries hence resulting in the modification of national legislation and practices concerning Human Rights.

Consequentially, since the UN has legislative powers which allow it to issue resolution for countries to adopt within their legal framework, there have been successes realized in the endeavor (Asamoah, 2012). For instance, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified in the year 1984, the implementation of civil liberties at State levels has significantly improved. Human rights treaties, as well as committees, have witnessed the incremental growth of responsiveness to their role such as the legitimization of channels of communication (Sliwinski, 2011). Hughes (2011) states that currently, victims of these human rights abuses can reach out to these organs when seeking redress and reparation after making complaints.

Similarly, women rights are now recognized as vital civil liberty, and acts of vehemence on women folk are continuously receiving backlash and disapproval from different quotas (Wolbrecht, 2010). According to Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill (2010), since the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights which spearheaded the recognition of women rights as human rights, other conventions have also been ratified in a bid to strengthen efforts aimed at creating equality between men and women. These conventions include the convention for the elimination of discrimination against women of 1981 and an optional protocol that came into effect in 1999 (Freeman, Rudolf, and Chinkin, 2012). Later on in 2011, a Working Group on discrimination based on gender was formed whose function was to push for legislative enactment which would allow women to be treated equally to men.

According to Schabas (2011), there is a global consensus that human rights violations around the globe must not go unpunished. Contemporarily, victims are provided with the right to claim justice through a process that is instrumental in restoring the rule of law during and after armed conflict. Allen (2013) further explains that the International Criminal Court was formed for the function and has been successful in convicting persons such as Jean-Pierre Bemba, Germain Katanga, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi who were involved in human rights abuses.

Another form of progress that has been made is that the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender and bisexual persons have been recognized as an international agenda (Thoreson, 2014). Until recently, persons from the LGBT community around the world were subject to violence due to their sexual preferences (Ayoub & Paternotte, 2014). Also, they were also discriminated when accessing basic services and opportunities such as education, health, and employment. Fortunately, in republics like America laws protecting the LGBT community have been enacted. These laws ban the discrimination of the group, penalize hate crimes that a deemed homophobic and had provided lawful recognition of same-sex marriages. Apart from the United States, the United Nations has also engaged in activities meant to decriminalize homosexuality (Ayoub & Paternotte, 2014). For instance, in 2010, the organization's secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon launched an appeal for the legitimization of same-sex marriages. Similarly, in 2011 the United Nations enacted resolutions that covered sexual orientation and identity (Reynolds, 2013).


One of the greatest noteworthy obstacles to the implementation of civil liberties is that the United Nations' powers are limited to legislative operations hence it does not have authority to enforce any resolutions it provides to member states (Steiner, Alston & Goodman, 2008). Simmons (2009) holds the view that the limitation creates an occurrence where there is a loophole for abuse by countries who may violate some of these rights with the belief that there is no enforcement body that will subject them to repercussions.

An example of a case where a country abused human rights occurred to a Hungarian woman. According to De Vos (2013), the woman required a prompt caesarian section due to a miscarriage in the year 2001. However, instead of administering the caesarian section, the doctors in the public hospital she went to sterilized her womb minus her approval. When the woman pursued recourse through the Hungarian legal system, she was denied justice regardless of the circumstance that the country is an adherent of the United States. Cases such as these demonstrate how international humanitarian organs lack grassroots enforcement mechanisms.

Secondly, as a result of the United Nations not having enforcing power, the implementation of international humanitarian laws faces the challenge of protection (Clark, 2010). According to Beitz (2011), the United Nations does not have any mechanisms which may proactively or reactively prevent human rights violations from happening. In essence, the United Nations cannot send its law enforcers such as troops to areas experiencing human rights violations. An-Na'im (2010) states that conventionally, the institution is often required to call an assembly meeting where member states vote on whether it can intervene in any situation. Unfortunately, the process is often time-consuming and is subject to bureaucratic tendencies. Hafner-Burton, Tsutsui, and Meyer (2008), state that it is also susceptible to cases such as the lack of prioritization in human rights issues among States which may prompt them to vote no in assemblies whose agenda is whether the UN should intervene in such abuses.

Thirdly, some States are not democratic, neither do they observe the rule of law hence undermining efforts towards human rights implementation (Carothers & Brechenmacher, 2014). According to Merry (2009), the occurrence is in direct violation of proclaims by the Universal Declaration of Constitutional rights that states that the desired of citizens should be used as a means to give authority to governments. An example of a country that is non-democratic and that has periodically faced human rights abuses in Iraq. Since the beginning of the 21st century, citizens in the country have been unable to meaningfully and equitably participate in the process of formation of governments. Hence, they have been condemned to discrimination, civil unrest and unequal chances of development.

Fourthly, another challenge that impedes the execution of civil liberties is the absence of the rule of law among some States. Countries that embrace the rule of law provide citizens with recourse to the courts which can arbitrate issues concerning their social, economic, political, and civil rights. Hence, countries that do not have the rule of law deny their citizens the mentioned rights thus human rights abuses a rife. An example of a nation without the rule of law in Somalia which is currently in a state of conflict. Consequently, citizens in the country experience situations that amount to human rights violations such a murder, displacement from their place of origin and rape (Abdul-Raheem, 2005). According to Kliesner (2014), human rights abuses have been going on in Somalia for the last 23 years. The occurrence has been as a consequence of perennial disputes going on in the country during these years. Other than resulting in murder and the displacement of persons, lack of constitutionalism has led to the deterioration of the human liberties situation in the country such that the countrys citizens lack access to medication, food, water and sanitary conditions.

Fifth is the challenge of persons who terrorism. According to Dreher, Gassebner and Siemers (2010), there has been a great resurgence of terrorism in the 21st century with widespread attacks targeting both developing and developed countries. Emmerson (2013) states that terrorism is an attack on human rights and poses a significant problem to the implementation of human rights since acts of terrorism are intended to cause the harm. Terrorism results in loss of lives, injury, destruction of property and the displacement of persons Walsh and Piazza (2010). Undeniably, acts of terrorism deny its victims the right to life, pursuit of happiness, and the freedom to freely exercise a religion of choice. Given that terrorism is a persistent threat, it remains a problem in the implementation of human rights.


Successes and challenges in the global implementation of human rights have been experienced in almost equal measures. Globally, international bodies are tasked with policy formulation on the subject. Individual states are then tasked with implementation of the policies. Often, these policies are agreed upon through conventions and treaties. The United Nation needs more enforcement powers so that the implementation of human rights can be expedited.



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Allen, T. (2013). Trial justice: The international criminal court and the Lord's Resistance Army. Zed Books Ltd.

An-Na'im, A. A. (Ed.). (2010). Human rights in cross-cultural perspectives: A quest for consensus. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Asamoah, O. Y. (2012). The legal significance of the declarations of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Springer.

Ayoub, P., & Paternotte, D. (2014). LGBT activism and the making of Europe: a rainbow Europe?. Springer.

Beitz, C. R. (2011). The idea of human rights. Oxford University Press.

Brownlie, I., & Goodwin-Gill, G. S. (Eds.). (2010). Brownlie's documents on human rights. Oxford University Press.

Carothers, T....

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