How we make a difference 2021
NGO assists those caught up labour exploitation and human trafficking
The NGO FairWork supports support victims and potential victims of exploitation in their own languages, with legal support, referral shelter and other essential aid. Their work is made possible through a grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
World’s Best Mayor: “Poverty makes the realization of human rights impossible”
Philippe Rio is the mayor of Grigny, one of the poorest towns in France. In 2021, he won the prize of the World’s Best Mayor, in recognition of his work to fight inequalities and advance the human rights of his constituents. “It is a reward for the community and a huge kick to fatalism” Rio said, praising his constituents for their solidarity efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human Rights Day: All human, all equal
On Human Rights Day this year, we’re calling for a new social contract with equality at its core. By addressing deep-seated discrimination with human rights, we can move towards a fairer and more inclusive world – because we’re all human, and we’re all equal.
High Commissioner hails the courage of young activists
Youth advocacy and activism have huge potential as a force for good and transformative change, the High Commissioner said. It is crucial to advance sustainable climate action and all human rights. States must take action to prevent and sanction the attacks, intimidation and harassment that many young activists face.
“Existing mental health systems often continue to fail those seeking support,” the High Commissioner
“Existing mental health systems often continue to fail those seeking support,” the High Commissioner raised in a panel on mental health and human rights held by the Human Rights Council. She called for a human-rights based care system that “promotes trust, enables recovery and provides both users and professionals with a framework in which their dignity and rights are valued and respected.”
Protecting indigenous peoples’ rights is a “collective fight”
“There are multiple layers of violence that indigenous people are subjected to,” says Nina Gualinga, an environment and indigenous peoples’ rights defender. “For me, it is important to hold companies and governments accountable.” Gualinga was speaking ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
Tigray conflict: Report details violations and abuses
Joint investigation finds reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations and abuses - some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity
Expert: Climate crisis threatens to undo decades of development
“In face of the climate crisis, governments must design and implement ambitious and comprehensive policies and measures that pave the way for real transformative ecological transition,” said Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development. He made this statement presenting his report to the Human Rights Council.
HC says States should realise the right to social security
"Social security is a fundamental human right – indispensable for the exercise of many other rights, and necessary for a life in dignity," the High Commissioner said, recommending that states set up comprehensive social protection systems, to support more sustainable, resilient societies
Victims of sexual torture seek justice in Uruguay
In Uruguay, a group of 28 women have come forward to hold more than 100 people accountable of torture and sexual assault committed by the military regime that ruled the country from 1973 to 1985.
Crucial need for indigenous peoples’ participation for COVID-19 recovery
“Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on indigenous peoples, their participation is more critical than ever.” Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, was speaking during a panel session on indigenous peoples and COVID-19 at the Human Rights Council.
UN Fund and NGOs: fighting contemporary forms of slavery for 30 years
For the past 30 years, the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery has financially supported 400 projects in 104 countries that aim to support survivors in their healing journey, restore their dignity and create sustainable opportunities for their future.
Countering COVID-19 misinformation in indigenous communities in Brazil
Ro’otsitsina Juruna, an indigenous woman from the Xavante people, has been helping her community in western Brazil to receive reliable information and access to COVID-19 vaccines, despite the misinformation spreading all over the country. “Immunization saves lives. Not just one person in a family, the entire family,” Ro’otsitsina said.
Accountability for gross violations is an obligation - UN expert
“Accountability and appropriate sanctions for perpetrators are essential conditions for a peaceful and sustainable transition,” says Fabián Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Eliminate ageism and age discrimination, says UN expert
A new report lays out why legal and policy action is needed internationally and nationally to stop widespread ageism and discrimination based on older age. The first of October marks the International Day for Older Persons.
Gender digital divide reflexion of “overall discrimination faced by women and girls”
The High Commissioner addressed the Human Rights Council on the gender digital divide in times of COVID-19. She noted how the pandemic exposed and exacerbated many existing realities based on exclusion. “When the pandemic lead to digital technology being the only lifeline to essential services, health-care information, livelihoods or to exercising rights, the digital exclusion became dramatic.” She stressed how we cannot let technology widen gender inequalities.
Pioneering document on fighting racism, discrimination and intolerances turns 20
As the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) turns 20, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet urged States to work harder to eliminate racial discrimination and intolerance. "It is vital that we rise above past controversies and come together to combat racism and related discrimination in the world today."
Report: More than 300,000 confirmed killed in decade of Syrian conflict
A report compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed that 350,209 individuals have been killed during the conflict in Syria between 2011-2021. "Behind each recorded death was a human being," said Michelle Bachelet. "We must always make victims' stories visible...because injustice and horror of each of these deaths should compel us to action."
