OHCHR in the World: making human rights a reality on the ground

Over the years, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has increased its presence in the field, reaching out more and more and giving a voice to the people who need it the most. OHCHR presences away from Headquarters are a strategic entry point for promoting and protecting human rights at the country level; mainstreaming human rights, that is, integrating a human rights perspective into the work of United Nations Country Teams and United Nations peace missions; and helping strengthen national institutions and civil society.

There are a number of ways in which OHCHR field presences assist in efforts to make human rights a reality; not only do they monitor the human rights situation in countries, but they also help build the capacity of Member States and other duty-bearers to address human rights issues. The following are OHCHR's field presences:

14 Country/Stand-alone Offices

OHCHR officers raising awareness on human rights in NepalIn establishing country offices and stand-alone offices, OHCHR negotiates with the host government a full mandate that includes both human rights protection and promotion. At the end of 2016 OHCHR had offices in Bolivia, Cambodia, Colombia, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Mauritania, Mexico, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (stand-alone office), Kosovo (Serbia), Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Yemen.

Activities by country offices include monitoring, public reporting, provision of technical assistance, and the monitoring and development of long-term national capacities to address human rights issues.

United Nations Peace Missions

UNAMI BuildingOHCHR is the lead United Nations entity for the protection and promotion of human rights, but all UN actors have a role to play in protecting and promoting human rights in their operations. In this respect, OHCHR seeks to integrate human rights in all components of UN peace missions.

In 2014, OHCHR supported nearly 900 international and national human rights officers and support staff in 15 Human Rights Components of UN peace missions in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Kosovo (Serbia), Somalia, South Sudan and Darfur (Sudan).

12 Regional Offices and Centres

By the end of 2014, OHCHR had 12 regional offices/centres covering East Africa (Addis Ababa), Southern Africa (Pretoria), West Africa (Dakar) Central America (Panama City), South America (Santiago de Chile), Europe (Brussels), Central Asia (Bishkek), South East Asia (Bangkok), Pacific (Suva) and the Middle East and North Africa (Beirut). OHCHR also has a Regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Central Africa in Cameroon (Yaoundé) and a Training and Documentation Centre for South West Asia and the Arab Region in Qatar (Doha).

Regional offices have a crucial role to play in promoting and protecting human rights in countries of their region, including by working with regional bodies, such as the African Union.

Human Rights Advisers and National Human Rights Officers

Human Rights Advisers are experts deployed by OHCHR to the field to support UN Country Teams following the request of UN Resident Coordinators. They follow up and analyze the human rights situation in the country in which they serve and advise the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team as a whole on strategies to build or strengthen nations' capacities and institutions in promoting and protecting human rights. They also engage with national actors (governments and civil society) on how to best promote and implement human rights standards. By the end of 2016, OHCHR had 28 Advisers and National Offices in Bangladesh, Barbados (UN Regional Team for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean Countries), Chad, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Moldova, Nigeria, Panama (UNDG-LAC), Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Southern Caucasus (Tbilisi), Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Thailand (UNDG Asia-Pacific, Bangkok), Ukraine, and Zambia, as well as two national Advisers in Serbia and FYR of Macedonia.

Rapid Response to Emerging Human Rights Crises

OHCHR's Rapid Response Unit supports the work of OHCHR by swiftly deploying personnel to the field. The Unit manages an internal roster of staff who can be rapidly deployed in human rights and humanitarian emergencies, and can provide surge capacity to OHCHR field offices. At the request of Member States, OHCHR often conducts or supports fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry that investigate serious allegations of human rights violations and abuses.

The Rapid Response Unit has, in recent times, conducted or coordinated the establishment of fact- finding missions or commissions of inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria (on-going since 2011). The Commission of Inquiry on Central African Republic, mandated by the Secretary General, and the OHCHR Investigations on Sri Lanka, mandated by the HRC are also ongoing. Commissions of Inquiry on Gaza and Eritrea are also being established, as is an OHCHR Mission to Iraq, all mandated by the HRC.

Additionally, the Rapid Response Unit has established a human rights monitoring team based in Lebanon and sent fact-finding teams to Mali, Central African Republic and Ukraine. In response to humanitarian crises OHCHR staff have been deployed to the Philippines, Myanmar and Lebanon.

Africa region Middle East and Northern Africa Region Asia-Pacific region Europe, North America and Central Asia region Americas region

Regional Offices

East Africa
Southern Africa
Middle East
North Africa
South-East Asia

Central America
South America

Regional HR Centres

Central Africa Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region      

Country Offices

(Occupied territories)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (2006)
Serbia (including Kosovo)

Human Rights Components of Peace Missions

Central African Republic,
Cote d'Ivoire,
Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Guinea Bissau,
Sierra Leone,
 Georgia Haiti

Human Rights Advisors/National Human Rights Officers

  Papua New Guinea
Sri Lanka
Republic of Moldova
Russian Federation
South Caucasus
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Dominican Republic

Related Links
Contact Information

Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (FOTCD)
All contacts are in Geneva, Switzerland.

Africa Section
Tel. +41 22 928 9694

Middle East and North Africa Section
Tel. +41 22 928 9153

Asia Pacific Section
Tel. +41 22 928 9650

Europe and Central Asia Section
Tel. +41 22 928 9291

Americas Section
Tel. + 41 22 928 9167

Peace Missions Support and Rapid Response Section
Tel. +41 22 917 9220

National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section
Tel. +41 22 928 9467

Coordinator Voluntary Fund for Technical Co-operation
Tel. +41 22 928 9287