How we make a difference 2018
What does it mean to win the UN Human Rights Prize?
The UN Human Rights Prize winners for 2018 agree that winning the prize is a proud moment for them, their organizations, their communities and their countries. More importantly, it is a rare recognition of the work of the millions of human rights defenders around the world who make great sacrifices in pursuit of equality, justice and dignity for all.
Learning how to better defend his community
"I am going to share (what I have learned)…with my community, so they can know how to defend themselves, but also know their rights," said Edwin Álvarez, Vice President of the Organization of Ethnic and Community Development in Honduras. Álvarez was recently in Geneva to receive training in human rights and advocacy as one of the 2018 African Descent Fellows.
Parliamentarians promote fairer societies
Jamila Ksiksi is the first Black woman MP in Tunisian and amongst the first parliamentarians to champion ground-breaking anti-racial discrimination law in her country Tunisia.
The leaders they are looking for
Over 400 pupils and students in Geneva, the human rights capital, commemorate the 70th years of the rights declaration and shine a light on their role as the current and next generation of human rights defenders.
Human rights defenders call for urgent action to "save our homes."
While the effects of climate change are dramatically felt by the small island nations in the Pacific, for women living there, the challenges are even greater. Women’s human rights defenders call for more women to be included in all levels of decision making and negotiations surrounding climate change.
The double-edged sword of new technology for human rights defenders
For human rights defenders, the fast pace of technology developed both into a tool to promote rights and a weapon to try and silence them. During a recent discussion on technology and human rights, activists, experts, politicians discussed technology’s opportunities and challenges for defenders.
Bachelet celebrates Human Rights Day
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary and many achievements of this trailblazing document, High Commissioner Bachelet calls on "each of us to do our part to breathe life into the beautiful dream of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Doing right by women and girls
Tikhala Itaye, a young human rights defender from Malawi, wishes initiatives to promote the rights of women and girls would reach communities at the grassroots. “If they don’t know their rights, we are not doing something right,” she says.
Shine a light on icons of human rights past and present
As the world celebrates what would have been the 100th birthdays of human rights icons South Africans Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, a new generation of human rights activists shine a light on issues still facing the country.
Fight slavery with truth
Leonardo Sakamoto is a Brazilian journalist and member of the Board of Trustees for the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, who has spent the last 20 years fighting slavery and labour exploitation. He says it was his journalism that led him to become a human rights anti-slavery activist.
Attacks on UN civil society allies raise alarm
Twenty years ago, countries adopted the UN declaration to protect human rights defenders. But individuals and civil society actors around the world face increasing attacks and reprisals mainly from governments, even in the corridors of the UN, for their human rights work and for cooperating with the organization.
Digital age: Is our privacy under threat?
States have a responsibility to protect against unlawful interference with the right to privacy. More transparency in how States and the private sector manage personal digital data is key to protecting our human rights.
“If we don’t take action now, we might lose our future”
“It is important to fight for climate justice because if we don’t take action now, we might lose our existence and might not have a place to live in the future,” said Sabina Moce, a 17-year old human rights defender and climate justice advocate from Fiji.
Human rights to live in harmony
The UN Human Rights office kicks off in Manchester “a month of activation,” with other events taking place across the world, leading up to the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the iconic Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.
Challenge of climate change is transformative
"We do not perpetuate the existing inequalities when dealing with climate change," said Nazhat Shameem Khan, Ambassador for Fiji to Switzerland and Human Rights Day Icon for Fiji. "Climate change is a new challenge for us, but it is not business as usual. In my view, gender responsiveness is a silver lining in the cloud of climate change."
Harassment, detention, death: journalists still in peril
More than 1,000 journalists have been killed globally for doing their jobs – reporting and informing the public, with only 10 percent of their cases seeing justice. A recent UN Human Rights Office report and Human Rights Council resolution call for States to take more concrete actions to protect journalists.
Universality, cultural diversity and cultural rights
The universality of human rights must be protected from those seeking to use culture as a weapon against others, and cultural rights and cultural diversity defended in accordance with international standards when those principles come under attack says UN expert, Karima Bennoune.
Music to overcome bullying
Robdarius Brown, stage name Roben X, was bullied as a child because of his albinism. Today, he wishes to raise awareness of his condition and fight against bullying. "The change starts with you," he says.
