Covenants on Human Rights
Covenants on Human Rights
international documents approved Dec. 16, 1966, by the General Assembly of the UN, comprising the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The covenants on human rights are the most important international legal acts in the area of defense of human rights. In contrast to their predecessor, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they place the legal responsibility for observing the proclaimed rights on the ratifying governments.
The covenants contain provisions intended to secure peace, prohibit war propaganda, and abolish all forms of colonialism. They support the most important socioeconomic and political human rights. The first articles of each covenant proclaim the right of peoples to self-determination. They declare: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” According to the covenant on civil and political rights, states are obligated to provide an effective legal remedy to any person whose rights or freedoms recognized by the pact have been violated.
A significant portion of the covenants is devoted to the freedom of labor. Slavery and the slave trade are prohibited in all their forms. No one shall be held in servitude. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor. In accordance with the covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights, governments recognize the right to work, which includes the right of every person to the opportunity to earn his living by work which he freely chooses. Steps to be taken to achieve the full realization of this right include programs of vocational and technical training; ways and means of attaining continuous economic, social, and cultural development; and full productive employment under conditions safeguarding the individual’s fundamental political and economic freedoms. The covenants recognize the right of everyone to just and favorable working conditions, including fair wages and equal pay for equal work; a decent living for workers and their families; and safe and healthy working conditions. The governments recognize the right of everyone to social security. According to both covenants, everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. The covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights stipulates that governments guarantee the right of trade unions to function unhindered. It prohibits discrimination in any form and emphasizes the equality of rights of men and women.
The USSR and other socialist countries played an extremely important role in formulating provisions intended to defend human democratic rights and freedoms. These provisions reflect the economic and social rights that are most essential for the broad masses of working people.
S. A. IVANOV