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Although a declaration is not a legally binding document, the Universal Declaration has achieved the status of customary international law because people regard it "as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations."With the goal of establishing mechanisms for enforcing the UDHR, the UN Commission on Human Rights proceeded to draft two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its optional Protocol and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).Together with the Universal Declaration, they are commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights.
The ICESCR focuses on such issues as food, education, health, and shelter.In addition to the covenants in the International Bill of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted more than 20 principal treaties further elaborating human rights.These include conventions to prevent and prohibit specific abuses like torture and genocide and to protect especially vulnerable populations, such as refugees (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951), women (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979), and children (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989).The United States, however, has ratified only the ICCPR, and even that with many reservations, or formal exceptions, to its full compliance.(See From Concept to Convention: How Human Rights Law Evolves).Throughout much of history, people acquired rights and responsibilities through their membership in a group a family, indigenous nation, religion, class, community, or state.Most societies have had traditions similar to the "golden rule" of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran (Koran), and the Analects of Confucius are five of the oldest written sources which address questions of peoples duties, rights, and responsibilities.Efforts in the 19th century to prohibit the slave trade and to limit the horrors of war are prime examples.In 1919, countries established the International Labor Organization (ILO) to oversee treaties protecting workers with respect to their rights, including their health and safety.Both covenants trumpet the extension of rights to all persons and prohibit discrimination.As of 1997, over 130 nations have ratified these covenants.