South Sudan: Call to free hundreds of abducted civilians
UN report details surge in violence between April and August in South Sudan where hundreds of civilians were abducted, raped, forced into sexual slavery and forcibly recruited. Accountability for these crimes is essential.
Death row ‘reserved for the poor’
For those executed despite never having committed a crime, the death penalty is the ultimate injustice. What compounds it is that only poor people – denied access to legal safeguards that could have mitigated the punishment – are ever sentenced to death.
“The only option to survive is to be brave”
Pakistani athlete and human rights defender Noorena Shams is a triple-threat athlete (cycling, squash, cricket) and an outspoken advocate for rights and an active example of how sport can “make you bold.”
Human Rights Council Retreat
This week, government representatives, members of civil society and human rights experts took stock of progress made by the Council while expressing their views on its future work.
“Sports and human rights give me hope”
“Sport has given me hope because being an athlete gives you courage,” said Rose Lokonyen. Lokonyen was part of the team of refugees who took part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. She was speaking at the recent Social Forum on Sports, the Olympic ideal and human rights.
An entire life sentenced to death
On World Day against the Death Penalty, 10 October, we look at the gender-based biases and the intersectional discrimination that lead women to death row.
Nobel Peace Prize: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege
UN human rights chief salutes Nobel Peace Prize winners Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. “This is richly deserved recognition of these two extraordinarily brave, persistent and effective campaigners against the scourge of sexual violence, and the use of rape as a weapon of war.”
Gender integration in human rights investigations
“Investigations that overlook the ways in which gender, other identities and the associated social norms serve to aggravate, falsely normalize, hide and even excuse human rights impacts cannot be accepted. Gender identity and status matter,” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore.
Displaced and afraid in Idlib, Syria
Warring parties in Idlib have given little consideration for civilian lives and have caused massive displacements. UN experts propose recommendations to address the situation of the displaced.
Improve integration of child soldiers
“We are concerned about the punitive approach taken by some States toward children associated with armed groups, including mercenaries, and insist that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration,” said Saeed Mokbil, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries during the Human Rights Council.
Syria: justice must be delivered
Impunity and denial of the truth, like dry gunpowder, can ignite the flames of conflict at any time. High Commissioner Bachelet calls for justice for Syria, citing Latin America's successful examples.
Telling good human rights stories
Sometimes we lose sight of the good human rights stories - stories that produce a ripple effect, even a surge, forging new mind-sets across society.
Empowering women unlocks economic potential
Gender inequality is damaging to society as a whole. High Commissioner Bachelet at the UN in New York urges us to confront obstacles to women’s economic empowerment and unleash their potential.
Poverty makes people especially vulnerable to injustice
"There is no more heart-rending example of the failure of the rule of law than when inequity in the justice system is compounded by poverty to expose people to the ultimate injustice of the death penalty," Michelle Bachelet tells high-level officials in New York.
Reprisals: Targeting Human Rights Defenders
"The horrendous impact on the victim and their families aside, reprisals against people for cooperating with the UN sends a chilling message to others of what will happen if they do the same thing. As they are designed to do," said Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour.
Genocide: "Never again" has become "time and again"
“Nothing can prevent hate crimes such as genocide, more than the existence of societies where human rights are fully enjoyed” said Fabian Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.
The unspoken servitude of women domestic workers
The integration of women in the global labour market and ageing societies have created a gap in households filled by migrant domestic workers whose rights can be gravely violated, says Urmila Bhoola, UN expert on contemporary forms of slavery.
Michelle Bachelet becomes new UN Human Rights Chief
On 1 September 2018, Michelle Bachelet assumed her functions as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Human Rights Office was established in 1993 and Ms. Bachelet is the seventh High Commissioner.
Myanmar Fact Finding Mission: accounting for the gravest international crimes
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar found patterns of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States, amounting to the gravest crimes under international law. The report calls for Myanmar military generals to be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kofi Annan: the epitome of human decency and grace
The United Nations Human Rights Office is deeply saddened by the passing of Kofi Annan. He will always be remembered for his leadership as a courageous, dynamic and charismatic Secretary-General.
