​​​​​How we make a difference 2020


Annual report 2019: Human rights-based actions bring tangible results
UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet highlights the results of her office for 2019 in a report that underlines growing funding challenges.
05-06-2020
Philippines: Report details widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity
A new report by UN Human Rights highlights long-standing and acute human rights concerns in the Philippines, including killings, arbitrary detentions and the vilification of dissent.
04-06-2020
COVID-19: Standing up for the human rights of migrants and refugees in France
“We need to address inequalities, and we need to provide a human rights-based response to the situation of migrants and refugees,” says Steve Irakoze, a human rights activist working with migrant and refugee communities in France.
03-06-2020
Strengthening the Treaty Bodies, guardians of the world's human rights covenants and treaties
Speaking at the launch of the General Assembly's Treaty Body review, the High Commissioner lauded the valuable work of the Committees, providing victims an essential space for justice and remedy, and offering Member States in-depth guidance and recommendations
02-06-2020
Informing people is protecting people
"Reliable and critical information has always proven to be important. However, in this time of crisis, it has proven to be even more important,” said Gabriela Gorjón. Gabriela is a public information officer in UN Human Rights Mexico Office. She said the pandemic has led the Office to prioritise the promotion and support of trustworthy information.
29-05-2020
UN Committee welcomes Spain’s decision to allow Moroccan child to attend public school
The UN child rights committee has welcomed Spain’s prompt decision to allow a 12-year old Moroccan girl to go to school in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, setting a positive example for over 80 other similar unresolved instances.
28-05-2020
Vulnerable groups in Serbia facing deeper discrimination due to COVID-19
In Serbia, the “already existing gaps or inequalities are now being exacerbated” as a result of measures taken to combat COVID-19, says Milan Markovic, Head of UN Human Rights in the country.
27-05-2020
Human rights staff in West Africa help street children reunite with families during COVID-19
Aminata Kebe, Human Rights Officer in UN Human Rights’ West Africa Regional Office, has been working to get children in the region off the streets and reunited with their families to minimise their vulnerability to infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
26-05-2020
Fiona Adolu, prioritizing human rights in Zimbabwe during COVID-19
“While the pandemic is primarily a public health crisis, it has impacted the entire gamut of human rights and if we do not stand together to fight to protect all human rights for everyone now, we will not be able to successfully win the war against the pandemic,” says Fiona Adolu, Human Rights Adviser in Zimbabwe.
22-05-2020
Defending rights of Iranian prisoners amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike in detention has brought public attention and outcry to conditions in the country’s prisons. Her husband, Reza Khandan, explains more.
21-05-2020
UN Human Rights in East Africa: Leave no one behind during COVID-19
“If people say, “We are in this together,” then we should really all be in this together,” Nwanneakolam Vwede-Obahor, head of UN Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office, says of the response to the pandemic.
20-05-2020
Supporting human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico, “a privilege.”
“Human rights work is all about people and the bonds we create,” said Ricardo Neves a UN Human Rights staffer working in Mexico. During the pandemic, Ricardo’s work has centered on shedding light on the plight of human rights defenders and journalists and supporting those affected by emergency measures and the longstanding violence throughout the country.
19-05-2020
Voices from the Field: Zero COVID-19 cases in DPRK, but human rights concerns remain
While there are no official confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, UN Human Rights fears increased hardship for a country already affected by decades of human rights violations. Signe Poulsen, our Representative in Seoul, describes the situation.
15-05-2020
Threshold test on hate speech now available in 32 languages
Free speech vs. Hate speech: A one-pager by the UN Human Rights Office offers a framework test to identify cases of incitement to hatred, now translated into 32 languages, thanks to Facebook.
15-05-2020
High Commissioner discusses coming out of COVID-19 lock-downs with Geneva press
Michelle Bachelet’s opening remarks at a virtual press conference with the UN correspondents’ association in Geneva on the human rights ramifications of coming out of lock-downs and other human rights issues relating to COVID-19.
