The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs represents the Germany’s Federal Government in the organs of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of its responsibility for Germany's international employment and social policies. UN bodies with responsibility for issues involving international social development are in particular the UN General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Council, the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women.
The UN General Assembly
The General Assembly (GA) is one of the most important multilateral forums of the international community and one of the main bodies of the United Nations. It brings together representatives of all 193 member states to discuss international affairs that fall within the scope of the UN Charter together with experts, civil society groups and other institutions. The topics under discussion include international security, global development and international cooperation in the areas of the economy, social policy, human rights, education, health and culture. The sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, COVID-19, the digital transformation and questions of climate change are also high on the agenda of the United Nations. The General Assembly meets every year from September to December for its regular annual session and beyond that as needed. Resolutions taken by the General Assembly are not legally binding for UN member states, but rather have the character of recommendations.
The Economic and Social Council
The United Nations' Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is comprised of 54 member states, which are elected for three-year terms by the General Assembly. It initiates and coordinates important processes in the economic, social, cultural and humanitarian fields. ECOSOC issues recommendations to the General Assembly as well as to specialised commissions such as the United Nations Commission for Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women.
United Nations Commission for Social Development
The task of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD) is the reduction of the world’s social inequalities. For this purpose, it develops social standards further, exchanges knowledge between the UN member states and monitors the implementation of existing obligations. Important reference documents are the Sustainable Development Agenda (the 17 sustainability goals adopted by the UN member states in 2015) and the goals and obligations contained in the Copenhagen Declaration of the 1995 UN World Summit for Social Development. The UN Commission for Social Development has 46 members and is a specialised committee of ECOSOC. It meets annually in New York at the beginning of February.
UN human rights instruments - standards for a global world
The UN General Assembly also adopts instruments and conventions that individual member states can ratify and transpose into national law. These include the different UN human rights instruments. The international human rights instruments of the United Nations provide for committees of experts as accountability mechanisms that are to monitor, and thus safeguard, the protection of human rights in the member states. In country reports, the states parties outline the measures they have taken to implement the provisions of the respective instrument and the progress they have made and obstacles they have encountered in this connection.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Within Germany’s Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is in charge of the implementation of the obligations arising from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The rights enshrined in this covenant include in particular rights in working life, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, the right to education and to participation in cultural life and the entitlement to exercise these rights without discrimination. The states parties are subject to a progressive implementation obligation regarding the realisation of these rights, i.e. it is their responsibility to do their utmost to take appropriate measures for the gradual implementation of the rights laid down in the Covenant.
They must report on their efforts in regular five-year intervals. In 2018, the UN Committee of Experts reviewed the Federal Government’s sixth country report. An interim report is due in October 2020.
- Sixth periodic report submitted by the Federal Republic of Germany under Articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 2016 [PDF, 446KB]
- Annexes to the sixth periodic report by the Federal Republic of Germany [PDF, 853KB]
- Concluding Observations on the sixth periodic country report by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2018 (in German) [PDF, 80KB]
- Interim report on the Concluding Observations on the sixth periodic country report [PDF, 254KB]
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is the German government's focal point for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which the UN General Assembly adopted on 13 December 2006 and for the Optional Protocol to the convention. This convention is based on the United Nations' core international human rights instruments and spells out in concrete terms the human rights enshrined in these instruments for the lives of persons with disabilities. It prohibits the discrimination of persons with disabilities in all areas of life and guarantees them civic, political, economic, social and cultural human rights. The Convention and the Optional Protocol have been binding for Germany since 26 March 2009.
In the coalition agreement concluded by the governing parties for the 18th legislative period, it was agreed to further develop the National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UNCRPD together with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. The further development of the NAP started at the 2014 Inclusion Days and was concluded when the Federal Cabinet adopted the Federal Government’s National Action Plan 2.0 (NAP 2.0) on 28 June 2016.
The 175 new measures contained in the NAP 2.0 complement the strong, comprehensive first action plan with more than 200 measures that the Federal Government adopted in June 2011 with an implementation period to run until 2021. During the first review of Germany’s implementation of the UNCRPD, the UN Committee of Experts put together a variety of recommendations but also expressly paid tribute to the adoption of the National Action Plan. Both the first action plan (NAP 1.0) and the new, enhanced NAP 2.0 aim to promote and strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities guaranteed in Germany by the ratification of the UNCRPD in all relevant areas and to improve their practical implementation.
With its federal-level measures, the NAP 2.0 will help establish inclusion as a universal principle in all areas of life. Inclusion in the sense of the UNCRPD means to enable all individuals to participate in society in all areas of life on the basis of equal rights. For persons with disabilities, inclusion means in particular conditions that allow them to freely choose their place of residence as well as where and with whom they live. It also means conditions that allow them to develop their talents and abilities fully over the course of their lives as well as conditions that allow them to earn their living through freely chosen or accepted work. True inclusion offers persons with disabilities space and support for leading their individual lives.
Whereas the Federal Government’s first action plan focused on the use of appropriate measures to close “gaps between the law and actual practice”, the NAP 2.0 includes important legislative initiatives aimed at helping to improve the participation opportunities and scope for persons with disabilities to lead self-determined lives.
In the NAP 2.0, it was agreed to report on the state of implementation of the measures annually. The first NAP interim report was thus published in 2018. The report analysed the 175 measures from the NAP 2.0 as well as 83 measures from the NAP 1.0. of 2011. The state of implementation of the measures in 13 fields of action has shown that 61 percent of all measures have already been concluded successfully or are being implemented and are ongoing. Many measures have already graduated from a project state and have become an everyday reality. Furthermore, 35% of the measures have started and are ongoing. Only eight out of 258 measures (3%) are yet to be implemented.
The NAP should definitely not be seen as a finished document. Rather it is a dynamic, living disability programme that must be updated regularly. For this reason, it was agreed in the coalition agreement for the 19th legislative period that the NAP will be updated again to include the topic of "digitalisation and inclusion". This process was launched at the 2018 Inclusion Days under the slogan "inklusiv digital" (digital inclusion).