​​​​​How we make a difference 2019


“The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope”: High Commissioner's update highlights climate threats
Michelle Bachelet's wide-ranging update to the Human Rights Council outlines human rights gains and setbacks across the world, and urges greater partnership
09-09-2019
Oral Update on the Human Rights Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
At the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Bachelet details continuing and serious human rights concerns in Venezuela
09-09-2019
Courts rather than spears used to defend indigenous territories
Nemonte Nenquino and Omanca are land human rights defenders from the Waorani people in Ecuador. The group recently won a landmark court ruling against the Government preventing oil exploration on their land.
06-09-2019
"The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive": High Commissioner informally briefs States
A wide-ranging statement details many human rights and procedural concerns, days before the Human Rights Council opens session.
04-09-2019
Relatives of missing migrants never lose hope
“For me he is alive because I have not found anything different. I am continuing to talk about him in the present,” said Maria Elena Larios. Her son, Heriberto Antonio Gonzalez Larios went missing nearly ten years ago while trying to make his way from El Salvador to Mexico, looking for better a better life.
30-08-2019
New Partnership: UN Human Rights Office and Wikimedia Foundation
United Nations Human Rights and Wikimedia Foundation signed a partnership agreement to improve the quality and quantity of human rights content on Wikipedia multilingual platforms.
29-08-2019
A tribute to humanitarians who have lost their lives in serving people across the world
We mourn the deaths of the selfless humanitarians and human rights defenders who have been killed in their service to save lives and ensure respect for human rights
19-08-2019
Indigenous women balance identity, gender and politics when in power
For indigenous women, positions of political power are about balance – how to balance being a woman, being indigenous and being a representative of a larger community. In a recent meeting at the United Nations in Geneva, seven former and current politicians, all indigenous women, shared how they not only maintained the balance, but thrived because of it.
09-08-2019
Summer School Programme in Russia focuses on SDGs and human rights
Students in the Human Rights Summer School programme in Russia say that States achieving the SDGs will guarantee them a bright future. They learn why promoting human rights is crucial in leaving no one behind.
31-07-2019
More than 40,000 Scouts learn to Stand Up for Human Rights
More than 40,000 scouts from across the globe gathered to promote peace, mutual understanding and learn about the sustainable development goals, during the 24th World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, USA.
26-07-2019
Wikipedia marathons: editing for rights in Argentina
UN Human Rights is partnering with Wikimedia to promote access to quality information on human rights through Wikipedia. A first event was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, gathering contributors to edit content about women and LGBTI rights.
25-07-2019
Leprosy survivor, Rachna Kumari: “Every person has the right to live life with dignity”
A new United Nations report looks at leprosy – a disease which historically has ostracised millions – and how stigma can ‘dehumanise’ those affected. Rachna Kumari, a survivor, is fighting against the pervasive stereotypes and bringing hope to others.
24-07-2019
Older people need stronger human rights protection
Older persons need a dedicated convention to protect their human rights, experts told the Human Rights Council. “We are leaving older people behind, they tend to be forgotten,” said Idah Mukuka Nambeya from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers programme, which supports older women working in communities across Africa.
22-07-2019
New labour Convention to tackle violence against women at work
UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet has welcomed a new Convention adopted by the International Labour Organisation on the elimination of violence and harassment against women at work.
18-07-2019
Powering the 2030 Agenda with Sustainable Development Goal 16
The construction of peaceful and just societies, with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, drives development that is sustainable because it is deep, broad, and self-regenerating.
17-07-2019
Local governments unite to defend and promote human rights
A first time consultation in Geneva, Switzerland brought together local governments from around the world and UN Human Rights to discuss the growing human rights challenges in cities, especially in the face of massive and rapid urbanisation.
09-07-2019
Venezuela: High Commissioner Bachelet calls for dialogue and change
Briefing the Human Rights Council, she outlines the "dramatic impact" of the crisis on fundamental rights
05-07-2019
A rights environment for the highest standard of mental health
UN expert on the right to health, Dainius Pūras, says that good mental health must be defined by the creation of environments where people can live their lives in dignity in the equitable pursuit of their full potential.
