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Working for results in 2010

“2010 was a year of exceptional challenges for human rights. It began with a humanitarian disaster in Haiti and ended with upheaval in North Africa. Along the way, we saw human rights crises unfold in many parts of the world”, noted the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, in her foreword to her Office’s 2010 annual report.

A man releases a flock of doves in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan © UN Photo/Helena MulkernsThe OHCHR Report 2010 offers a results-oriented evaluation of achievements based on the six thematic priorities for the UN Human Rights Office. These cover the areas of discrimination, impunity, poverty, migration, armed conflict and insecurity, and human rights mechanisms and international human rights law.

The report also covers the expected accomplishments outlined in the High Commissioner’s Strategic Management Plan for 2010-2011 (PDF). It analyses to what extent management goals were reached and includes a full breakdown of income and expenditure.

During a presentation of her report to UN Members States in Geneva in late June 2011, noting that voluntary contributions dropped from $ 118 million in 2009 to $ 109 million in 2010, Pillay appealed to all Member States to sustain their financial support to her Office.

“Can you put a price tag on human rights? However we wish to answer that question, the reality is of course that human rights do have financial implications,” she said. “I fully understand the constraints faced by donors in times of economic hardship, but let us not forget that it is in such times that the most vulnerable are disproportionately affected and thus in greater need of protection.”

In response to growing human rights crises, the mandates for offices in Bolivia and Colombia were extended and two new country offices were established in Guinea and Mauritania. By the end of 2010, OHCHR’s network consisted of presences in 54 countries with workforce of 1005 staff, half of which were based away from OHCHR headquarters in Geneva.
Pillay noted that the last six months had seen human rights at the centre of the international agenda.

“While it is too early to say how the situations in the Middle East and North Africa will pan out, what I can say for sure is that my staff and I continue to stand ready to meet growing demands for our work in that region and elsewhere,” Pillay said. “Indeed, we are already preparing to open a country office in Tunisia as well as a regional office in Egypt to respond to the peoples’ demand for human rights.”

The High Commissioner’s office provided technical support to the Universal Periodic Review process of the Human Rights Council, which reviews the human rights situation in all 192 members of the UN every four years. The first cycle of reviews will be completed at the end of 2011.

During 2010, the Council created two new special procedures thematic: a working group on the elimination of discrimination of women in law and practice, and a special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

The human rights treaty body system was reinforced with the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances on 23 December 2010, bringing to ten the number of core human rights treaties.

The first ever comprehensive study of human rights violations which occurred during the 10 years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1993-2003 was undertaken by experts of the High Commissioner’s office. The exercise was complemented by the investigation of a high-level panel which heard from survivors of sexual violence in that country and made recommendations for more effective justice and reparations for the victims.

The technical expertise of the Office also played a decisive role in integrating human rights in the Outcome Document of the Millennium Development Goals Review Summit. In the Outcome Document, Member States acknowledged that the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved without promoting human rights.

As the chairperson of the Global Migration Group (GMG) last year, the High Commissioner promoted a global human rights-based approach to the UN’s response to the challenges of migration. As a result, the GMG leaders adopted a landmark joint statement on the human rights of irregular migrants.

The 2010 OHCHR report and subsequent editions will be more environment and user friendly. An interactive CD and an online mini-website will accompany a much thinner print publication.

22 June 2010