How we make a difference 2009

Effective partnership for rights in Cambodia
An innovative partnership between the United Nations Human Rights Office in Cambodia and the government is making a real difference to the country’s prison system.
Women in Congo seek justice
Sexual violence is a hallmark of the conflict in Eastern Congo. Justice for most of the women has been elusive.
Human Rights Day – a global celebration
This year’s Human Rights Day theme, ‘embracing diversity, ending discrimination’ is enthusiastically embraced in many countries through a wide variety of celebratory programmes.
A legacy of trauma
The campaign of terror being waged across several central African nations by the renegade group, the Lord’s Resistance Army “may amount to crimes against humanity” according to two reports just released by Human Rights investigating teams.
High Commissioner: Human rights must guide climate change action
Human rights chief Navi Pillay urges leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to take decisive action.
Transitional justice in Burundi
National consultations in Burundi aim at healing wounds after three decades of armed conflict between the two main ethnic groups the Hutus and Tutsis
High Commissioner: Complacency is discrimination’s best friend
Ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay calls on individuals worldwide to make an extra effort to tackle discrimination starting from their own homes and workplaces.
An indigenous community in Burundi battles for equal treatment
The Batwa, a discriminated indigenous community in Burundi, want their rights recognized and are demanding equal treatment.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 370 languages
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to the Guinness Book of Records to be recognized as the most translated text in the world.
Human Rights Day, 10 December 2009
In the lead-up to Human Rights Day, 10 December Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay is marshalling global support for a campaign focused on non-discrimination
A world free of land mines
A decade on from the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty, progress has been substantial. However, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang says many challenges remain.
Modelling transitional justice
Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay identifies implementation as the real challenge in the development of transitional justice for States devastated by conflict or emerging from repressive rule.
Calls for change in Colombia
On a visit to Colombia, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang undertakes to convey to the authorities the concerns of local groups who live in fear of homicides, landmines, threats, forced displacement and stigmatization.
Child pornography flourishes in a world with no borders
A stark warning that child pornography remains a major and growing problem in the largely unregulated, borderless world of the internet.
Human rights experts have a key role in early warning
The full potential of human rights experts in early warning and conflict prevention has yet to be tapped, says High Commissioner
Two decades on - the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The international community acknowledges progress and shortcomings over the two decades since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Judicial interaction
Regional judges meeting in the Maldives are urged to interact more to find ways of fighting inequality and discrimination.
Minority Rights
Minority rights are States’ responsibility.
In Search of Justice and a Home
The United Nations human rights office in Cambodia works closely with partners to help stop forced evictions and assist victims to seek fair compensation.
End impunity and protect civilians in armed conflict, says UN human rights chief
At the UN Security Council, the UN human rights chief calls for more respect for international law and effective action to protect civilians caught in armed conflicts.
Cooperation for human rights development
The UN human rights office and Government of Brazil sign a Memorandum of Intent to further human rights protection in third countries.
History shackles Afro-Brazilians
Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay on a week-long visit to Brazil travels to a quilombo – one of the communities founded by escaped slaves where the inhabitants have taken action to achieve economic independence.
A global first: a Convention for the displaced
The African Union achieves a global first reaching agreement on a Convention to safeguard the rights of displaced persons and ensure assistance to them
Who are the victims of human trafficking?
Victims must not be treated as criminals by national immigration and law enforcement officials, says Special Rapporteur on trafficking in report to UN General Assembly.
A story of modern slavery
The latest report from the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery describes the plight of the millions of people globally who work as bonded labourers.
The state of National Human Rights Institutions – a global view
A survey finds that complaints to governments by National Human Rights Institutions are frequently not followed up.
We were trafficked. Hear our voices.
The human rights of victims must be the primary concern when combating human trafficking, UN General Assembly is told
Human Rights Diplomacy
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay lectures on diplomacy the Harvard Law School faculty.
Quality Education for Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous communities globally are missing out on quality education. A report to the Human Rights Council gives advice for the improved implementation of their right to education.
Somalia: “Another problem in another place”
The UN’s Independent Expert on Somalia says the international community must act to bring an end to the long-standing human rights and humanitarian law abuses in Somalia.