14-05-2020
Safety at home, an illusion for far too many women in Iraq
Reports of domestic violence in Iraq continue, while COVID-19 lockdown measures prevent many women from seeking legal and medical help.
13-05-2020
COVID-19 and the human rights of older people
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing a particularly severe threat to the lives and health of older people, the High Commissioner said at a webinar. She called for their rights to be placed front and center in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
12-05-2020
Human rights staff in Kenya join forces with partners to support COVID-19 prevention and response
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Li Fung, Senior Human Rights Advisor to the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, and partners have joined forces to keep human rights a priority in Kenya’s COVID-19 response.
08-05-2020
SG calls on strengthening immunity against “virus of hate.”
COVID 19 does not distinguish between people yet “yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. In a powerful statement against increasing hate speech caused during the pandemic, Guterres said the virus “doesn’t care about any distinction.”
08-05-2020
UN virtual meeting gives victims chance to be heard
The testimony from a woman whose son has been missing more than five years featured at the opening of 18th session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. In the first of its kind, the Committee hosted a virtual meeting, which was broadcast online.
06-05-2020
“Seven Actions”: A guide to protect African women’s rights during COVID-19
UN Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office and the African Union has developed a joint guidance notes for States and civil society actors to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on women, and ensure that a gender lens is included in the responses to the pandemic in Africa.
05-05-2020
Marlene Urscheler, doing human rights work during the COVID-19 pandemic
Marlene Urscheler heads the Emergency Response Team at UN Human Rights’ Regional Office for West Africa based in Dakar, Senegal. She was recently designated as the Office’s focal point for COVID-19 related issues in the region.
04-05-2020
Voices from the Field: Protecting human rights in Moldova amidst COVID-19
“Our country was already suffering, and the pandemic is just worsening the situation,” says Cristina Mardari, a UN Human Rights staffer from Moldova. She shares her experience from lockdown, and how she and her colleagues are still working to protect and promote human rights in the country.
30-04-2020
Human Rights Council talks COVID-19 with independent experts
Independent experts take part in Human Rights Council “virtual conversation” echoing urgent appeals to ensure national policies on COVID-19 are deeply rooted in human rights, and spell out good practices to uphold rights.
30-04-2020
Training helps experts handle increases in gender-based violence
One side effect of emergency lockdown measures because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in reports of domestic violence. In South America, where reports have increase by 70 percent in some countries, UN Human Rights has been working with judges to better help women caught in the cycle.
29-04-2020
Young people, tell us what impact COVID-19 has on your rights
UN Human Rights joins the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for the Youth to hear from young people what effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their rights, and how their rights can be protected.
27-04-2020
We are all in this together: UNSG delivers policy brief on COVID-19 and human rights
Human rights can and must guide COVID-19 response and recovery, according to the latest brief by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. By respecting human rights, Guterres says, “we will build more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow.”
23-04-2020
"Finding Hope": High Commissioner Bachelet calls for urgent national measures – and global solidarity – on COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare some of the most glaring vulnerabilities of our societies," Bachelet wrote in a special TIME takeout. "Millions of the people at greatest risk of contagion are those whose needs are often overlooked". To uphold their rights to life and health—and prevent the pandemic from spreading — we need human rights-based action.
16-04-2020
COVID is “a colossal test of leadership” requiring coordinated action, High Commissioner tells Human Rights Council
Michelle Bachelet called for urgent and detailed action to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from creating “ even wider inequalities and extensive suffering”
09-04-2020
Human Rights Council holds “virtual conversation” with High Commissioner to address COVID-19
Participants in a Human Rights Council-sponsored “virtual conversation” with the High Commissioner for Human Rights echo calls for global solidarity and human rights based approaches in response to COVID-19
09-04-2020
Kenya’s informal settlements need safe water to survive COVID-19
Handwashing is a key measure to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, for people living in informal settlements in urban centres in Kenya, access to safe and affordable water remains a daily challenge
06-04-2020
Justice delayed but not denied: transitional justice in El Salvador
Since 2016, the UN Human Rights Office has provided technical and legal support and assistance to State institutions and officials, civil society organizations and others in El Salvador. The work is aimed at contributing to providing justice, recognition and reparations for those affected by the 12-year civil war.
