The human rights programme of the United Nations increasingly focuses its activities on the implementation of the international human rights standards. The country rapporteurs, thematic special rapporteurs, working groups and the treaty bodies attach great importance to developing methods and means to improve the implementation of human rights. The General Assembly identified steps to be taken in this respect and reiterated its support for the related efforts and recommendations of the treaty bodies (resolution 49/178). It also urged states parties to make every effort to meet their reporting obligations and to address, as a matter of priority, at their next scheduled meetings, the issue of states parties consistently not complying with their treaty obligations.
In its resolution 49/145, the General Assembly welcomed the innovatory procedures adopted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for reviewing the implementation of the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in States whose reports are overdue. The General Assembly also, in resolution 49/178, recognized the important role of non-governmental organizations in the effective implementation of all human rights.
In keeping with his mandate, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights aims to ensure a better implementation of human rights worldwide. During his missions to countries and on other occasions, he has stressed that although the adoption of legislation consistent with international standards is of paramount importance, it is still necessary to apply it in practice. Furthermore, the efficient functioning of the international human rights machinery, which assists the implementation of the international human rights standards, depends on the cooperation of the member states. The High Commissioner, guided by the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, will assist the special procedures and the treaty bodies in their efforts towards better implementation of human rights.
The implementation of human rights requires unimpeded cooperation of individuals and groups with the UN and representatives of its human rights bodies. The Commission reiterated in resolution 1994/70 its concern at the continued reports of intimidation and reprisals against private individuals and groups who seek such cooperation. The General Assembly referred, in its resolutions 49/197 and 49/198, to acts of deprivation of freedom of people who contacted or were seeking to communicate with the respective special rapporteurs in Myanmar and in the Sudan. The High Commissioner will pay close attention to this issue in all his contacts with governments, as well as with NGOs and other parts of civil society. No one should be deprived of his or her freedom because of cooperation with the UN and representatives of its bodies.
Human rights concerns are commonly seen as a political interference in the policy-making process, inducing a conflict between equity and efficiency, or between financial emergency and social fundamentals. However, some basic human rights are unconditional – even if they look "anti-economic", which is unlikely in truly (general welfare) economic terms. Also, frequently overlooked, is that human and social welfare can foster development. A sustainable economic virtuous circle can expand from the enablement of people to take responsibility and initiative.
Positive developments, however, are accompanied by the concern expressed by the General Assembly and the Commission with regard to (a) obstacles to the enjoyment of all human rights by all, (b) serious human rights violations and (c) difficult human rights situations in a relatively large number of countries. Resolutions of these bodies have drawn the attention of governments, the UN system and the general public and have called for action with regard to extreme poverty and problems related to sustainable development, international debt, impunity, racial discrimination and discrimination against women, ethnic and religious intolerance, mass exoduses and refugee flows, armed conflicts and terrorism, and lack of the rule of law as major obstacles to human rights. The outcome of the intensive work concerning the right to development, as well as the strengthening of the interlinkage between democracy, development and human rights should provide a helpful strategy to meet the needs in this respect. The General Assembly and the Commission and its mechanisms have for many years alerted the international community to widespread crimes of torture and enforced disappearance; arbitrary detention; violence against women, children and vulnerable groups; the problem of internally displaced persons; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions etc. The Commission has also elaborated measures to combat these violations at the national and international levels which should be applied with the greatest determination. Under the agenda item related to the question of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories, the Commission expressed its concern about the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cuba, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Myanmar, the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, the territory of the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), southern Lebanon, Sudan and Zaire. The Commission considered violations of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, and under agenda items 5 and 6, the situation in South Africa. In addition, various thematic procedures in their reports to the Commission pointed out serious human rights problems in a number of countries and made recommendations in this regard. Under the procedure established in Economic and Social Council resolution 1503 (XLVIII), the Commission had before it for consideration the human rights situations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chad, Estonia, Germany, Kuwait, Rwanda, Somalia and Viet Nam. The Commission decided to discontinue consideration of the human rights situation in Estonia, Germany, Kuwait, Somalia and Viet Nam. The High Commissioner in his dialogue with governments raises issues related to specific situations with a view to securing respect for all human rights.
A particularly difficult situation arises when governments refuse or limit their cooperation with the Commission or its mechanisms. This is a major obstacle to providing assistance to governments and to those members of society who need it. The General Assembly at its forty-ninth session, in resolution 49/186, urged again all states to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Unfortunately, resolutions of the Commission give instances of non-compliance with this recommendation. For example, in its resolution 1994/39, the Commission noted with concern that, as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had stressed in its report, some governments had never provided substantive replies concerning enforced disappearances alleged to have occurred in their countries, and deplored the fact that some governments had not acted on the recommendations of the Working Group concerning them. In the same resolution, the Commission urged the governments concerned, particularly those which had not yet acted with regard to communications transmitted to them, to intensify their cooperation with the Working Group. (See also General Assembly resolution A/49/193 on the question of enforced disappearances.) The very fact that the appeal to governments to cooperate with the special procedures has been repeated by the General Assembly and the Commission in a number of their resolutions proves that cooperation is insufficient. Also, in resolutions adopted at its fiftieth session, the Commission frequently stressed its concern about the lack of or inadequate cooperation with the-UN machinery, in particular with the Commission's mechanisms. The Commission, in resolution 1994/72, deplored and condemned the continual refusal of the Bosnian Serbs authorities to permit the Special Rapporteur to conduct investigations in territory under their control. In resolution 1994/71, the Commission noted with deep regret the continued failure of the government of Cuba to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and its refusal to permit him to visit Cuba in order to fulfil his mandate. The Commission, in its resolution 1994/73, while noting that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran had responded to the Special Representative's request for information, also noted that it had not allowed him to pay a fourth visit to the country so that he might obtain direct and first-hand information on the current human rights situation. In its resolution 1994/74, the Commission expressed its regret that the government of Iraq had not seen fit to respond to the formal request of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq to visit Iraq and that, despite the formal cooperation extended to the Special Rapporteur by the government of Iraq, such cooperation needed to be improved. The Commission, in its resolution 1994/79, noted with displeasure the interference by the government of the Sudan with the visit to the Sudan of the Special Rapporteur during September 1993. In its resolution 1994/81, the Commission expressed its concern that the government of Papua New Guinea had not provided information to the Commission on actions it had taken during the previous year. The Commission was also gravely concerned that in southern Lebanon, occupied by Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations had been impeded from accomplishing their humanitarian mission (resolution 1994/83) and deplored the fact that the Myanmar authorities had denied the Special Rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar access to the Nobel Prize laureate – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (resolution 1994/85), who despite the resolution of the Commission is still under house arrest. General Assembly resolutions also refer to the majority of the aforementioned cases. In its resolution 49/196, the General Assembly condemned the continuing refusal of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and the Bosnian Serbs authorities to permit the Special Rapporteur to conduct investigations in territories un der their control, and in resolution 49/204 considered that the re-establishment of the international presence in Kosovo to monitor and investigate the situation of human rights was of great importance in preventing the situation in Kosovo from deteriorating into a violent conflict. In keeping with his mandate, the High Commissioner assists the Commission, its mechanisms and other relevant parts of the UN human rights machinery, as well as governments, in establishing and developing mutual working contacts with a view to implementing relevant Commission resolutions. Also, while undertaking missions to various countries, the High Commissioner is paving the way for cooperation between governments and UN organs and bodies. His visits, however, do not replace missions and other activities of other competent mechanisms.