"A piece of me died that day"
"No matter how many years go by, there is always that one moment, like a secret drawer where the pain is still intact," said Laura Dolci. Her husband, Jean-Sélim Kanaan, was among the 22 UN staff who were killed during the 2003 UN compound bombing in Baghdad.
Migration nightmare for an indigenous woman in Mexico
The UN Human Rights offices in Guatemala and Mexico advocate for the rights of an indigenous migrant who faces prolonged detention in a State prison in Mexico, after she was kidnapped by smugglers near the country’s border with the US.
Michelle Bachelet appointed to lead UN Human Rights Office
UN Human Rights staff look forward to welcoming Michelle Bachelet and working under her leadership for the promotion and protection of all human rights, for everyone, everywhere. She will succeed Zeid when his mandate ends on 31 August.
A reflection on past war crimes and today’s crimes against humanity
Zeid and Nuremberg prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz, reflect on progress achieved in protecting human rights since the end of World War II. “We are all inhabitants of a single planet … I regret that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being violated … more than it is being accepted,”Ferencz says.
"Nothing they can do will stop me."
Investigative journalist and human rights defender Rana Ayyub was the subject of an intense online hate campaign because of her outspoken views and stories on the majority Hindu government. She spoke with the UN Human Rights Office about combatting hate speech online.
SIDs Trust Fund honours Tonga
Tonga delegate Elsie Fukofuka has become the 100th beneficiary of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund. The Fund provides support for delegates from least developed countries and small island nations to attend the Human Rights Council.
Team Human: Making the New Case for the UDHR
"We are now making a defence for universal rights, (something) which we thought was a discussion that was already won," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. "I would submit we must make the case for a world where we combine our efforts. We have to be team human and not team us."
Zeid disturbed and concerned by current human rights situation in OPT
“Only an end to occupation can bring about lasting peace an establish the conditions in which the human rights of all can be fully respected and each side respects the humanity and equality of each other,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
UN Expert: Content moderation should not trample free speech
Both States and companies have a duty to ensure that moderation of content online does not infringe on free expression, said David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. The best way to do this, is to use human rights as the basis for any rules.
Bridging the digital gender divide
The potential of technology to help women and girls exercise their human rights has yet to be realised because of a persistent and growing digital gender divide. But experts say this divide can be bridged through concentrated efforts to educate, ensure access, and improve the skills of women and girls.
An unresolved uprooted life
Internally displaced persons in Japan and Mexico look to their Governments to recognize their displacement.
Digital misogyny is personal and fixable
For women and girls, the internet can be an empowering space. It can also be dangerous, as online abuse escalates. But a group of experts and activists say the abuse can be challenged using human rights and technology.
Stop using civilians as pawns in Syria
High Commissioner Zeid calls on each side of the Syrian conflict to protect civilians and their right to flee to safety. He condemns the use of civilians as “pawns” for advancement in Daraa.
Centre puts human rights and sports on same team
A coalition of sporting bodies and human rights groups launched the Centre for Sport and Human Rights in Geneva this week. The independent Centre will promote effective ways to mitigate, prevent and remedy the human rights impacts associated with sports and sporting events.
What to know about detention and the right to health
The UN right to health expert, Dainius Pūras, says that over 10 million people detained in prisons and confined in other institutions are denied their right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Sports and human rights natural teammates
Sport has the unique ability to attract and inspire people. During a conversation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee discussed how human rights and sport make natural teammates.
Venezuela: Impunity amid dismal human rights situation
UN report details Venezuelan authorities’ failure to hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights violations and the grave impact of the economic and social crisis on the rights to food and health.
“We have no choice but to keep going”: environmental activism in Kenya
Environmental rights activists in Kenya have faced harassment, threats and intimidation as they push for justice for environmental pollution in their community. “The issue is not over,” said Phyllis Omido, environmental human rights defender. “We have no choice but to keep going.”
Mental health is a human right
People with mental health conditions and those with psychosocial disabilities worldwide endure treatment that no other strata of the population is subjected to. Current mental health practices impact their dignity, autonomy and the enjoyment of their human rights.
Libya: Health care under attack in conflict
Continued violence in Libya is having a devastating impact on health care in Libya. A new report released by the UN Human Rights Office shows how attacks on hospitals, medical facilities and medical personnel have contributed to a failing health-care system.
