How we make a difference 2014
Caste-based slavery: Rekha’s story
After 18 years of carrying human waste on her head in wicker baskets to a dumpsite outside her village—a practice known as “manual scavenging”, Rekha Bai was able to find an alternative livelihood with the support of an NGO awarded by the UN Slavery Fund.
International Decade of People of African Descent: recognition, justice and development
Around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas, and millions more live in other parts of the world outside the African continent. The international community, in recognition that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected, has proclaimed 2015-2024 International Decade for People of African Descent.
Migrants deserve respect, safety and dignity
In a joint statement issued to commemorate International Migrants’ Day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and International Labour Organization Director Guy Ryder called on States to recognize that true sustainable development can only be achieved by ensuring that human rights and labour rights form the cornerstone of fair migration policies.
Protecting cultural rights from excessive advertising
States should protect people from undue levels of commercial advertising and marketing while increasing the space for not-for-profit expressions, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights says. Farida Shaheed made this recommendation in a presentation of a report at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Campaign Honours Women Human Rights Defenders
Nearly twenty years after the landmark Beijing World Conference on Women, the UN Human Rights Office is honouring women’s human rights defenders through the #reflect2protect campaign.
Protect the rights of people with albinism
Tanzania has witnessed a spate of brutal attacks and killings of people with albinism, linked to myths and witchcraft. To protect this vulnerable group, the East African nation has rounded up children with the condition and placed them in holding centres throughout the country.
Water and sanitation rights explained
Governments, donors and national regulatory bodies who want to take a human rights approach to water and sanitation provision now have a guide. “Realising the human rights to water and sanitation” is a new handbook that provides information and guidance on how to take a human rights approach to the issue.
Small arms: A disproportionate impact on women
Arms control is a human rights issue as small arms proliferation inhibits development and humanitarian efforts, says Dr. Anna Alvazzi del Frate, Research director of the NGO Small Arms Survey. Alvazzi says information is key to helping to prevent this violence.
Forced and early marriage: the story of Maysoun, a child bride
Maysoun was forced to marry at the age of 15. She was exploited, abused and when she fell ill, her husband left her. Although deeply traumatized by her experiences, Maysoun eventually recovered with the specialized assistance provided by a local non-governmental organization financially supported by the UN Slavery Fund and was able to restart her life.
Eradicating harmful practices against women and girls
Two of the UN human rights expert committees, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination again Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have joined forces to assist States to put an end to harmful practices primarily affecting women and girls.
Trafficking for forced labour: Diane’s story
“I worked 19 hours, every day of the week, for a monthly salary of 45 euros.” Diane was trafficked from her home country and then forced to work as a domestic slave. She eventually managed to rebuild her life with the help of an NGO supported by the UN Slavery Fund.
Mayan fellow fights for land, heritage and culture
Miguel de Léon Ceto, a Mayan activist from Guatemala, is one of the participants in the 2014 Indigenous Fellowship Programme. He is working to ensure the land and cultural rights of the Ixil Mayan are respected and protected.
Mass surveillance: exceptional measure or dangerous habit?
Digital communications technologies have revolutionized the way human beings interact, but Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri warns of the very real impact that governmental surveillance of digital communications can have on a range of human rights.
Sex trafficking: Maria’s story
The UN Slavery Fund supports a number of NGOs, which rescue and assist victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and offer specialized support in the reconstruction of their lives.
Plan to protect journalists reviewed
Attacks against journalists and the shocking levels of impunity for those attacks are unacceptable, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. There needs to be a coordinated effort from all sides to ensure that each State creates and sustains an enabling environment for journalists.
Worst forms of child labour: Ebo’s story
The UN Slavery Fund financially supports NGOs, which seek out and rescue children like Ebo and provide specialized assistance for their rehabilitation.
Handprints make peace and a new world record
A new world record for the largest painting made of the imprint of hands belongs to Tunisia. The more than 10,000 square meter canvas was unveiled during the International Peace Festival which took place in all 24 regions of Tunisia.
Mexican attorney receives top human rights defender award
Mexican human rights attorney Alejandra Ancheita is the latest recipient of the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award. The Geneva-based award is granted annually to a person who has an exceptional record of fighting against human rights violations.
The Long Road to Ending Impunity
The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) enforce protection measures to enable victims and witnesses of alleged human rights violations to testify in court.
The UN was a refuge, veteran campaigner says
Human rights campaigner Estela de Carlotto called the United Nations a refuge for herself and her organization during its more than 30-year struggle. The organization, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, is an Argentina-based NGO that works to locate and reunite children, taken from disappeared parents during the dictatorship, with remaining family.
NGOs are heart of human rights work, HC says
The NGOs are the heart of the human rights process, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein made the analogy during his first official meeting with NGO groups during the 27th Human Rights Council session. More than 260 participants highlighted their concerns and expressed their hopes for his tenure during the meeting.
