Open House Day at the Palais Wilson highlights 20 years of human rights achievements

The UN Human Rights Office will open its doors on Saturday, 14 September to celebrate its 20th anniversary. In collaboration with the host country, Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Office will offer visitors the chance to explore the historic Palais Wilson, while becoming more acquainted with the Office’s work to promote and protect human rights. Activities include panel discussions, films, musical performances, art exhibitions, and guided tours of the Palais with an historian.

Palais Wilson, which has been the world headquarters of the Office since 1998, has witnessed Geneva’s rise to influence on the international stage. Originally known as the Hôtel National, the 225-room building on the shores of Lake Geneva was built at the end of the 19th century. When Switzerland joined the League of Nations in 1920, the premises became the organization’s headquarters. Switzerland is currently the owner of Palais Wilson and put it at the disposal of the Human Rights Office in 1998.

Today the UN Human Rights Office has presences in nearly 60 countries worldwide and has enabled global action to prevent loss of life in Nepal; support the drafting of the constitutions of several Latin American countries in transition; assisted in the truth and reconciliation process in Cambodia; and provided evidence of widespread human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, recently, in Syria, among others.

"As High Commissioner for Human Rights, I speak for the victims so that they can have access to justice when their rights are violated with impunity," said Navi Pillay, the current High Commissioner.

The Open House Day will pay tribute to many human rights defenders, especially women who have put themselves on the front line in the promotion and protection of human rights.

World renowned women human rights defenders will participate in the panel discussions, including Justine Masika Bihamba, a human rights worker in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Karim Lahidji, the founder of the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights, and Safak Pavey, the first female member with a disability of the Turkish Parliament.

Visitors will also have the unique opportunity to attend panel discussions with experts. In addition, the programme includes videos on human rights and the work of the OHCHR, and various activities for children, including puppet shows, musical workshops and educational computer games.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Palais Wilson, 52 rue des Pâquis, Geneva.

For more information about the Open House Day, please visit

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights, which led to the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights. Its creation gave a new impetus to the recognition of human rights principles which has seen fundamental progress in the promotion and protection of human rights.

13 September 2013

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