Protecting the voices of young human rights defenders
Young people who choose to challenge the status quo continue to face a wide array of threats, abuse and barriers in their activism. The first-ever global report on threats young people face in civic space is calling for greater protection for them.
HC calls for reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent
The High Commissioner called on States to address the lasting consequences of colonialism and slavery through reparations. "Millions of people continue to bear the burden of the past and contemporary forms of racism and exclusion including historical denial of their humanity," she said in a statement during an event to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Fighting for LGBTQI+ rights in Honduras
After seeing so many friends die for being associated with the LGBTQI+ community in Honduras, Daniel Chirinos committed to defending LGBTQI+ rights as Chidanna, a transgender activist and drag queen.
Inspiring change through photography
In Honduras, Dany Barrientos Ramirez gives a voice to migrants and the LGBTQI+ community through his work as a documentary photographer and activist.
International Day for People of African Descent celebrated for the first time
“On this first International Day for People of African Descent, we celebrate their extraordinary cultural richness and diversity and pay tribute to the enormous contribution they have made to the development of our societies throughout history,” the High Commissioner said to an event in Costa Rica. “Today, and every day of our lives,” the High Commissioner stressed, “we must stand against racism.”
Afghanistan: Call for support and safety
We urge the international community to extend all possible support to those who may be at imminent risk in Afghanistan, and call on the Taliban to demonstrate through their actions that the fears for the safety of so many people are addressed.
Igniting change in the lives of young people
Nafesha Richardson, a youth rights defender from St Vincent and the Grenadines, aims to inspire young people to create change in their communities.
12 August marks International Youth Day.
Student study shows human rights education helps conflict prevention
“It is important for the UN to work with students in the field of human rights education and training, because young generations have the ability to shape the future and will contribute extensively to creating a world without conflict,” said Irina Preotescu, a Columbia University student who conducted a research project on the role of human rights education in preventing conflict.
Fighting for indigenous rights in Guatemala
Alba Verónica Yacabalquiej is a young indigenous rights defender from Guatemala, fighting for the voices of indigenous youth and women to be heard in decision-making.
9 August marks the International Day of Indigenous Peoples.
Young people are at the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination
"There can be no meaningful social change without the participation and drive of youth," said E. Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on racism. “Profound change requires fearlessness and energy and a willingness to challenge the status quo.” Achiume made her comment during a panel discussion commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
“We need to stop denying racism and start dismantling it”
To mark and reflect on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent, UN Human Rights, United Nations Department of Global Communications and United Nations Population Fund organized a virtual event, Voices from the Decade: See Us, Hear Us, Count Us In, featuring a collection of artists, musicians, young voices and experts.
Social protection must be strengthened before the next crisis
In his latest report, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, said the millions of people thrown into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic should be a warning sign. He pushed for the creation of a Global Fund for Social Protection to improve long-term social protection measures and the universalization of social protection floors for low-income countries.
We must prioritize a gender-responsive recovery from COVID-19
“We must shift the recovery efforts now to stop setbacks in gender equality and to build more inclusive, just and prosperous societies,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a panel on gender-equal socioeconomic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic at the Human Rights Council.
The transformative power of sport can unite us all
“The Olympic ideal is anchored in human rights: it embodies fairness, non-discrimination, respect and equal opportunities for all,” said Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at a high-level panel discussion on promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal during the Human Rights Council.
Anti-racism activists should be supported and protected- racial justice report
The groundswell of support across the world after the death of George Floyd in May 2020, and the continued activism of people of African descent, their communities, and others in standing up against racism across the world should be supported, says UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, adding that their voices must be heard and protected.
“A victim of torture is one too many,” says UN expert
Since 1981, the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture has helped an average of 50,000 victims of torture every year in countries in every region of the world. A special webinar was organized to mark the 40th anniversary of the Fund and the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, by the four UN mandates working against torture, in partnership with UN Human Rights and the American University, Washington College of Law, Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law.
Pushbacks of migrants on land and at sea must end, says UN expert
In his latest report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Felipe González Morales said that States must put an end to pushback practices and ensure that current COVID-19 travel restrictions do not deny effective access to asylum and protection under international law.
The case for global vaccination is unquestionable – Bachelet
Recovering from COVID-19, we a have a once in a lifetime opportunity to “depart from models that have generated inequalities and fragility, and steer our world towards a more inclusive future,” the High Commissioner said. “And we should open this door with vaccine multilateralism.”
"Your skin colour should never be seen as a weapon"
After hearing the testimonies of the families of those who died during or after an encounter with law enforcement, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet calls on States to"reimagine policing, and reform the criminal justice system, which have consistently produced discriminatory outcomes for people of African descent."