The evolution of transitional justice
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay urges States confronting the past to make full use of the human rights mechanisms and expertise available.
Migrant domestic workers
Economic instability leaves the most vulnerable in the global community more exposed than ever. The rights of domestic migrant workers are the focus of a day of discussion at the UN Committee on Migrant Workers.
The Human Rights Council in special session
Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, at a special session of the Human Rights Council urges respect for human rights as the basis for a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
UN Human Rights Chief opens new regional office in Brussels
A new regional office for human rights in Europe opens in Brussels for better engagement with European States institutions.
Seminar to strengthen EU-UN co-operation to end discrimination
Human rights experts to discuss best practices for overcoming discrimination at a seminar in Brussels in cooperation with the European Union
Rights of the Child Convention turns 20
Human Rights Chief urges practical measures to realize children’s rights to mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Business and Human Rights: a way forward
Human Rights chief Navi Pillay welcomes private and public sector delegates to a global gathering in Geneva, organised to discuss a way forward for business and human rights.
Moscow Universities offer Master’s degrees in Human Rights for the first time
The Moscow Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights negotiates an agreement for the first Master’s degree in Human Rights in Russia.
A new practical guide to human rights education
A new practical guide to human rights education, which collects 101 exemplary practices from Central Asia, Europe and North America, is now available.
OHCHR opens new offices
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay signs an agreement to establish an office in Mauritania and another to create a regional office for South America in Chile.
More must be done to protect children in armed conflict
The changing nature of conflict challenges the protection of children during armed conflict.
Human Rights Council considers two major reports on the Gaza conflict
Human Rights Council receives two reports on Gaza, one from High Commissioner Navi Pillay based primarily on an investigation of the conflict and from Justice Richard Goldstone the results of the UN Fact Finding Mission.
High Commissioner: Averting genocide is a task of the highest order
High Commissioner: Averting genocide is a task of the highest order which demands our full attention and dedicated resources.
UN human rights chief welcomes increased capacity of torture-prevention body
High Commissioner welcomes a new milestone in the fight against torture that increases the capacity of an expert committee tasked to monitor states’ compliance with the UN treaty on the prevention of torture.
New human rights complaints procedure soon available
A long-awaited international complaint procedure allowing individuals to seek justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights opens for signature and ratification.
Immigration control must not compromise human rights
Irregular migrants must be protected against arbitrary deprivation of liberty and inhumane treatment in detention.
Independent Expert: Sanitation is a matter of human rights
Lack of access to sanitation facilities such as toilets is an affront to human dignity and adversely affects a wide range of human rights, an independent expert told the Human Rights Council.
Exhibition: “Inspiring Women’s Human Rights in Prison”
Thailand champions a new women’s and children’s rights initiative.
Biking for human rights
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has a new, highly visible aid available to its human rights monitors in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
Possible war crimes in DRC, says new report
Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay calls for fundamental reforms of the security sector and judicial system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Violence against women
Progress made and lessons learned: the role of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
A shared vision
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supports the establishment of the Regional Center for Democracy, Good Governance, Human Rights and Civic Education in Zambia.
Social security as a human right
Social Forum analysed the human rights dimension of poverty and recovery from crises.
Responding to pressing human rights issues
OHCHR has deployed a team of human rights experts to monitor the human rights situation during the presidential elections in Gabon.
Witches in the 21st Century
Action is urged to combat a growing problem: thousands of people, mostly older women and children accused as witches are murdered every year.
World Humanitarian Day
The first World Humanitarian Day honours workers who have lost their lives in service of others.
Former UN Assistant Secretary-General donates reference material to OHCHR
OHCHR’s collection of reference materials on human rights has been enriched by a donation of publications dating back to the 1950s from former Assistant-Secretary General, Dr. Tamar Oppenheimer
Human rights vital in fighting AIDS
HIV is not just a virus. It is also about people who endure discrimination and a wide array of human rights violations
A week dedicated to indigenous peoples
Over 300 representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world, UN agencies and bodies, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations converged in Geneva this week for the second annual session of the Expert Mechanism of IP.
An alternative to “see you in court.”
BASESwiki is a global, interactive website designed to help people find and exchange information on non judicial alternatives to solving disputes between business and society.
