Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
15 January 2020
Please accept my warmest greetings for the New Year, and for a new decade.
Your financial support has been essential to the work of my Office to date, and I take this opportunity to thank the 81 donors – among them, 65 States -- who demonstrated their leadership, and their confidence in the Office, by donating US$ 177.4 million last year.
Today, I am presenting the Appeal for our 2020 programme of work. It is a request for US$ 375.5 million to support vital existing programmes and equally vital new commitments.
Turning first to the work of our field offices in 2020, let me first look at the example of the Africa region.
We will establish a new office in Sudan, and strengthen our programmes in Ethiopia, to enhance the benefit of those countries’ political transitions on their economies and societies. We are also further expanding our work in the Sahel, including through a country office in Niger. In addition, we will be emphasising practical operationalisation of the Memoranda of Understanding we have recently signed with various African Union bodies with human rights mandates.
Another broad example: in the Americas, we will be reinforcing our technical cooperation and protection work in Venezuela, further to signature of a Letter of Understanding with the Government last September. In Bolivia, we will work to ensure a more sustained presence, in order to contribute to prevention and a genuinely inclusive national dialogue.
Our programmes in other regions will see similar strengthening. We will also maintain the quality and scope of our support to the Treaty Bodies, the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, including the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review. And in addition, we plan to direct efforts to strengthening our work in five key “frontier” areas that have already shown accelerating impact on fundamental human rights.
Climate change; the expanding digital space; corruption; inequalities; and the movement of people are complex issues with serious and expanding effects on rights, development and peace. I am convinced that the most effective policies to address the challenges they raise will be cooperative, multilateral and grounded in human rights principles, analysis and guidance. We will expand our expertise and partnerships on these frontier issues, in order to step up our assistance and guidance for Governments, civil society and regional and international bodies in these areas.
Thus on climate change, we will promote ambitious, participatory climate action to prevent our planet-wide emergency from deepening, and empower those most affected. We will provide strategic guidance in key areas, and in the Pacific, we will convene a Small Atoll meeting focusing on Member States suffering some of the most profound impacts: Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Maldives and Tuvalu.
We will also enhance our work on environmental human rights in the context of business, the mining industry, and infrastructure projects, such as hydro-electric dams in Guatemala and Mexico. Our Regional Offices in Africa will also step up their climate-related work, including with respect to food security, and to displacement in the Sahel.
Climate-related harms to human rights are massive and projected to increase -- but most importantly, they can be prevented, reduced and remedied through strong, human rights-based action.
Digital technologies have increasing consequences on privacy, freedom of expression, gender equality, hate speech and exploitation. We will seek to strengthen public policy and corporate practise, both to avoid harm as well as to leverage new tools in support of human rights. Building on our already extensive engagement with tech companies, our B-Tech project will seek to embed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the tech sector. This effort will also provide civil society partners, and States, with practical guidance on how to evaluate the human rights impact of new technologies, and what can be done to avoid and mitigate harms.
We will also work with UN Global Pulse to develop digital tools to enhance monitoring and analysis by UN field presences of hate speech and incitement to violence and discrimination. And we will bring greater capacity to field-based efforts to integrate new technologies in our work, and to respond to growing risks faced by those defending human rights online.
Inequalities and corruption have been the focus of many mass protests in recent months, and there is a clear need for guidance to ensure that human rights-based economic policies place people, and our shared planet, at the centre of prosperity. With just ten years to achieve the 2030 Agenda, we will assist specific countries to diminish the impacts of inequalities and re-assert rule of law in the economy.
We will heighten our technical cooperation on issues relating to public investment, budgets, tax policies, illegal financial flows, and debt sustainability, as well as economic and social rights. We will address the human rights impacts of austerity measures, which often have disproportionate consequences on marginalised communities. We will also further assist States and partners to undertake human rights-based budget analyses, for better allocation of resources to the implementation of the SDGs and more equal access to health, housing, social protection and other rights. We are also committed to helping development financing institutions create and maintain new safeguard-policies and independent accountability mechanisms.
Regarding people on the move, many of today’s 272 million international migrants face discrimination, exploitation and violence. We must reassert universal values and norms of international law in this key area. In the coming year, my Office will issue in-depth reports on the situation of people on the move in Southeast Asia, Central America, Sahel countries, and along the central Mediterranean route.
We will also support human rights-based approaches to migration governance, including through targeted capacity building for frontline border officials in the Middle East and North Africa, Asia Pacific and Americas.
We will launch a global communications initiative to counter xenophobia and discrimination, focusing on fundamental human values and the need for solidarity. And, in addition to our work with Member States, relevant human rights bodies and the UN Network on Migration, we will heighten our engagement with non-traditional partners. To take one example, a new agreement between the Government of Ireland and the International Transport Workers’ Federation addresses cases of severe exploitation and trafficking, notably of migrants, in the fishing industry. We need to build on this very practical success.
The Appeal we have circulated contains more detail on these plans for heightened impact in the five “frontier” areas. But I must emphasise that this increased effort on frontier issues will in no way diminish the human rights work that we are already undertaking, in all your countries and across the globe.
It will be a sizeable effort – an effort unmatched in the history of this Office. It will require us to innovate, to seek out partnerships, and to reach well beyond our current capacity. And it will require your help – your ideas, as well as your financial contributions.
Voluntary contributions by States, together with support from multilateral organisations, private foundations and the corporate sector, have been the lifeblood of the assistance we bring to the world. Although requests for our help have continued to increase, last year saw a decrease of some $10 million in voluntary contributions to our Office as compared to 2018. In addition, new restrictions were placed on funding that had previously been freely offered, so that over two thirds of the funds we received were earmarked – the highest proportion in the past ten years.
I appeal to you to provide unearmarked funds, so that the resources can be allocated to areas where they are most urgently required.
I am confident that you have recognised the competence of the Office and the relevance and benefit of our work. I am committed to deepening that focus on assisting States to protect rights and build more sustainable and resilient societies. I view this programme of work as a joint effort – one that requires your financial support, and many other forms of cooperation, to place human dignity and well-being at the centre of local, national and global affairs. As we work to assist people and governments across the world, we count on your support.