A human rights approach to reducing child deaths
With more than 6 million children dying before their fifth birthday last year, health decision and policy makers are being offered a more holistic way to look at child mortality. The UN Human Rights Office and the World Health Organization (WHO) have designed the technical guidance for applying a human rights-based approach to improving child mortality rates. The guidance note was launched during the 27th Human Rights Council session.
At high-level event, UN officials call for end to death penalty
The continuing application of capital punishment is a “primitive” practice which has no place in the 21st century, United Nations officials declared today, as they pressed global leaders to set course towards abolishing the death penalty and advancing a more progressive judicial agenda in their respective States.
Out of many perspectives comes one history
History and memorials are not the spoils of the victor. In a panel discussion held during the 27th Human Rights Council, Human Rights special rapporteurs discussed with guests and Member States the best way to ensure that history teaching and memorialization processes are being used as a way of fostering mutual understanding between communities so as not to repeat past wrongs.
One Year. One Campaign. One Billion People
A new video looks back on a year of the UN Human Rights Office’s Free & Equal campaign against homophobia and transphobia. In twelve months, the campaign has reached more than a billion people, created a stream of popular video and written content, and spawned national campaigns in countries around the world.
An historic debt settled: recognition of indigenous rights in El Salvador
An historic debt has been settled in favour of the indigenous peoples of El Salvador, says UN Human Rights representative, Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana welcoming to an historic parliamentary vote, which recognises the country’s indigenous peoples and commits to policies safeguarding their ethnic and cultural identities.
Iraq, Syria top priorities for new UN human rights chief
The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the Human Rights Council for the first time. Speaking at the opening of the twenty-seventh session, he talked about a number of current human rights challenges.
In Vienna, UN human rights official briefs OSCE on Ukraine
After a visit to Ukraine, Assistant-Secretary General for human rights, Ivan Šimonovic, addressed the Permanent Council of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at a special session on Ukraine. Here is the text of his statement.
Syria’s brutal war threatens international peace and security
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic says the continuous influx of foreign fighters and the advances of extremist groups has contributed to a spill-over of violence affecting international peace and stability.
Campaigning for the rights of the disabled in the Arab region
Advocates for the human rights of disabled people from the Arab region came together recently and agreed that in general, their equal access to the full range of human rights is not fully acknowledged and funding for the needs of the disabled is inadequate.
Painting human rights
Human Rights become part of the urban landscape in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay through the painting of well-known street artist, Oz Montania.
Education unlocks the doors to all other rights
The outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urges a broader approach to the right to education to address the ongoing imbalance of power between men and women in both the public and private spheres.
Human trafficking: a multi-billion dollar global business
From the young women who have been enslaved as prostitutes or abused as unpaid domestic workers to the men who have been trapped in everlasting servitude, victims of trafficking have frequently been made vulnerable by structural discrimination and inequalities, said the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay on the occasion of the first-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
In Afghanistan, ground combat taking ''devastating civilian toll” UN says
According to a new report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), ground combat among the warring parties surpassed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as the leading cause of conflict-related death and injury to Afghan civilians in the first six months of 2014.
A new approach to public spending
The UN Human Rights Office in Mexico, the Ministry of Interior and the Executive Secretary of Mexico City’s Human Rights Programme have joined forces to promote a human rights approach to public spending in Mexico.
Open Wounds: Healing Torture Victims from Syria
Victims of torture from Syria, Yusuf and Abu Yazan, are rebuilding their lives after receiving rehabilitation services from the Restart Center in Northern Lebanon, with the support of the UN Fund for Victims of Torture.
Faster change needed to eliminate female genital mutilations
“Female genital mutilations (FGM) violate the right to the highest attainable standard of health… and when it results in the death of the person that is mutilated, it violates the right to life,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.
The harms of gender stereotyping
Gender stereotyping is a form of discrimination against women and a contributing factor to many violations of their rights, say experts at the Human Rights Council.
Safety of journalists: States must act to end impunity
UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay says States must act to address impunity: that every act of violence against a journalist that goes uninvestigated and unpunished is an open invitation to further violence.
Taking on the past: the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission
Three years on from the January 14 Revolution, Tunisia formally establishes its Truth and Dignity Commission with a mandate to uncover past abuses and offer appropriate redress to victims. UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay welcomes the Commission saying it will help reknit the fabric of society and re-establish a sense of common destiny.
The right to choose and refuse sterilization
States are being urged to legislate to outlaw coercive sterilization and to provide effective redress to those who are unable to have children because of these procedures performed without their knowledge or consent.
Defending the environment: an increasingly deadly preoccupation
John Knox, the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment has called on States to comply with their human rights obligations and ensure that people campaigning for a safe, clean and healthy environment receive appropriate protection.
Open wounds: torture and ill-treatment in Syria
A new thematic paper produced by the UN Human Rights Office on torture in Syria highlights horrific accounts from victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by Government forces and some armed opposition groups.
