Since the end of the Second World War, Canada has been a consistently strong voice in the world's councils for the protection of human rights and the defence of democratic values. From the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights over 50 years ago through actions taken in a vast range of forums and circumstances, Canada has always been there.
Canada is an active participant in the annual meetings of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and it regularly co-sponsors a number of resolutions. Sometimes these are on specific countries where the human rights situation is particularly serious. They may also be on issues Canada feels strongly about, such as violence against women, freedom of expression or impunity.
Other Canadian initiatives have included efforts to ensure consideration of human rights issues in all UN activities, leadership in establishing the position of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and support for the increasing number of human rights field operations of the Office of the High Commissioner, including units attached to UN peacekeeping operations.
Canada also played a significant role in establishing the International Criminal Court. It actively took part in the preparatory discussions and chaired the June 1998 international negotiating conference. Canada's contribution helped bring about an international court in which to try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes.
Canada plays a major role as well in the preparation, debates and follow-up of various UN world conferences concerned with human rights - for example, the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and the 2001 Conference on Racism.
As a signatory of all the principal UN treaties on international human rights, Canada regularly submits its human rights record to review by UN monitoring bodies.
By working through the Canadian International Development Agency, via bilateral assistance as well as participation in the UN funds, programmes and special institutions, Canada continues to help societies build human rights capacity through strengthening the electoral process, the judicial system, legislatures and independent media.