Key terms

  • Article — a clause, or section, or part of a treaty.
  • Bill of rights — a formal declaration of rights and freedoms.
  • Charter — a document that forms an organization and de- fines its guiding practices and principles.
  • Covenant, Convention, Treaty — words used to refer to formal agreements between states (countries) that are legally binding. “Treaty” will generally be used in this toolkit to refer to such documents.
  • Gender — socially constructed differences between men and women.
  • Human rights defender — a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, take action to promote or protect human rights.
  • Impunity – exemption from punishment. In international hu- man rights law, impunity means the failure to punish perpetra- tors of human rights abuses and violation. Impunity is a denial of the victim’s right to justice.
  • International human rights law — the international body of law that is designed to protect and promote human rights.
  • International law — laws that govern and regulate relation- ships between states.
  • Multilateral — between three or more parties. A multilateral treaty is therefore an agreement between three or more states.

Norm — something that is usual, typical, or standard.

Nullify — to nullify a signature is to revoke it, or to “unsign.”

Optional protocol — an addition to a treaty, covenant or con- vention which a state has the option of signing.

Ratify, accept, approve or accede — these all mean more or less the same thing. A state that ratifies, accepts, approves or accedes to a treaty, covenant or convention agrees to it and becomes a States Party.

Rights-based approach — a way of working that ensures that the given approach is based on human rights and promotes human rights.

Sovereignty — a sovereign state is an independent state with an effective government within a defined territory or geo- graphic area.

States party — once a state signs a treaty, that state agrees to, or is party to, the treaty and is called a States Party.

Statute — a law.
Treaty — another word, more commonly used, for conven-

tion or covenant, meaning a formal agreement between states.

Treaty-based — an institution or mechanism established on the basis of an agreement signed by two or more states.

UN System — all the international organizations, treaties and conventions that were created by the UN, and which the UN manages and enforces.

Universal — belonging to, or affecting, all people.