“Female genital mutilation can be stopped,” says HC
“The silence must be broken — all voices must be heard, all realities known. We must act united against this dreadful practice,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during a high-level panel on female genital mutilation at the Human Rights Council.
Seminal UN report offers an agenda to dismantle systemic racism
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet’s newly released Agenda towards transformative change for racial justice and equality highlights a way forward towards reversing cultures of denial, dismantling systemic racism and accelerating the pace for action.
Strategic litigation can be a force for gender justice
A new network of attorneys, activists and academics across Latin America, have come together to share expertise and good practices, and advocate for ways to use the courts to best provide justice and reparations for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Bachelet calls for leaders to "come to grips with root causes"
At a high-level discussion of humanitarian issues at the UN Economic and Social Council, the High Commissioner outlined work underway in Yemen, Myanmar and the Tigray province of Ethiopia, and urged a strong focus on human rights-based action for prevention
"Home is the people around you."
Meet Nhial Deng – refugee, peace-builder and human rights advocate. On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Nhial is calling for a rethink on how we talk about refugees and migrants.
“There’s more that unites us than divides us”
As the media becomes increasingly saturated with negative images of migration, Zino Akaka and other young migrants are working with journalists to spark narrative change, and improve media coverage on migrants’ experiences.
An authoritative global framework on business and human rights turns 10
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have led to game-changing progress on how to do business with respect for human rights. The Guiding Principles, which were published ten years ago, were unprecedented in their wide endorsement and effect. “This has become a globally accepted framework that everyone can rally behind,” said Lene Wendland, Chief of the UN Human Rights Office’s Business and Human Rights Unit.
Recovering better with human rights and solidarity
“Foundations can play a key role in the worldwide effort to recover better” from the pandemic, the High Commissioner stressed in her keynote statement to the 20th SwissFoundations Symposium, considered the largest philanthropy event in Switzerland. She emphasized the need to scale up cross-sector alliances, including those between the UN and the philanthropic community.
HC: Root causes must be addressed in violence escalation in Gaza
“Appalling events in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territory have once again called this Council into Special Session,” the High Commissioner said, noting the “most significant escalation in hostilities” since 2014. “While I welcome the ceasefire of 21 May, it is clear that unless the root causes of this violence are addressed, it will sadly be a matter of time until the next round of violence commences, with further pain and suffering for civilians on all sides,” she stressed.
Report: A call to safeguard migrants in central Mediterranean Sea
“I feel as if I have gone from hell to uncertainty. I thought my journey would come to an end and I would find a safe place in Europe,” said Daraja, a Nigerian migrant. A new report by UN Human Rights delivers first-hand accounts of migrants facing the perilous journey through Libya to Europe. It also calls for an urgent reform of search and rescue policies and practices and more robust protection of migrants at sea.
“Our work is fundamental"
For Marvin Del Cid and Sonny Figueroa being a journalist in Guatemala has been an exercise in creativity, strength and persistence. The two, who are part of Article 35 – an association dedicated to protecting journalists, have been subjected to harassment both on and off line including slander, unlawful detention and death threats. “The information we public becomes a public good,” said Del Cid. “Our work is fundamental.”
Advancing justice and rights for children in crisis and conflict
For many children globally, conflicts and crises are all they have ever known, the High Commissioner said at the launch of a report on children in conflict. The report by Save the Children and the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University show where protection and accountability gaps lie and “which steps we can take toward justice for children,” she said.
Bachelet calls for equality in the access to vaccines and health services
At the WHO Global Forum, the High Commissioner discussed how research can contribute to a healthier world for vulnerable populations, in the context of COVID-19. She focused on two areas: equality of access to health services, goods and facilities, including vaccines; and the need for disaggregated data to tailor appropriate and specific policies, during the pandemic and beyond
Experts: Urgent Action can help save lives
“The three days that my enforced disappearance lasted were eternal for me and my family,” Reyna Patricia Ambros Zapatero, a survivor of a kidnapping told the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. “Unfortunately...[around the world] there are thousands of disappeared people who have not been as lucky as me. I admire the constant struggle of their families and friends who search for them every day.”
Young people need their sexual and reproductive health and rights
Poppy Stanbury, Advocacy Coordinator at CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, says that young people should be empowered to participate meaningfully in the decision-making processes that affect all aspects of their lives, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“We won’t give up or stop reporting until we have a real democracy”
“They’re doing everything they can to stop information flowing to the Myanmar people and the rest of the world,” says Thar Lun Zaung Htet, a journalist who has fled his country in fear for his life. On World Press Freedom Day, Thar Lun, and thousands of other journalists around the globe, continue to face grave danger.
