UN systemwide response

In his 2019 annual report to the Human Rights Council on cooperation with the UN the Secretary-General stated: "More than ever, this issue should be a priority and a core responsibility of the Organization." He reiterated his "call on all United Nations entities to be vigilant and engaged on this issue" (A/HRC/42/30, para. 93).

The Organization relies to a large extent on cooperation with and information provided by government and civil society partners.  When those engaging or willing to engage with the UN are subject to intimidation and reprisals for their efforts, we all lose, and the credibility and effectiveness of the Organization is undermined.

The UN is stepping up its efforts to ensure a firm, coordinated and coherent response by the system. UN actors, especially principals and heads of field presences, play an essential role by being the primary interlocutors and voices of the UN at country level, including by cooperating with government and civil society actors. Many are already vigilant to trends and cases, and engage with authorities to promote the duty of States to prevent or investigate cases of reprisals as well as to ensure protection, remedies and accountability for victims of reprisals.

In December 2019, former Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights serving as senior level focal point, Andrew Gilmour, addressed a letter to the UN system.  He noted that he was keen to ensure sustainability of what had been achieved during his tenure (2016-2019), and continuity of the work in progress.  He invited consideration of the following:

  • To encourage more systemized analysis and response, designate a UN staff focal point in UN entities, departments or missions for the sharing of information/experiences.
  • To better capture the work of the UN system on this issue, share  policy developments and good practices in seeking to prevent and respond to intimidation and reprisals.
  • To better prepare the annual reports of the Secretary-General, keep documenting trends and cases, and action taken at country level to protect individuals and groups.  See guidelines for submission to the report

With the valuable assistance and input of many UN working level counterparts, internal guidance for UN staff members to better prevent and address intimidation and reprisals globally had been prepared.

The OHCHR reprisals team stands ready to support all efforts towards a more comprehensive and coordinated UN systemwide response. A specific email address is available (reprisals@ohchr.org) whereby the UN and its partners, including civil society organizations and victims and their family members, may submit information on acts of intimidation and reprisals.