Fostering indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa
A network of 155 organisations in Africa devises a plan to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples, with the assistance of OHCHR.
Prisoners’ right to education
A recent report from the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to education urges States to guarantee on-going learning opportunities for all prisoners.
Future prospects
Graduate students discuss the impact of the global economic crisis at the 2009 United Nations Graduate Study Programme.
Protecting forcibly displaced women from discrimination and violence
Justice for victims of sexual violence and discrimination a central requirement, says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Land grabbing in Cambodia
A community tells the story of its battle for access to land to grow food and the effect it has had on hundreds of families.
Emancipation of bonded labourers in Nepal
OHCHR-Nepal works to help emancipate and rehabilitate “bonded labourers” in the country.
Children and migration – protecting rights for a better future
Protecting children's rights is essential at all stages of the migration process.
Silence is Violence
A new UN report focuses on threats and attacks against women participating in public life and the widespread but under-reported problem of rape.
Voice of the victims
The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict held two rounds of public hearings to give a voice to the victims
Human Rights Chief receives Golden Plate Award
Human Rights Chief received the 2009 Golden Plate Award in recognition of her achievements in international law and human rights.
High Commissioner: Make equal rights a daily reality for all women
We strive to make equal rights a daily reality in the lives of all women, High Commissioner said in a landmark lecture on women’s rights.
The story of Barbara Shaw
Barbara Shaw, a vocal campaigner for the rights of Aboriginal Australians tells her story of discrimination and deprivation
United against torture
High Commissioner marked the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June by calling on leaders worldwide to root out torture.
The story of Nusreta Sivac
Nusreta Sivac was targeted as a Muslim and sent to a concentration camp in Omarska where she was repeatedly abused during the war in Bosnia.
Fighting against sexual violence in combat areas
High Commissioner Navi Pillay echoed concern about human rights abuses in armed conflict showed in the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined”.
Human rights key to climate change negotiations
A Human Rights Council panel emphasized the need to achieve a successful outcome that focuses on human rights at the year-end Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
UN Human Rights Chief meets Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Brazilian President Lula da Silva calls for the participation of all countries, rich and poor in finding solutions to the global economic crisis.
Born into Slavery
Mariama Oumarou, a young woman from Niger in west Africa who was born into slavery tells her story to the international community.
Human rights and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, on an official visit to Sweden, urges all European Union member States to give priority to human rights considerations in their treatment of migrants.
Inequality before the law
Fourteen years on from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the repeal of discriminatory laws is a continuing struggle.
The story of Geiler Romaña
Geiler Romaña comes to Geneva to tell the story of the millions of displaced Colombians forced away from their homes by decades of violent conflict.
Caught in the conflict
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay highlights civilian suffering in armed conflict and calls for the protection of fundamental human rights and respect for the rule of law.
The future for transitional justice
Human rights and legal experts examine progress made and future directions for transitional justice.
A Milestone for Business and Human Rights
High Commissioner for Human Rights hails a policy framework that underscores the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as “an important milestone.”
Human rights claimed in the workplace
Sarah White suffered years of abuse as a low wage African American worker in Mississippi fish factories.
Bringing a case against racial profiling
Robert Wilkins’ landmark victory in a “racial profiling” case inspired new standards and procedures for law enforcement in United States.
UN Human Rights Centre opens in the Gulf State of Qatar
A new cross-regional human rights centre opens in Doha with a mandate to strengthen and promote human rights in South-West Asia and the Arab region.
In need of urgent action
The Human Rights Council met in a special session to address the human rights consequences of the conflict in Sri Lanka.
OHCHR opens new regional human rights hub in Doha
A new human rights training and documentation centre to open in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
Standing its ground: an indigenous community in the Philippines
At the Voices side event of the Durban Review Conference, an indigenous leader from the Philippines recounts the story of discrimination against his people
The killing of a black teenager and his parents’ search for justice.
Sixteen years on from the brutal murder of her teenage son at a London bus stop, Doreen Lawrence continues to campaign against institutional racism in policing.
Prioritising Human Rights
High Commissioner Pillay calls on the international community to maintain its investment in the human rights work of the United Nations in spite of the global economic downturn.
