International human rights law (IHRL)

International human rights law (IHRL) governs the obligations of states towards citizens and other individuals within their jurisdiction. Human rights law enshrines the highest of human ideals, that the fundamental dignity of every human being gives rise to certain rights and protections. Human rights thus cannot be taken away by states (although specific derogations are permitted), and apply at all times and in all places. Set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a host of other important conventions, IHRL plays a crucial role in the protection of all people. Though not designed as such, human rights law helps define the rights of specific vulnerable groups like IDPs or children because it defines the rights of all people, in the process putting flesh on what we mean by the fundamental dignity contained in the humanitarian principle of humanity.

Demonstrators with police standing in front of them

Photo: Thomas Hawk

Key references

Overview of how IHRL apply in situations of armed conflict and the roles of the various UN bodies

Overview of different approaches to human rights by humanitarian actors and the associated tensions and issues

PHAP certifications

Certification badge for International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA)

Knowledge about IHRL in humanitarian action is covered by the International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA) certification (competency domain 2).

Key actors

OHCHR has a protection mandate in humanitarian crises and participates in humanitarian coordination structures on the global and country level

Bodies used to investigate and react to situations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Can be mandated by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective

Campaigning to end abuses of human rights, including in humanitarian crises and situations of armed conflict

specialized in fact-finding, reporting and advocacy on human rights abuses in peace time, emergencies, and situations of armed conflict

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