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Promotion and prodection of Human Rights

In this preliminary report, the Special Rapporteur describes the progress made in his research on this subject. He does not, for obvious reasons, offer any conclusions here on the substance of this important question, as these will be presented in the final report on his study to be submitted for the Commission’s consideration at its fifty-ninth session, due to be held in 2003.

This document begins with a brief introduction in which the author describes the proceedings in the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, as well as in the Commission itself and in the Economic and Social Council, which led to his appointment as Special Rapporteur entrusted with the task of preparing the study requested (Council decision 2001/285 of 24 July 2001).

The Special Rapporteur then defines some of the essential methodological parameters for his research. These first of all concern the basic scope of this first report to the Commission, and the use which will be made in his work of the terms “duties”, “responsibilities”, “obligations” and “community”. Secondly, he explains the rationale for focusing his research on attempting to specify what are the duties (or responsibilities), as referred to in article 29, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the final common preambular paragraph of the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights, that each individual has towards the community in which he or she lives. This important question still remains to be clarified after more than half a century.

In the last part of this report the Special Rapporteur describes the progress made in his research on the subject, essentially following the proposals put forward in the note which he submitted for consideration by the Commission at its fifty-seventh session in 2001.

With regard to the preparatory work that led in 1948 and 1966 to the adoption of the above-mentioned provisions included in the texts of the Universal Declaration and the International Covenants, the Special Rapporteur analyzes in detail the relevant parts of the valuable work carried out on this same question 20 years ago by his colleague in the Sub-Commission, Mrs. Erica-Irene Daes, entitled “The individual’s duties to the community and the limitations on human rights and freedoms under article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” .

Turning to the work of the specialized agencies of the United Nations system in this area, the Special Rapporteur reviews the contents of the Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations, adopted in 1997 by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and looking moreover at the work of “regional” intergovernmental organizations, he examines the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (adopted in 1948 by the Ninth International Conference of American States),the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (adopted in 1981 by the Organization of African Unity) and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (adopted in 1990 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference).

With regard to the opinions expressed by States on the subject, the Special Rapporteur firstly analyses the several dozen replies made during the 1970s to the questionnaire prepared in that connection by Mrs. Daes, and furthermore indicates that there is a need to update this information. To that end, in an appendix to this report he includes questionnaires intended not only for Member States but also for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Concerning the work of NGOs in this field, the Special Rapporteur focuses in particular on the contents of the draft universal declaration of human responsibilities prepared in 1997 by the InterAction Council, an organization at that time under the presidency of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. He realizes, however, that the great majority of NGOs (especially those based in the developed North) are at present reluctant to define their duties or responsibilities towards the respective communities in which they are active.

Lastly, with regard to the views expressed in the scholarly literature on the subject, the Special Rapporteur takes account, in various sections of the report, of the opinions of specialists from the most diverse geographical backgrounds and of recognized international authority, including the views of those (such as Professor Theo van Boven) who did not consider it necessary or appropriate, for one reason or another, to attempt to define what these said duties (or responsibilities) might be. The Special Rapporteur will seek to reflect, in his final report, many other views taken from this important source, in particular when formulating his conclusions and recommendations in the coming year.

Human rights and human responsibilities
Report of Mr. Miguel Alfonso Martínez, Special Rapporteur appointed by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to undertake the study requested by the Commission in its resolution 2000/63*

UNITED NATIONS Economic and Social Council

* The executive summary of this report will be distributed in all the official languages. The report is contained in the annex to this summary and will be distributed in the original language, and in English and French.

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