Justice and equality for all regardless of gender or sexual orientation
High Commissioner Navi Pillay expresses her support for the goal of universal decriminalisation of homosexuality, lesbianism and diverse forms of gender identity or expression.
Victims must be at the centre of anti-trafficking action
Victims of human trafficking must be placed at the centre of any effective and credible action to address the problem.
New members elected to the Human Rights Council
Eighteen countries were elected to the Human Rights Council and will start their three-year terms on 19 June
Twenty eight years on, people living with HIV still suffer discrimination
People living with HIV still face restrictions on entry, stay and residence in many countries.
Anti-racism conference outcome document – what it actually says
The outcome document of the Durban Review Conference is designed to bring real changes for the millions of victims of racism worldwide.
A boost to protecting economic, social and cultural rights
A new international complaint procedure will allow individuals to seek justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights.
Universal Periodic Review opens fifth session
The Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, from 4 to 15 May, is to examine the human rights situations in 16 countries from different regions of the world.
One Year On - The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The international community responds positively to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A new Guide on strengthening legal protection of migrants’ rights is now available
A user-friendly Guide to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families is now available.
Anti-racism Durban Review Conference concludes with successful outcome
The anti-racism Durban Review Conference closed on 24 April in Geneva with a successful outcome
“Voices”: a call for more determination to combat racism
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay closed the week of powerful testimonies and interactions, thanking participants for sharing their experiences.
A human rights approach to global migration governance
A human rights approach to global migration governance is needed to protect the rights of all migrants and their families.
People of African Descent: Progress since Durban
Since 2001, there have been important achievements at national, regional and international levels in anti-racism efforts for Afro-descendants - but challenges remain.
UN human rights system key to implementation of anti-racism conference outcome
The United Nations human rights system plays an important role in combating racism and ensuring that the final outcome document of the anti-racism Durban Review Conference is implemented effectively.
The story of Creuza Oliveira
From domestic worker to a leader for Afro-Brazilian women, Creuza Oliveira highlights the power of unions and social movements in combating racism.
High Commissioner: Crucial role of civil society in the implementation of anti-racism conference outcome
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 22 April called on civil society to join hands in ensuring that the final outcome document of the anti-racism Durban Review Conference produces concrete results on the ground.
Ripples of change through human rights education
Silences broken, voices raised, little hands extended…fighting racism through human rights education in schools
The story of Khalid Hussain
Khalid Hussain appeals to the international community to help the Urdu speaking Bihari minority achieve equal rights in Bangladesh
Double Odds: Women overcoming Multiple Discrimination
A special side-event at the Durban Review Conference discusses discrimination not just on the basis of race but also gender.
Anti-racism Durban Review Conference adopts final outcome document
The anti-racism Durban Review Conference on 21 April adopted its final outcome document. High Commissioner for Human Rights warmly welcomed the latest development and called upon the international community to continue the fight against all forms of racis
The story of Elena Gorolová
A Roma woman’s horror at discovering she had been involuntarily sterilized and her courage in the fight for justice.
The story of the Honourable Al Shaymaa J. Kwegyir
The story of albinos in Africa is one of suffering, appalling discrimination and murder – one woman campaigns for change.
“United Against Racism”
All victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are honoured at the start of the week-long Durban Review Conference.
Anti-racism Durban Review Conference opens in Geneva
The anti-racism Durban Review Conference opens on 20 April in Geneva.
UN Human Rights Chief welcomes agreement on a document for next week’s Durban Review Conference
After long deliberation, delegates reach agreement on a draft outcome document for next week’s Durban Review Conference.
High Commissioner for Human Rights shocked by US withdrawal from Review Conference and urges States to focus on racism not politics
Pillay deeply regrets the US decision and urges other states to remain committed to combating the global issue of racism however sensitive and difficult it may be.
Promoting and protecting the right to education for minorities
The United Nations Forum on Minority Issues calls for an effective education strategy for minorities based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
New Version of Draft Outcome Document for anti-racism Durban Review Conference Released
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Wednesday welcomed the release of a revised version of the draft outcome document for the upcoming Durban Review Conference.