05-07-2019
Climate change: highlighting the need for gender-specific action
Climate change has specific adverse impacts on women and girls – but women also have much to contribute to climate action.
28-06-2019
Forced sterilisations in Peru: one woman’s fight for justice and redress
In the late 1990s, some 300,000 Peruvian women were subjected to a programme of sterilisation, ordered by the government’s National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programme. Maria Elena Carbajal Cepeda was one of these women. She now heads an organisation which is defending the rights of survivors.
26-06-2019
New threats and old challenges: High Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council
Noting multiple themes and situations of concern, she cites "ancient and precious values that are common to us all"
24-06-2019
First UN Human Rights presence in Venezuela
Ending the first-ever visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Venezuela, Michelle Bachelet left a team of two staff to advise on, assist with, and monitor the rights situation in the country.
22-06-2019
Upholding human rights in a hostile climate
UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, highlights the results of her office in 2018 in a report that includes a new format and innovative features.
14-06-2019
Tunisia's Fundamental Covenant, at 150 years old, is a precursor to the UDHR
One of the oldest and most far reaching visions of equality stems from the Arab world.
13-06-2019
From North Korea defector to human rights defender: the story of HanByeol Lee
HanByeol Lee escaped the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) when she was 17. A survivor of severe hardship and famine, she is now living in Seoul, and heads an organisation which fights for human rights and change in North Korea.
07-06-2019
"I am striking for climate"
Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a Ugandan student and environmental rights activist, has sacrificed her Friday lessons at Kampala International University to protest against lack of action to tackle climate change.
04-06-2019
Reporting Back to Myanmar’s Rohingya: The Most Important Report of All
International fact-finding mechanisms set up by the Human Rights Council investigate human rights crises globally and issue reports relying heavily on testimony from survivors and victims. In a rare move, the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar returned to those communities and reported back to them.
03-06-2019
Women’s activism has kept every kind of human rights struggle 'alive and fertile, like the earth'
The advancement of women's rights can lay claim to be one of the most far-reaching social revolutions the world has seen.
29-05-2019
Preventing incitement to hatred and violence in the Central African Republic
On the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, we highlight the work of UN Human Rights to prevent discourse by public figures that target particular communities and fuel or trigger violence in the Central African Republic.
29-05-2019
To shape a life, and a world, which hold steady to core principles
The High Commissioner speaks to students graduating from Columbia University
20-05-2019
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: Justice and protection, no matter whom you love
“Justice and protection should be guaranteed for all, no matter who you are or whom you love,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Today, 17 May, marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
17-05-2019
The "art" of law goes deeper than rules: it is justice
In St. Petersburg, the High Commissioner urged work to provide effective, accountable justice institutions for all.
16-05-2019
'Stop the War on Children': an important new campaign
"This is about who we are, and the kind of society we want to live in," the High Commissioner said.
16-05-2019
Wai Wai Nu, Rohingya activist: "I am not free. My community is not free. My country is not free."
Wai Wai Nu is a human rights advocate from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya community. A former political prisoner, today she dedicates her life to fighting for human rights in her country, specifically focusing on Rohingya women and girls.
13-05-2019
Apps can help fight impunity for sexual violence
Technology can help survivors of sexual violence, said Peggy Hicks Thematic Director at the UN Human Rights Office. The key is ensuring the needs of survivors are paramount in the design. Hicks was speaking during a recent round table discussion on the subject.
10-05-2019
Afro-Chileans' recognition: from denial to pride
After centuries of being made invisible and suffering stigma, Afro-Chilean communities push forward a new law that recognizes their cultural identity and contributions to society.
03-05-2019
"People do not lose their human rights because they use drugs"
High Commissioner Bachelet delivers a keynote to an important global conference on drug use.