New UN Human Rights office continues work in Liberia
After the United Nations ended its Peacekeeping mission in Liberia in March this year, the United Nations Human Rights Office stayed open, forging a new agreement with the government to continue improving human rights protection and advocacy.
Major rethink needed for the prevention of mass atrocities
The UN’s approach on atrocity prevention is in need of radical reform, said the former Special Rapporteur on transitional justice, Pablo de Greiff. In a recent study presented to the Human Rights Council, he suggests a way forward.
Syrian victims seek justice against their torturers
Khaled Rawas and 21 other Syrians survivors look to a German court to seek redress for the inhuman treatment they suffered at the hands of their torturers in Syria. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is supporting their quest for justice.
Access to justice is a form of rehabilitation for torture victims
Despite remarkable progress made in the international framework to prohibit torture, there needs to be greater focus on victims being able to access justice through victim-centered work, stated the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore. Gilmore made her remarks during a panel discussion on access to justice for victims of torture organized by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
UN report details scale and horror of detention in Libya
Armed groups in Libya, including those affiliated with the State, hold thousands of people in prolonged and unlawful detention, and submit them to torture and other human rights violations, according to a UN report published on Tuesday.
New database explores links between human rights and sustainable development goals
A new interactive database allows people to explore how countries following up on recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that will also contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals. The database, developed by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, is based on the more than 50,000 recommendations made during the first two UPR cycles, which are linked to SDGs and their targets
Report: No one unaffected by sexual and gender-based violence in Syrian conflict
“It is utterly repugnant that brutal acts of sexual and gender-based violence have been perpetrated throughout Syria for over six and a half years,” said Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. He made his remarks during an event launching a report that looked into the pervasiveness of the issue in the Syrian conflict.
Profound violations amid Turkey’s state of emergency
Staggering numbers of people have had their human rights violated under the routine extensions of the state of emergency in Turkey, UN report finds, including hundreds of thousands arrested and arbitrarily dismissed.
Syria: the most dangerous place for children?
Civil society actors give the Human Rights Council information on violations of children’s rights in Syria and recommendations on how to protect rights of these children.
Mexico: Torture and cover-ups in Ayotzinapa investigation
Zeid urges Mexican authorities to continue search for truth and justice in the case of the 43 missing students, as UN report says strong grounds to believe people detained during the investigation were tortured and this in turn was covered up.
2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize call for nominations
The 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize will be given out at the United Nations in New York on Human Right Day, 10 December, coinciding with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nominations are open until 6 April 2018.
Diverse stories key to improving women’s rights
Changing how women are treated globally is as simple and as difficult as changing the stories we tell about women, said best-selling author and women’s rights champion Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She spoke to the UN Human Rights Office to commemorate International Women’s Day.
Freedom of expression vital for peace in South Sudan
People must be free to express opinions regardless of political or ethnic affiliations to achieve peace in South Sudan, UN report says, as ‘chilling’ crackdowns continue and millions suffer from conflict.
Afghanistan: 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017
More than 10,000 civilians lost their lives or suffered injuries during 2017, with a high number of casualties caused by suicide bombings and other explosive attacks, according to the latest annual UN report documenting the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan.
Yemen civilians under fire from all sides - Zeid
Zeid voices alarms at how civilians in Yemen are under fire on all sides, as Houthi and affiliated forces carry out sniper attacks and indiscriminate shelling, and the Saudi-led Coalition continues to conduct airstrikes.
Zeid visits Papua New Guinea
High Commissioner Zeid calls on mining and logging companies to stop trampling on the human rights of the communities where they operate, and urges the Government to strengthen rule of law and combat corruption.
Victims of Nochixtlán: a cry for justice
A year and a half after a clash between police and protestors in Nochixtlán, Mexico left six people dead. The UN Human Rights Office in Mexico works with human rights institutions and victims to bring about justice.
Maldives state of emergency assault on democracy – Zeid
The state of emergency in the Maldives has swept away the checks and balances and separation of powers necessary in a functioning democracy, potentially leading to a greater number of human rights violations, Zeid warns.
UN expert: despite medical cure leprosy causes stigma and discrimination
"For me it is so obvious, leprosy has always, through the centuries, been an issue with human rights violations," said Alice Cruz, the new UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. Cruz made her comments as part of the observance of World Leprosy Day.
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