The work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recognised for its exceptional contribution
The International Association for Humanitarian Medicine has presented its Medal of Distinction to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Preparations for anti-racism conference move forward
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay lauded remarkable progress made in the preparations for the upcoming anti-racism Durban Review Conference.
On the road for human rights
The Government of Thailand joins the United Nations country team, and the National Human Rights Commission to sponsor the Human Rights caravan – the latest event to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Multimedia platform to promote children’s rights
Cyberdodo, a new multimedia Internet platform aimed at promoting children’s rights, was presented at the Human Rights Council.
Creative solution: a unified contract to protect domestic migrant workers in Lebanon
In Lebanon, a unified contract is now in place to protect the human rights of women migrant domestic workers with the support of the UN human rights office.
OHCHR analytical study on climate change and human rights is now available
An analytical study on the human rights impact of climate change conducted by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights is now available.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is celebrated every year on the day, in 1960 when South African police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville killing 69 people
High Commissioner visits Nepal and India
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visits Nepal and India from 18 to 24 March
Funding human rights
OHCHR continues to receive voluntary donations from member states and a greater percentage of those is being donated unearmarked.
Worldwide Collection of Universal Declaration of Human Rights Materials on display in Geneva
A selection of items from the Worldwide Collection of Universal Declaration of Human Rights Materials is on display in Geneva throughout the annual main session of the Human Rights Council in March
The Human Rights Council marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Human Rights Council marked the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child with a full-day panel discussion on children’s rights.
High Commissioner: Put people first when tackling the global food crisis
We need to put people first in order to help realize their rights and tackle the root causes of the global food crisis, High Commissioner for Human Right Navi Pillay told a Human Rights Council panel on the right to food.
High Commissioner: Adopt gender-sensitive policies when addressing the economic crisis
The world risks facing a serious setback in women’s rights unless gender-sensitive policies are adopted in the face of the current global economic crisis, warns High Commissioner for Human Right Navi Pillay.
High Commissioner’s first annual report to the Human Rights Council
The High Commissioner on 5 March presented her first annual report to the Human Rights Council and engaged in an interactive dialogue with government and civil society representatives.
Human Rights Council opens its annual main session
The Human Rights Council this week opens its 10th regular session which runs from 2 to 27 March in Geneva.
A new OHCHR handbook for civil society is now available
A new OHCHR guide for civil society actors - Working with the United Nations Human Rights Programme: A Handbook for Civil Society – is now available.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities meets for the first time
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities holds its inaugural session, from 23 to 27 February, in Geneva.
A human rights response to the global economic crisis
The Human Rights Council meets in a special session on 20 February to discuss the human rights impact of the global economic and financial crises.
A milestone for the Universal Periodic Review
The Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council has examined the human rights records of one-third of all the 192 UN member states.
Strengthening ties
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay met with African leaders during an African Union summit, from 2 to 3 February, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Progress in substantial negotiations for a major anti-racism conference in April
Government representatives embark on negotiations towards a draft outcome document for a major anti-racism conference to be held in Geneva in April.
Digital record of the UDHR
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has entered the digital era. A new web site provides access to early UN documents related to the drafting of the Declaration.
The Global Economic Crisis – a Human Rights Perspective
The UN’s Independent Expert on extreme poverty and human rights expresses concern that the global financial crisis may divert financial pledges away from the Millennium Development Goals.
High Commissioner Makes Concrete Proposals to Combat Racism
Ahead of major anti-racism conference, High Commissioner urges unity and combined efforts, proposes technical solutions to combat racism.
Concerted efforts to prevent genocide
World experts meet to discuss the prevention of genocide at a 21 January seminar organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Right to food in Timor-Leste
In Timor-Leste, hunger is a daily reality for many people. OHCHR works in monitoring and advocating their right to adequate food.
Violence must stop
The Human Rights Council 12 January concluded its special session which addressed the critical human rights situation in the Gaza Strip.
Shake Your Rights
Seven student designers have been awarded prizes in an international art competition, held to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A new web concept for human rights
An interactive online site addressed to young people was developed by the OHCHR Office in Guatemala to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR.
UDHR Posters
Posters illustrating the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exhibited in Mexico to mark the 60th anniversary of the Declaration.