General Assembly / Third Committee
The General Assembly of the United Nations has often dealt with human rights in its reseolutions and declarations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, is a resolutions enacted by the General Assembly. However, such resolutions or declarations are of recommendatory nature only. Their legal meaning lies in their ability to reflect customary law, become customary law, and to constitute the foundation for future legally binding treaties. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the reference document for both Human Rights Covenants and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and it's key clauses meanwhile reflect customary international law.
Resolutions of the General Assembly
- ISHR Fact Sheet: the UN General Assembly (pdf, 8 p.)
Comments on the functioning of the General Assembly
The Third Committee
Most of these resolutions and conventions are negotiated by the Third Committee, the Committee for Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee (SOCHUM). It is one of six Committees subdivided by themes that the General Assembly has called into being to manage its numerous tasks.
- Main Committees
Overview of Main Committees to the General Assembly on the UN website
- ISHR Fact Sheet: Main Committees of the GA (pdf, 7 p.)
Commentary on the six Committees to the General Assembly
The Third Committee is in session simultaneously with the General Assembly. It accepts reports from Special Rapporteurs, Special Representatives, Working Groups and other Special Procedures as well as from the Human Rights Council. Contracting States can apply themselves as «sponsors» to certain topics that are debated by the Commission. The Third Committee may draft resolutions which will then be presented to the General Assembly for adoption.
SOCHUM has become one of the most important organs of the UN that deals with social aspects such as refugees, overpopulations, prostitution and social wellfare. Among others, the Third Committee is currently dealing with the following issues: protection of child's rights, elimination of racial discrimination, the right to self-determination and women's rights.
- Social, Humanitarian & Cultural - Third Committee
Official website of the Third Committee