02-04-2020
Act now to stop COVID-19 ‘rampaging through prisons’
Bachelet calls on governments to take urgent action to stop COVID-19 sweeping through places of detention where people are often extremely vulnerable to infection.
25-03-2020
Bachelet calls for easing of sanctions to enable fight against COVID-19
Both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions in Iran, Venezuela and other countries should be eased or suspended, the High Commissioner said.
24-03-2020
COVID-19 and its human rights dimensions
Respect for human rights is fundamental to the success of the public health response to COVID-19. Now is the time for solidarity and cooperation to tackle the virus.
24-03-2020
COVID-19 and human rights
The UN human rights system, including UN High Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, have encouraged us to keep in mind the most vulnerable individuals and groups, and to ensure they are protected during this crisis.
23-03-2020
UN expert urges action against xenophobia related to COVID-19
Governments must ensure that their response to the COVID-19 pandemic does not contribute to xenophobia and racial discrimination, said the UN Special Rapporteur on racism.
23-03-2020
#FightRacism: Interview with British football star Raheem Sterling
#FightRacism: Manchester City Football star Raheem Sterling speaks out against racism on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
21-03-2020
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination join us to #FightRacism every day, everywhere.
13-03-2020
Children provide insight and advice at CRC meeting in Samoa
In a historic outreach session, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child met with government officials, NGOs and children to discuss the state of child rights in the Pacific.
13-03-2020
Expert calls for resolution on right to healthy environment
David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, called on the Human Rights Council to pass a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment, saying it would lead to stronger State actions on environment.
11-03-2020
Coronavirus impact on human rights
Bachelet urges States to ensure human rights are front and centre in their response to COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable both medically and economically.
06-03-2020
Reflecting on 25 years of women’s rights action
Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, experts celebrate that document’s vision of women’s rights and discuss its continued relevance to address remaining and new challenges.
06-03-2020
High Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council on human rights concerns, and progress, across the world
Raising many serious concerns – including the COVID-19 epidemic – the High Commissioner emphasised that upholding human rights can strengthen the effectiveness of policies and boost societies’ resilience
27-02-2020
Stand up for human rights
Join us in promoting and defending human rights for everyone, everywhere. Stand up for human rights and take action for stronger respect, greater freedom and more compassion.
25-02-2020
#IStandwithHer: It is time to change the story
Gender stereotypes lie at the heart of discriminatory attitudes, policies and laws. They are so deeply ingrained that we often replicate them unconsciously. On International Women’s Day, join us to change discriminatory narrative and demand more equal and inclusive societies.
25-02-2020
Threats to human rights are rising – but so are solutions, High Commissioner says
Opening the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said “Today’s turbulent political landscape requires usable policy tools that are rooted in experience, with a proven track record. These tools exist.”
24-02-2020
A call to action for human rights
Calling human rights “part of the very identity of the United Nations,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined a commitment to step up action on human rights in seven key areas.
24-02-2020
#WikiForHumanRights: Promoting knowledge of human rights in a multilingual world
Launched in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, our #WikiForHumanRights campaign resulted in the improvement of 721 quality articles about human rights in 12 languages on Wikipedia.
21-02-2020
Six years after killings in Ukraine, justice remains elusive
Between January and February 2014, during Ukraine’s months-long Maidan protests, eighty-three protestors, thirteen law-enforcement officers, a journalist and one bystander were killed or died violently. Six years on, weaknesses in the justice system have prevented investigations and prosecution of perpetrators from progressing further.
20-02-2020
Multilateralism in action: cooperating with the OSCE to prevent crises and uphold human rights
“We can choose to work for peace – or we can watch as grievances fester and build up, until violence escalates into conflict,” the High Commissioner said at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. “Peace depends on us.” She emphasised the increasing effectiveness of cooperation between the Office and OSCE bodies.
