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United Nations: Secretary-General Urges Signing of Treaties of Global Significance

(Sept. 24, 2009) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging nations to sign, ratify, or accede to international treaties with universal implications. The topics of the 39 highlighted accords include climate change, terrorism, nuclear weapons, human rights, the protection of U.N. personnel, and other subjects of global importance. The push is part of the annual treaty event, which coincides with meetings of the General Assembly. (UN Urges Member States to Sign Up to Treaties with Global Reach, UN NEWS CENTRE, Sept. 16, 2009, available at

Ban sent a letter to the heads of state and government of Member States about the need to accede to the agreements, stating, “[o]ne of my priorities as UN Secretary-General is to promote global goods [sic] and remedies to challenges that do not respect borders.” He added that the nations could use the treaty event to “demonstrate their continuing commitment to the central role of the rule of law at the international and national levels.” (Id.)

One document that is being stressed in the event is an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that will allow complaints to be received by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights from victims of violations of the Covenant. (Text of the ICESCR, in effect since Jan. 3, 1976, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website [UNHCHR], (last visited Sept. 17, 2009); Optional Protocol, unanimously approved by the General Assembly, Dec. 10, 2008,GA Resolution No. A/RES/63/117, UNHCHR, (last visited Sept. 17, 2009).) This new protocol will be opened for signature on Sept. 24, 2009. (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.)

According to U.N. Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien, 25 nations have already said they will participate in the annual treaty initiative, which began in 2000. “Encouraging the development of international law as a way to regulate international relations has been a major objective of the UN since its very beginning,” O'Brien stated. (Id.)