How we make a difference 2020
Building better policies will break the cycles of poverty and inequality
Poverty, inequalities and ways to break their cycles were the focus of the recent Human Rights Council Social Forum. The Forum brought together a wide range of people from academic experts to civil society activists and from government officials to people with experience of living in poverty and with inequalities.
Ukraine: Leaving no-one behind in the battle against COVID-19
“One of our guiding principles – to leave no-one behind – is the cornerstone of our work in Ukraine. This has not changed with the COVID-19 crisis,” says Krassimir Yankov, Head of the Kharkiv field office for the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in the country.
Expert: COVID-19 exposure is exposure to hazardous substances
“Everyone has a right to be protected from exposure to hazardous substances and environmental pollution. Exposure to COVID-19 is no exception,” said Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes.
Experts: Indigenous human rights activists should be protected not criminalised
Indigenous human rights defenders are more likely to be killed, displaced or harassed as they defend their way of life from encroachment by businesses, paramilitary groups and others. At a Human Rights Council panel discussion, activists and experts called on States to be more proactive in helping to keep these activists alive.
Reprisals for cooperating with UN continue unabated
Reprisals against people who cooperate with the United Nations are continuing unabated, with alleged cases in 45 countries, Assistant Secretary-General Ilze Brands Kehris tells the Human Rights Council.
Intensifying cycles of violence in Belarus call for reforms and dialogue
In an urgent debate on Belarus, the Deputy High Commissioner called for the fundamental rights of all Belarusians to prevail over political interests and geopolitical calculations. “Instability and conflict are destructive and expensive,” she pointed out. “Repression – which drives grievances underground, to fester – fuels both.”
Myanmar report details ongoing human rights violations
A report presented by the High Commissioner at the current session of the Human Rights Council highlights the increasing effects of the armed conflict in Myanmar on the Rakhine, Chin, Mro, Daignet and Rohingya communities. Ahead of the general elections in November, the High Commissioner encouraged the Government to “remove the barriers that impede democratic freedoms.”
Court ruling called a milestone in environmental justice
A court in Kenya has awarded the Owino Uhuru settlement the equivalent of USD$13 million in compensation for damage to the environment and health of their community blighted by lead poisoning. The court held that the Government and two corporations were responsible for lead contamination caused by smelting plant.
COVID-19 - a critical threat to indigenous peoples
In a message to mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, Bachelet highlights their vulnerability to COVID-19, with many already facing environmental damage and economic depredation.
A global crisis shows value of working together
“This is a global crisis. We need global actors to also face it internationally,” said Kely Brunner, a human rights officer for UN Human Rights in Honduras. Kely works on issues affecting human rights defenders and journalists and promotion of civic participation.
Sexual violence victims in Ituri’s conflict find a place for healing and justice
Solidarité feminine pour la paix et le développement intégral (SOFEPADI), an NGO founded by women in the north east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, helps women, children and men victims of conflict related sexual violence heal their physical and psychological wounds, and fights impunity for crimes in Ituri.
Digital rights are key to help cities build back better after COVID-19
In an editorial on digital rights, UN High Commissioner Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet -- along with the heads of UN-Habitat, Eurocities and United Cities and Local Government -- called on cities and local authorities to keep human rights central as they harness the potential of technology to shape their future after the pandemic
Report: Women detainees face serious human rights violations
“There were beatings. There were people who were out for interrogations and had bruises when they returned. They were crying.” This woman’s account of a pre-trial detention centre in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was one of over a hundred in a new report highlighting extensive human rights violations in the country’s detentions centres.
Expert: COVID-19 has caused an “education crisis”
“The past failure to build strong and resilient education systems has opened the door to a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable and marginalised,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
Supporting the human rights of migrants in quarantine camps
The UN Human Rights in Bolivia provided support and assistance to Bolivians in an impromptu quarantine camp along the border with Chile. It was one of its joint activities with other United Nation agencies to help protect migrants.
Realising children’s rights through a healthy environment
“The survival, health, well-being and development of children depends on an environment that is safe, clean, healthy and sustainable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. She was speaking at the Human Rights Council, during the annual full day meeting of the rights of the child.
Security Council debates peace operations and human rights
“Human rights are central to the Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security”, the High Commissioner told the Security Council during an open debate on peace operation and human rights. She stressed that currently 12 UN peace operations have human rights components that powerfully contribute to better protection; bring missions closer to the people they serve, and foster the capacities of governments to advance inclusive development, rule of law, and peace.
Brazil: Fighting the double epidemic of racism and COVID-19
“As the black population in Brazil, we still have to face police brutality, we still have to face inequality in many different ways. And now, hunger and poverty and COVID-19.” Dalila Negreiros is a Brazilian human rights defender calling on her government to do more.
“Only together can we address the negative impacts of pandemics”
“The pandemic has also drawn out human values from deep within and shown that the world survives best when we in togetherness put the survival of the group above the survival of the self,” says, Denis Fuh Chenwi, Human Rights Office in South Sudan.
Working together to better protect South Sudan’s vulnerable during COVID-19
“Our individual resources and capabilities are limited but, when pulled together, our comparative advantages will facilitate greater results for the vulnerable groups we support,” says Anthony Nwapa, team leader at the UN Mission in South Sudan Human Rights Division in Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan, of working with partners in South Sudan to promote human rights during COVID-19.
HC tells business leaders: build back better by focusing on the vulnerable
“Business needs to look beyond the generic categories of “stakeholders” – employees, suppliers, customers, communities – to give due consideration to those who are most vulnerable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said. She made her statement during a virtual gathering of more than 20,000 business, and sustainability leaders from across the globe.
High Commissioner calls for strong action to combat racial discrimination in law enforcement and across society
"We need schools and universities that are free of bias; economies that give truly equal opportunities and fair treatment to all; political institutions that are more responsive and inclusive; justice systems which are truly just," the High Commissioner told the Human Rights Council, in an urgent debate. "Pervasive racism corrodes institutions of government, entrenches inequality and underlies so many violations of human rights. The cycles of impunity which have permitted this to happen must end."
Speakers urge definitive action to combat systemic racism
“I am asking you to help us – Black people in America,” said Philonise Floyd to the Human Rights Council. The death of his brother George in the USA in May led to global protests against racism and police brutality. It also led to an urgent debate on systemic racism during the Council’s 43rd session.
“Artistic expressions for human rights”
A documentary series showcasing various faith leaders across the globe gets broadcasted this month. The series Believe to See has collaborated with the “Faith for Rights” initiative of UN Human Rights.
Months in fear, anxiety and confusion: the life of people with disabilities in COVID-19
“Like many in the disability community, I felt under siege. I didn’t feel in control of my situation,” said Rosemary Kayess, the Vice Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Kayess has not left her house in Sydney, Australia for more than three months. She realized that it was crucial to stay home but she didn’t expect to feel so helpless.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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