29-04-2019
Healing the wounds of torture survivors through 'rights-based mental healthcare'
Dr. Sonali Gupta is a clinical psychologist who has over 10 years’ experience working with torture survivors, most of whom were asylum seekers.
24-04-2019
Ensuring that supply chains for mineral extraction are free from human rights harms
"The interests of the mining industry do not diverge from the interests of humanity", High Commissioner Bachelet tells a key meeting at the OECD.
23-04-2019
Shaping greater justice, equality and dignity across the world
Today’s threats to human rights – and human life – are connected ; but so are the solutions, the High Commissioner tells law students in Washington DC.
18-04-2019
Working to eradicate torture in Afghanistan
Rates of torture and ill treatment for conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan have declined since 2016, according to a new report from UN Human Rights. However, there is still a long way to go to fully eradicate the practice.
17-04-2019
Experts recognise sexual and gender-based violence amounting to torture
Recognising that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) may amount to torture empowers victims to seek redress and rehabilitation as well as holds States accountable for better provision for victims, said Gaby Oré Aguilar, a member of the Board of Trustees the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
15-04-2019
I fight for the rights of the most vulnerable
Aneta Genova Mircheva doesn’t think of herself as a human rights defender. Yet as a member of Validity, an international NGO that uses the law to secure equality, inclusion and justice, she fights for the rights of those with mental disabilities in Bulgaria.
12-04-2019
The Right to Voice: sexual violence survivors from Colombia tell their stories
Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence from Colombia tell their stories in a photo exhibition being displayed at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
01-04-2019
"Because your voice is valid"
Law student and UN Human Rights Fellow, Mary Consolata Namagambe, has decided to challenge the exclusion she and other people of African descent endure in a majority-white Danish society.
29-03-2019
Brazilian environmental defenders fight for recognition and justice
Moises Borges and Leticia Oliveira are environmental human rights defenders with the Movement of those Affected by Dams (MAB), a Brazil-based grassroots movement that fights for the rights of communities affected by dams. They were recently in Geneva highlighting the plight of those dealing with a recent dam collapse.
26-03-2019
"Housing is a human right, not just a commodity."
"What we are trying to do is build a multi-stakeholder global movement of people who know that housing is a human right and who want to reclaim it," said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. Farha was talking about The Shift, an initiative to move away from treating housing as a commodity to housing as a place to live in peace, security and dignity.
22-03-2019
Breaking taboos to better human rights
Oyungerel Tsedevdamba is a human rights defender and leads an NGO called Local Solutions, which provides sanitation solutions for local communities in Mongolia. Her aim, to stop toilet from being a dirty word in Mongolia.
22-03-2019
"Racism is the opposite of everything we stand for"
All of us need to call out and openly condemn all messages – especially political messages or discourses – which disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, or which incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
21-03-2019
Wherever it occurs, we can counter populist extremism
Experts discuss the various forms of populist extremism that have emerged around the world and what responses can be brought to create more inclusive and more peaceful societies.
21-03-2019
Sri Lanka needs "more consistent, comprehensive and accelerated" measures for accountability and reform
High Commissioner Bachelet updates the Human Rights Council on continuing human rights concerns.
20-03-2019
Venezuela’s far-reaching human rights crisis calls for common agreement on a political solution
High Commissioner Bachelet discusses the human rights situation in the country.
20-03-2019
A source of life – or a cause for conflict: water is a human right
Surely no development priority speaks more directly to fundamental human dignity than the availability of safe drinking water
19-03-2019
Poetry to inspire the fight against racism
21 March is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To mark that day, UN Human Rights associates itself with poets, musicians and lyricists to inspire us all to fight racism.
15-03-2019
Human Rights Council debates racism, nationalism and populism
"You can care about your country and still care about the world": High Commissioner Bachelet vows to fight "all forms of racism, every day of every year"
15-03-2019
Monica Benicio, widow of murdered Rio city councillor, Marielle Franco, vows to keep fighting
A year after the murder of Rio Council member, Marielle Franco, her widow brings the struggle of Brazil’s marginalized groups and human rights defenders to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
14-03-2019
'Ghost of corruption' leads to torture and ill-treatment, UN expert says
The tolerance of abuse of power and corruption in places of detention creates ‘spaces that are not controlled’ according to a new report by Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer.
