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Logo: The 20th Anniversary of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The 20th Anniversary of OHCHR – World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993)


On 25 June 1993, representatives of 171 States adopted by consensus the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights, thus successfully closing the two-week World Conference and presenting to the international community a common plan for the strengthening of human rights work around the world.

The conference was marked by an unprecedented degree of participation by government delegates and the international human rights community. Some 7,000 participants, including academics, treaty bodies, national institutions and representatives of more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- two thirds of them at the grass-roots level -- gathered in Vienna to review and profit from their shared experiences.

The United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in a message to the Conference, told the delegates that by adopting the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action they had renewed the international community's commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. He saluted the meeting for having forged "a new vision for global action for human rights into the next century".

Similarly, the Conference took historic new steps to promote and protect the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples by, respectively, supporting the creation of a new mechanism, a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, subsequently appointed in 1994; recommending the proclamation by the General Assembly of an international decade of the world's indigenous peoples, which led to the proclamation of two decades (1995-2004 and 2005-2014); and calling for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the year 1995. As of today, all countries, except for Somalia and the United States of America, have ratified the Convention. 

The Vienna Declaration also makes concrete recommendations for strengthening and harmonizing the monitoring capacity of the United Nations system. In this regard, it called for the establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights by the General Assembly, which subsequently created the post on 20 December 1993 (resolution 48/141). Mr. José Ayala Lasso was nominated by the Secretary-General as the first High Commissioner and assumed office on 5 April 1994.

Read more about the World Conference on Human Rights