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Hand in hand with peacekeeping, the UN has sought a lasting settlement in the Middle East. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) set forth the principles for a just and lasting peace, and remain the basis for an overall settlement. Following the 1993 landmark agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, a UN Coordinator has been overseeing all development assistance provided by the UN to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides essential health, education, relief and social services to over 3 million registered Palestinian refugees.

Military peacekeepers are the most visible, but not the only, UN peace presence in the field. UN envoys and other civilian personnel are engaged in diplomacy, human rights monitoring and other peace efforts in scores of regions threatened or afflicted by fighting often in the most difficult situations.

4.2 UN and Human Rights

The Charter goals of justice and equal rights, for individuals and for peoples, have been pursued by the UN from its early days.

As one of its first tasks, the UN formulated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a historic proclamation of the basic rights and freedoms to which all men and women are entitled - the right to life, liberty and nationality, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to work, to be educated, to take part in government, and many other rights. The General Assembly adopted the Declaration on 10 December 1948, a date commemorated every year as Human Rights Day.

Two International Covenants adopted in 1966 - one on economic, social and cultural rights and the other on civil and political rights - have expanded and made legally binding the rights set forth in the Declaration. These three documents constitute the International Bill of Human Rights, a standard and a goal for all countries and peoples.

The UN has also put in place mechanisms to further human rights. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights coordinates all the human rights activities of the UN, seeks to prevent violations, investigates abuses and works with Governments in resolving violations.

The UN Commission on Human Rights is the only intergovernmental body that conducts public meetings on human rights abuses brought to its attention and reviews the human rights performance of all Member States. Special reporters of the Commission monitor the human rights problems in specific countries.

UN missions are monitoring the human rights situation in Haiti, Guatemala and Eastern Slovenia (Croatia).

The Security Council has established international tribunals to try persons accused of war crimes during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. The tribunals have indicted several individuals and brought a number of defendants to trial.

Self-determination and independence.

A fundamental right - self-determination, or the right of peoples to govern themselves - was a goal when the Charter was signed. Today, it has become a reality in most of the lands formerly under colonial rule.

In 1960, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, in which it proclaimed the need to bring colonialism to a speedy end. Since then, some 60 former colonial Territories, inhabited by more than 80 million people, have attained independence and joined the UN as sovereign Members.

Today, 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remain, inhabited by some 2 million people. The Assembly has set the goal of ending colonialism by the year 2000, declaring the 1990s the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Namibia\'s independence

The UN helped bring about the independence of Namibia, achieved in 1990. The General Assembly in 1966 revoked South Africa\'s Mandate to administer the territory - a decision South Africa rejected. Complex negotiations led in 1989 to the implementation of the 1978 UN plan for the independence of Namibia. The UN Transition Assistance Group was deployed throughout Namibia to monitor the withdrawal of South African troops, the registration of voters, and the 1989 elections, which led to the installation of the first independent Government and to Namibia\'s independence.

Election assistance

To further democratization, the UN has also observed elections, at Government request, in sovereign member states: in Nicaragua and Haiti (1990), Angola (1992), El Salvador, South Africa and Mozambique (1994), as well as the referendum on the independence of Eritrea (1993). In other instances - such as Malawi, Lesotho and Armenia - the UN has coordinated international observers provided by member states.

Observers typically follow the preparation and holding of the election; on election day, they are deployed to polling stations throughout the country, observe voting and vote counting, and issue a final statement on the conduct of the election.

Since 1992, the UN has provided technical assistance in the preparation and holding of elections to over 70 countries. Such assistance, which may involve coordination and support, advisory services and short-term observation, is instrumental in building the capacity of countries to run their elections in the future.

Apartheid.

Apartheid applies to all aspects of life. Socially, blacks had to live apart from the other races. Politically, they could not vote. Economically, they could work only in the lowest paying occupations.

The UN helped to bring an end in 1994 to South Africa\'s apartheid (racial segregation) system. For more than three decades, the UN carried out a sustained campaign against apartheid. The campaign, which ranged from an arms embargo to a convention against segregated sports events, helped to bring about a democratically elected Government in 1994, through elections in which, for the first time, all South Africans could vote. The UN Observer Mission in South Africa assisted in the transition and observed the election. With the installation of a non-racial and democratic government, the apartheid system came to an end.

International law.

The UN has made major contributions towards expanding the rule of law among nations through its development and codification of international law. The International Court of Justice has assisted countries in solving important legal disputes and has issued advisory opinions on UN activities.

The UN has initiated hundreds of conventions and treaties covering virtually all areas of international law - from international trade to environmental protection. Action has been particularly strong in human rights law.

For instance, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the main international legal instrument to further women\'s equality. The Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs is the key international treaty against drug trafficking. The Convention on the Law of the Sea seeks to ensure equitable access by all countries to the riches of the oceans, protect them from pollution and facilitate freedom of navigation and research.