20-02-2020
Justice for past crimes can build a shared future
The High Commissioner briefs the Security Council on experiences with transitional justice across the world
13-02-2020
Fighting hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media
The prevalence of hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media is driving societal divisions even deeper. A Syrian organisation promoting human rights and justice is working hard to address the issue. Yayha Fares is a Syrian refugee, in charge of the organisation’s hate speech project.
11-02-2020
LUCHA rights defender hopes her struggle can bring change in the DR Congo
Rebecca Kabuo is a member of LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement), a non-violent, non-partisan youth movement that campaigns for good governance in the DR Congo. She wants a country where people have access to clean water, healthcare and security.
07-02-2020
Impartial, independent rule of law is vital to sound societies
The rule of law makes institutions accountable for upholding human rights and the fair delivery of public services. And it empowers all individuals – including those who suffer entrenched discrimination -- to claim their rights. But the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is coming under threat in many countries.
06-02-2020
Fellow: “Colourism” is a hidden human rights challenge
“There is a correlation between skin colour and social class,” said Stephanie Sewell, a UN Human Rights 2019 African Descent Fellow. Sewell says colourism, discrimination based on skin tone, impacts the human rights of the majority of Jamaicans.
05-02-2020
Mueda Nawanat’s fight for the right to nationality
Mueda Nawanat was born without a nationality, and only became a citizen of Thailand, the country where she was born, when she was 21. Today, she is an advocate for stateless people and has helped many obtain citizenship. She is also a UN Human Rights Fellow.
31-01-2020
Toolkit aims to link faith and human rights
A new toolkit has been launched looking at the relationship between religions, beliefs and human rights. The #Faith4Rights toolkit is a collaboration of faith-based groups and UN human rights mechanisms.
29-01-2020
DR Congo: A “window of opportunity” after peaceful political transition
“The DRC is a huge country with huge problems – but also huge potential. It is poor but it could be rich, with an abundance of valuable minerals, and vast tracts of land that could – should -- be highly productive. Its people are resilient and hard-working,” says UN human rights chief.
29-01-2020
Cameroon crisis: preventing the speech that incites violence
Ahead of next month’s elections in Cameroon, UN Human Rights works with the media, civil society and national institutions to find solutions to prevent speech that incites hatred and exacerbates violence in that country.
28-01-2020
Human rights education helps protect all societies from the mindset that produced the Nazi Holocaust
75 years after the liberation of the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the end of the devastating crimes of the Holocaust, violence and discrimination continue to be directed against Jews and others.
27-01-2020
From student to human rights defender: the power of human rights education
Premalatha Tamilselvan was 12 years old when she took part in a human rights education programme in her school in a small village in southern India. Nine years later, she came to Geneva, Switzerland to advocate for similar programmes to be rolled out across more schools. 24 January marks the International Day for Education.
24-01-2020
High Commissioner Bachelet launches a 2020 funding appeal based on fundamental new challenges
Total extra-budgetary resources required for 2020 amount to US$ 375.5 million, for a programme the High Commissioner termed “unmatched in the history of this Office”
15-01-2020
A Syrian lawyer’s battle for justice and human rights
Eight years of devastating conflict in his home country, Syria, have not stopped Jalal Alhamad from fighting for justice. After fleeing his home to neighbouring Turkey, he established a human rights organisation.
14-01-2020
UN Human Rights staff member: “You can change your life to help others make a change”
Jamila Mahdi was born in a refugee camp, and was married at 13 years of age. Despite her own childhood being stripped of rights, she was determined to get an education and support her family. A high school diploma and two university degrees later, today she works for UN Human Rights in Iraq.
03-01-2020
Using the arts to stand up for human rights
“I believe that we (dancers and artists) have a role in society to defend human rights for our communities,” said a 2019 UN Human Rights Minority Fellow.
02-01-2020