"The silencing of a journalist is a loss to society as a whole."
Attacks on journalists "impoverish public debate and hamper our ability to respond effectively to societal challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic," High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day. In order to "fully celebrate the bravery of journalists in their determination to keep the public informed, we must demand that their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled."
Mongolia: New law to protect human rights defenders
Mongolia has recently adopted a new law for human rights defenders, the first of its kind in Asia. Paving the way for other countries in the region, the milestone law aims to protect and encourage their critical voices and actions.
COVID-19 and longstanding gender and racial discrimination in the Americas
“Exclusionary policies, rather than inclusive ones, have been tolerated in the region for generations,” the High Commissioner told Oxford University students during a lecture on discrimination in the Americas. Focusing on gender and racial discrimination, she stressed that the brunt of both the health and the socio-economic crises brought by COVID-19 “is being borne by those who have not reaped the development benefits experienced by many countries in the region.”
Fact sheet unpacks and links human rights and climate change
A new fact sheet sets out how the harms caused by climate change translate to human rights violations. Frequently asked questions on human rights and climate change also provides guidance for States on how to address the climate crisis while respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights.
Experts: Drug policy needs a human rights-based approach
A new report advocates a more people-centred approach when creating drug policy. The report, Drug Decriminalisation: Progress or Political Red Herring, was the focus of a recent event organized at the margin of the last session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
The Dalit: Born into a life of discrimination and stigma
For centuries, the Dalit minority in South Asia have faced discrimination, marginalisation, stigma and violence. Beena Pallical is the General Secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in India. She dedicates her life’s work to fighting for Dalit rights.
High Commissioner: "Social Protection is a fundamental human right"
"Taking immediate steps to build a better, more comprehensive social protection system is crucial to providing immediate, life-changing assistance," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. She made her statement as part of Hernan Santa Cruz Dialogue on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, taking place in Ukraine.
Guidance establishes children’s rights carry into digital world
The Child Rights Committee published new legal guidance on how governments should protect children’s rights in the digital environment. General Comment 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment says States have a clear responsibility to provide oversight on how children fare in the digital world.
"Systemic racism needs a systemic response", says Bachelet on meeting about police violence
The High Commissioner updated the Council on her report on systemic racism by law enforcement agencies, which was mandated after the killing of George Floyd. "Despite the heightened visibility around this issue, incidents of police brutality and racial discrimination against people of African descent continue to occur. It is imperative to end police violence," she said.
Peace One Day Anti-Racism Live Digital Experience
Tune in on 21 March, International Day for the Elimination of Racial discrimination, for the Anti-Racism Live Global Digital Experience from 1.35 p.m. to 10.02 p.m. GMT, presented by our partner Peace One Day.
Youth are standing up against racism
On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) we celebrate the young human rights defenders who, through their global engagement for equality and inclusion, build solidarity, lead change and stand up against racism.
The water crisis has a “major impact on human rights” expert says
In his latest report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David R. Boyd, describes safe and sufficient water as one of the substantive components of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
International Women's Day: "It's about time we changed course."
In her address to the Human Rights Council on the occasion of International Women's Day, the High Commissioner said that "the responsibility of our lifetimes is upon us: to create more equitable, inclusive, just, and sustainable post-pandemic societies."
International Women’s Day: Women leaders driving change in a post-COVID-19 world
For more than a year now, women leaders across all ages and walks of life have been instrumental in the response to COVID-19. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating their achievements, their inspiring battles for the human rights of women and girls, and sharing their demands for a better post COVID-19 world. Join us.
We must “revitalise our forces for racial equality and justice,” says COVID-19 panel
While commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, panellists at the Human Rights Council urge Governments and the UN to step up efforts to address the structural racism and racial discrimination revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionally affect racial and ethnic minorities.
Bachelet updates Human Rights Council on recent human rights issues in more than 50 countries
Focusing on the urgent need to expand people's participation in decisions-making, the High Commissioner deplored that “in every region of the world, people are being left behind – or pushed even further behind – as the coronavirus pandemic gathers pace". "This makes us all weaker," she observed, calling for Council members to "speak out against measures that silence civil society”
Keeping women and girls in Kenya safe during COVID-19
Beatrice Karore, a community mobiliser who helps survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya, says that violence against women has increased during COVID-19 and uncovered unprecedented mental health needs.
Tackling COVID-19 in Nigeria from a safety education angle
The safety education tools that Ugochi Obidiegwu, Managing partner at The Safety Chic, develops for children and adults have been helping teachers and pupils in Nigeria resume school with minimised danger during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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