Global supranational actors fail to protect human rights:

How come global supranational actors, such as the UN, EU and WHO, are not successful in protecting human rights effectively?


Written by Mille Christin Gaaserud


As mentioned by Marshall Hargrave, an equity analyst, “a supranational organization is a multinational union or association in which member countries cede authority and sovereignty on at least some internal matters to the group, whose decisions are binding on its members. In short, member states share in decision making on matters that will affect each

country’s citizens.”

In support of my assertion, this essay will argue that supranational actors exemplified by the UN, WHO, and EU are not able to protect human rights effectively measured by ability.

The UN, United Nations, is a supranational organization currently made up of 193 member states. The organization, founded in 1945 acts as a forum focusing on a great range of fundamental issues such as human rights, terrorism, and protection of the environment and refugees.

As a part of the UN, the World Health Organisation is concerned with global health issues and acts to keep the world a better place to live in by aiding the vulnerable and those in need. Although the benefits of having supranational actors are many, there is critical scrutiny on their effectiveness in global politics, and if fundamental human rights are held in jeopardy in the process of accomplishing commissions. In this context, effectiveness refers to “the ability to be successful and produce the intended results.”

Human rights, defined as “the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.” Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and movement, the right to work and education, etc.”


The UN´s history of failed alignment with partner countries illustrates its weak ability to protect human rights effectively.

As stated in an Assessment carried out by The Australian Government, The office of the High Commissioner for Human Right`s capability of ‘Placing value on alignment with partner countries’ priorities and systems were marked as ‘weak’. OHCHR is the leading entity dealing with human rights within the UN. The organizational behavior was marked weak because the OHCHR had failed to “build good partnerships with partner governments.” The failed alignments included Pacific Island countries, where Suva was brought out as an example. Suva is the capital of Fiji which is counted as the country in the specific ocean with the worst human rights record. The assessment outlined how OHCHR´s engagement through its regional office had been “poor as they prepared, attended and implemented their Universal Periodic Reviews.” The Universal periodic table is a process that gives each country the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken in order to enhance the human rights situation and what is needed to fulfill the inhabitant’s human rights obligations. The goal of the Council is to ensure equal treatment by addressing human rights violations in order to improve the human rights situation in a country.

Although one could argue that in order to evaluate the OHCHR´s effectiveness all the organizational behavior should be outlined and included, the Universal Periodic Reviews should have been a priority as the aim of the review is to improve and address human rights violations wherever they might occur. If these violations are not detected it may allow for human rights infringements to be breached without any form of punishment, especially in such vulnerable and troubled countries like Fiji where detecting and allocating aid is crucial for improvement. Hence, shown in this example, the UN´s global role as a development stakeholder and proficiency is not effective in protecting human rights.

The recent outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has made The World Health Organisation a vital supra-national actor in improving global health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has demanded TWHO to act efficiently in order to restrict the spreading of the deadly virus, on these matters the actor has been immensely effective but has flawed to protect human rights by doing so. Mitigation structures have been made by most countries, under the recommendation of WHO, in order to combat the virus. These efforts include social isolation, limited movement, closure of schools and workplaces.

Thus, while being protected by the virus, many people, especially vulnerable groups of society have been deprived of their human rights. Article 13; Freedom of movement. One can argue the fact that Health Facilities have increased effectively due to people following WHO advice, but this will also be counterclaimed by the increasing societal suffering from not having their human rights accessed. Thus,

the argument centered on the effectiveness of WHO is much weaker than what it would at first sight because it does come at a cost, and the cost is a restriction of fundamental human rights.

Supranational organizations such as the EU, often give member states greater collective influence in global affairs, which prolongs the development of other non-member states. Developing countries are excluded from taking part in crucial areas such as trade because they are protected and held exclusive for only member states. This can be exemplified by the EU. The EU is a union consisting of 27 states, so-called “member states”, working as a central arena for world trade, it is the largest trade block in the world. One could argue that the EU contributes through monetary aid distributed to developing countries with the intention of improvement. However, history has shown that the EU holds vague control over where the receiving government chooses to allocate the monetary aid. The primary reasons, why developing countries are poor, is often due to corruption perpetrated by the government. Thus, legitimizing exclusion of inner markets through sanctions is undermined by the history of corruption and has been shown to hamper development in poor countries. From this point of view, we can see that the EU is not able to protect human rights effectively because they cannot guarantee the intended results of human rights promotion through sanctions.

In conclusion,

despite the recent time period has been beneficial in terms of the WHO serving as a successful platform for improving and protecting global health, it must be concluded that the supranational organizations such as the UN, WHO, and EU have been ineffective and, at times, not able to protect and maintain human rights in the process of accomplishing commissions.




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