LGBTI in Moldova march for equality
The first LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) pride march, with the full backing of public authorities, was organized in the Republic of Moldova in commemoration of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia by the NGO Gender Doc-M. The UN Human Rights Office supported civil society and State partners in their efforts to ensure that the event took place successfully.
Protecting children from violence needs to remain a global priority
“The risk of violence against children remains present in every setting, including those where children should be safest – in schools, in care and justice institutions and also within their homes. The risk of violence in even heightened in the context of work”, said the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais.
Tajikistan revamps housing legislation
To address the urgent need to upgrade Tajikistan’s housing legislation and policies, the UN Human Rights Regional Office in Central Asia is supporting the development of a new Housing Code in the country, which will provide more rights to property owners.
South Sudan leaders must bring the conflict to an end
UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay expressed concern that neither South Sudan’s political leaders nor the international community at large seem to perceive quite how dangerous the situation now is. “How much worse does it have to get, before those who can bring this conflict to an end, especially President Kiir and Dr Machar, decide to do so?” Pillay asked.
Access to justice for children
“Access to justice is not only a fundamental right in itself, it is also a prerequisite for the protection and promotion of all other human rights,” said the UN Human Rights Deputy, Flavia Pansieri.
Local and small-scale farming: a solution to hunger and malnutrition
Over the past fifty years, there has been significant progress in boosting agricultural production, however this has hardly reduced the number of people whose right to food remains unrealized and who suffer from hunger and malnutrition, states a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.
More than mothers
A special UN event in New York explored the impact of the narrow focus of the Millennium Development Goals on maternal health and the critical need for incorporating a human rights-based approach in the Post-2015 development framework.
The Rwanda genocide: 20 years later
“We must support Rwandan efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights for all, and efforts to move towards reconciliation and rehabilitation,” says UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay in her message on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: crimes against humanity revealed
During the UN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, Switzerland, the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea presented its report on an array of systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations, some amounting to crimes against humanity, being committed by the DPRK.
Defenders urgently need a safe and enabling space
Defending human rights is a dangerous activity in some countries where defenders may be vilified, attacked, arrested, tortured, and even murdered. The UN Human Rights expert on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders condemns these acts and provides, in her final report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, recommendations on ways to create a safe and enabling space for defenders.
Strong leadership needed to combat racial discrimination
“True leaders employ the power of their standing in society to advocate a long-term vision of racial equality and social justice—they integrate, inspire, and mobilize others to bring a common aspiration to life,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.
Protecting civil society space to guarantee human rights
“International bodies and governments alone cannot achieve the fulfilment of the protection and promotion of human rights without the full participation of civil society,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue.
Equal access to land for women
“Despite the fact that many women are legally entitled to equality in access to land, they still experience considerable discrimination in this area,” said the UN Human Rights Office’s Gender and Women’s Rights Advisor in New York, Gaynel Curry.
Kyrgyzstan establishes a new system to prevent torture
Following alarming reports of torture in places of detention after the ethnic conflict in 2010, Kyrgyzstan is the first country in Central Asia to adopt a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) law, which establishes a National Centre as an independent body to monitor places of detention.
Everyone needs a place to call home
The UN human rights expert on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, presents new Guiding Principles on tenure security for the urban poor in her last report to the Human Rights Council.
Every woman’s right to water, sanitation and hygiene
Human rights and health experts held an interactive dialogue on women’s advances in securing their rights and dignity in topics related to water, sanitation, and hygiene during a special event at the United Nations in Geneva.
Young migrants tell their stories
The UN World Youth Report on Youth and Migration provides a personal glimpse inside the lives of young migrants and the challenges they face at every phase of migration.
Too Young to Wed
The “Too Young to Wed” exhibition at the United Nations in Geneva highlights the issue of child marriage through more than 30 photographs of child brides from around the world by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair.
The Human Rights Council’s 25th session opens in Geneva
At the opening of the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay spoke of the daunting challenges, which lie ahead, for the full protection and promotion of human rights and highlighted the recent human rights achievements.
Learning to live in peace in Kyrgyzstan
Following an intense ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, today students at Osh State University start thinking critically about ethnicity through a course initiated by the UN Human Rights Regional Office in Central Asia.
Hundreds of thousands besieged in Syria
Sieges imposed by parties to the Syrian conflict leave thousands of civilians trapped facing life threatening shortage without access to humanitarian assistance.
Afghanistan: a pivotal moment for human rights
Since 2001, there have been several human rights achievements in Afghanistan; however these gains remain fragile and many Afghans worry about how this year’s political, security and economic transition might impact the human rights of its citizens.
Tunisians seeking the right to the truth
The United Nations Human Rights Office in Tunisia is working with the interim Government and various stakeholders including victims and civil society organizations, towards the establishment of a comprehensive transitional justice process that would promote the truth about the past, and provide reparations and justice for all.
Sports stars come out against homophobia
Celebrity athletes join UN leaders and rights activists at a special event co-organized by the UN Human Rights Office on the role of sports in the fight against homophobia.
Stories by year