By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News correspondent in Geneva
The UN's human rights chief has warned that the vision and promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under considerable strain.
Darfur has been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis
Speaking ahead of International Human Rights Day, Louise Arbour a balance had to be struck between the desire for security and the need for liberty.
Her comments came as the UN considers reform of the Human Rights Commission.
It is thought by many to be over-politicised and too protective of the national interests of member states.
In the Sudanese province of Darfur, in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, human-rights violations have been especially visible in 2004.
Acknowledging this, UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour identified two major threats to human rights.
The first is the response to terrorism, which she described as confused and in danger of jeopardising civil liberties.
The second, she said, was the constant threat to human rights in areas where there is armed conflict.
But Mrs Arbour also admitted that the Human Rights Commission itself, charged with upholding human rights and condemning violations, has got problems.
Its failure this year to even discuss the crisis in Darfur led many human-rights groups to dismiss it as an over-politicised body lacking in credibility.
"I think the commission itself has suffered from a perception in the last few years that it's not serving the human-rights promotion and protection agenda with the kind of energy that it should," she said.
Instead it has been "engaged in a lot of posturing and politicking that seems to be designed to preserve national interests", Mrs Arbour added.
The recently proposed reforms of the United Nations include a radical suggestion for the Human Rights Commission.
Instead of electing members following nominations from regional blocs, all the 191 member states of the UN should automatically get a seat on the commission.
Human-rights groups have already condemned the idea, saying it will provide a haven of respectability for the world's most abusive governments.
Instead, they say, the commission should be smaller and set strict human-rights standards for its members.