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Human Rights

Human Rights and the UN System

An overwhelming majority believes that the UN should intervene if a country seriously violates human rights and that protecting human rights should be a high priority for the UN system.

There is very strong support for UN intervention when human rights abuses are taking place, even when asked to consider the countervailing value of national sovereignty. In the General Social Survey 2004 (National Opinion Research Center) respondents were asked to choose between the following statements:

- If a country seriously violates human rights, the United Nations should intervene.
- Even if human rights are seriously violated, the country's sovereignty must be respected, and the United Nations should not intervene.

Seventy five percent chose the former position in favor of UN intervention, while 18 percent said the United Nations should not intervene. [1]

Asked how high a priority "protection of human rights" should be for "the UN system," an overwhelming majority of 78% said that it should be a "high priority." Just 17% said it should be "somewhat of a priority" and only 4% said it should not be a priority (Wirthlin Group, April 1996). [2]

A strong majority supports spending the amount of money the UN currently spends on human rights. Wirthlin Group asked whether "the United States and other UN member countries should provide the United Nations with more money than it has to ... monitor violations of human rights throughout the world ... or less money, or are they providing the UN with the right amount of money now for the purpose?" Only 20% favored spending less money, while 30% favored spending more money and 36% favored the present level (December 1995). [3]

This positive feeling about the current level of spending is particularly interesting in light of the fact that Americans tend to assume that the UN budget is far greater than it really is (see Strengthening the UN).



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Recent Data Updates
Human Rights - August 2008 (PDF)