13-03-2019
Attacked because of who they are and what they do
“In the current political climate there is a backlash against human rights. Women defenders are often the first to come under attack,” Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders told members of the Human Rights Council.
11-03-2019
On International Women’s Day, Stand With Her
Generations of courageous women and feminist movements have together stood up for social change by fighting for human rights. On International Women’s Day, they are being recognised and honoured. The #IStandWithHer campaign will tell some of their stories.
07-03-2019
High Commissioner Bachelet calls on States to take strong action against inequalities
Human rights build hope. And measures that uphold the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights create powerful synergies, with better outcomes for everyone.
06-03-2019
From Benin to Florida: Dr Joannie Bewa’s global fight for women’s education
A young physician and human rights defender, Joannie Bewa advocates for girls’ and women’s health and education rights in her native Benin. She is also globally promoting the Sustainable Development Goals as a UN Young Leader.
05-03-2019
20 years of the Mine Ban Treaty
The Treaty’s focus on the protection, dignity and rights of individuals makes it an outstanding example of multilateralism
01-03-2019
"Human rights-based policies are effective. They deliver better outcomes. They prevent conflicts, and build hope"
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet opens the 40th session of the Human Rights Council
25-02-2019
High Commissioner condemns Venezuela violence
Michelle Bachelet condemns the “disgraceful” violence in Venezuela, urging the Government to stop its forces from using excessive force and to rein in armed pro-Government elements that are attacking protestors.
25-02-2019
"I will bring back hope to people."
A Sudanese refugee activist is the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate. Abudul Aziz Muhamat highlights the situation of refugees in offshore detention by the Australian government. Two other finalists included an Afro-Colombian rights campaigner and a human rights lawyer from Turkey.
22-02-2019
Bachelet tells "good human rights stories."
"Human rights are useful. Respect for human rights generates practical benefits in everyday life," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told an audience recently. She made her comments at the Geneva launch of the “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative, a partnership of 13 organizations and countries dedicated to showing that human rights matter.
18-02-2019
When you stand up for girls, you stand up for everyone
Francis Oko Armah is a student who stands up for the right for young people to have access to and be educated about reproductive and sexual health. He works for the Young Leaders for Change Foundation in Accra, Ghana.
08-02-2019
Benjamin Orenstein, Holocaust survivor
Benjamin Orenstein, 93, is one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust and the only surviving member of his family who were all executed in the camps. He tells us his story.
01-02-2019
"Anyone can use their voice. Believe in yourself."
At 14 years old, water rights activist Autumn Peltier, of the Wikwemikong First Nations community in Ontario, Canada, says helping the environment is something anyone can do at any age. Her activism has earned her a nomination for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize.
22-01-2019
Missing persons receive attention and help healing in Kosovo*
The Multi-Ethnic Resource Centre on Missing Persons in Kosovo* provides a place for families and representatives from associations across all ethnic lines to cooperate and gather information those missing as a result of the 1998-1999 conflict. The centre was opened with the help of the UN Human Rights Office of UN Mission in Kosovo*
18-01-2019
Showcasing human rights success in daily lives
Defending cultural rights of indigenous weavers in Guatemala; challenging discrimination against minorities in Moldova; supporting families of missing persons in South Korea and Kosovo*. As the UN Human Rights Annual Appeal kicks off for 2019, witness the difference our everyday work in human rights makes in people’s lives.
18-01-2019
Annual Appeal presentation
The Office is a vital tool for greater prevention, and better protection, around the world.
17-01-2019
1,111 days into the 2030 Agenda, are we succeeding in meeting its great goal of leaving no-one behind?
"We need a greater sense of urgency about achieving the Agenda's promise to the world's people," the High Commissioner says.
16-01-2019
Stories by year
Related links