The the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee (Third Committee) of the General Assembly in New York and the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva are the main UN bodies dealing with human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Third Committee examines every year about 70 proposals of resolution on human rights which, after being negotiated and approved, are finally adopted by the General Assembly. Italy actively participates in the negotiations in the Third Committee and has a recognized leading role in numerous campaigns (including that for the universal moratorium on capital punishment and the campaign against female genital mutilation).
The UNHRC is a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly with the task of promoting universal respect and protection of human rights, of intervening in case of their violation and of encouraging the coordination of the structures, which operate within the UN system, on issues relating to human rights.
Italy was a UNHRC member for two three-year terms: from 2007 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2014, when it held the vice-presidency of the Council in representation of the Western Group (WEOG), and it is a candidate for the term 2019-2021. Italy actively participates in the UNHRC activities, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism aimed at monitoring the human rights situation in all UN Member States, which are reviewed every 4 years.
Italy is part of all the major international Conventions on human rights adopted within the UN: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1976); the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (1978) and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1978) and their optional protocols; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1985) and its Optional Protocol; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1989) and its Optional Protocol; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991) and its three Optional Protocols; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2015); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2009) and its Optional Protocol.
Furthermore, within the United Nations system, Italy:
• supports the independent role and the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, financially contributing to the programs of his Office;
• collaborates with independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations on thematic issues and country-situations related to human rights in the world;
• actively participates in the activities of the Treaty-based bodies, responsible for the implementation of international conventions on human rights of which Italy is part, providing information and submitting periodic reports.
The promotion and protection of human rights are also an integral part of the "Agenda 2030" for sustainable development, adopted in September 2015, as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, signed by all UN countries. The Agenda 2030 recognizes that development is not an objective itself. Peace and security, the protection of human rights, the rule of law are all essential pillars of sustainable development of humanity. The lack of development and perspectives of development of individuals and communities weakens the efforts to build peaceful, inclusive and stable societies.
The European Union "is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities" (article 2 of the Treaty on European Union - TEU).
At the domestic level, the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission, on December 7, 2000, adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union that, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, has had the same legal value as the Treaties.
The protection and promotion of human rights operate both at the Union's internal level (that is, the defense of human rights within Member States), and at the Union’s external level, namely the EU's relations with third countries and in the international organizations.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), established in 2007 with its headquarters in Vienna, plays an important role for the protection of human rights within the EU. The Agency aims at providing the European Institutions and national authorities assistance and advice, relating to fundamental rights, when implementing EU law, as well as to help them adopt the appropriate measures or define the appropriate initiatives.
At the international level, in July 2015 the EU Council adopted the Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, outlining concrete objectives and commitments for the action of the European institutions and the Member States in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. In recent years, the European Union has also adopted guidelines regarding the major issues on human rights, including death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief.
Furthermore, the EU publishes an annual report on EU policies and initiatives in the field of human rights at the international level. In addition to this, the European Parliament presents an Annual Report on its activities to promote human rights.
Council of Europe
Italy is a founding member of the Council of Europe and it is one of the largest contributors to the budget of the Organization. The Council of Europe aims at promoting democracy, human rights, the European cultural identity and the search for solutions to social problems in Europe.
Under the aegis of the Council of Europe, on 4 November 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was signed in Rome. It established an innovative international system for the protection of human rights, by giving individuals the possibility to rely on the European Court of Human rights, based in Strasbourg, for the enforcement of their rights. The supranational monitoring system, established by the ECHR, and the role played by the Court represent an unprecedented model worldwide.
Particularly relevant institutions acting within the Council of Europe are the European Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission. The Commissioner is an independent and impartial institution with the mandate to promote the respect for human rights in the 47 Council of Europe member States, through a permanent dialogue with their authorities in order to promote the development of national structures for the protection of human rights.
The Venice Commission provides legal advice to the member countries of the Council of Europe, in particular by assisting them in adapting their legal and institutional structures to European and international standards on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Commission was established in 1990 and is made up of "independent experts of international renowned worldwide for their experience in democratic institutions or their contribution to the advancement of law and political science". Since December 2009, the President of the Commission has been the Italian Gianni Buquicchio.
The human dimension - which is the set of issues related to human rights, democratization and the rule of law - has always had an important role in the activities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The main tool for the promotion within that organization is the ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), based in Warsaw. The ODIHR develops the action of assistance in the field of the protection of human rights, election monitoring and legal and constitutional advice in transition countries. Furthermore, it organizes every year in Warsaw the Human Dimension Implementation meeting (HDIM), which represents the most significant chance to meet within the OSCE in the field of human rights and democracy, with the participation of the delegations of the 57 Organization members and hundreds of NGOs, representatives of civil society.
The High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, responsible for coordinating the defense of freedom and independence of journalists and media workers within the OSCE area, also play an important role.