How we make a difference 2019
Kenya’s social justice movement expands its reach
With the support of UN Human Rights, the social justice centres movement is flourishing in Kenya, and community human rights defenders are making their voices heard and their impact felt.
Trans rights are “not subject to referendum.”
For the last 30 years, Karina Pankievich has fought for the rights of transgender people in Uruguay, most recently in the fight to keep from repeal the country’s first law on rights for transgender people. “An activist is the person who knows that she has the ability to help and fight for rights that other people do not have.”
Report: Impacts of climate change seriously compromising human rights
“Climate change constitutes a clear, present and intensifying threat to the full and effective exercise of all human rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, during the launch of a new publication on the contribution of the Latin American and Caribbean region to the fight for climate justice.
Reported reprisals increase against those who cooperate with the UN
“People around the world are punished for cooperating with the UN, punished for cooperating with mechanisms set up by Member States,” said Assistant-Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour. “The fact that most of the punishment is carried out by Member States has always seemed to me strikingly wrong.”
Human rights education strengthens our humanity
“For me, human rights education is a transformative process,” said Elisa Gazzotti, chairperson of the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning. She made her comments during the launch of the Fourth Phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
Business after conflict: respecting human rights to help sustain peace
Since 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have provided the authoritative global framework to address business-related human rights abuses. Now there is increasing attention on how States, companies and investors can help build and sustain peace in post-conflict contexts by protecting and respecting human rights.
“To us, there are no migrants . . . there are people”
Wednesday 18 December marks International Migrants’ Day. Alina Lyapina, a young activist from Germany who began a major grassroots movement to welcome more people to her country, is calling for more action from governments.
Bachelet: International Migrants Day
On International Migrants Day, High Commissioner Bachelet reflects on the human desire to belong, and calls for celebration of our shared humanity.
Minority rights need more support and promotion
“The populist nationalist narratives that are being exploited by would-be politicians across the world…is worsening the situation for [minorities],” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore. “There is nothing new about it. It has been the basis of cruelty, exclusion and discrimination for centuries. What is remarkable though is that we know so much better now.”
Human Rights Day: Youth stand up for human rights
This year we celebrate the leadership role of youth in collective movements as a source of inspiration for a better future.
Discover how young people are standing up for human rights and spread the word.
Indigenous youth fight for the human rights of all generations
For indigenous youth, it is important to talk about their rights, as well as how to improve their living situation, said Dalí Silvia Angel, an indigenous youth rights activist with Red de Jóvenes Indígenas (Indigenous Youth Network) in Mexico. “We like to say, nothing for us without us. If you want the situation to be visible, then we have to be there and your voice has to be heard.”
Enslavement: a ‘shocking indictment’ on our societies
2 December marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Around the world, more than 40 million men, women and children are enslaved. One of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to eradicate slavery in all its forms by 2030. The UN Slavery Fund has being channelling support to slavery survivors since 1991.
Governments need to step up action for human rights in business activities
We need stronger frameworks for accountability and governance, to ensure business activities don't involve exploitation of workers and users of their products; land grabs and other abuses of the rights of local communities; increased inequalities and damage to our right to a healthy environment.
“We are the future men and women”
20 November marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Dea’a, a 16 year old teenager from Yemen, is fighting for a brighter future for the children of his country.
Expert: Reparations for victims of rights violations not optional
“Reparations for serious human rights violations are not matters that depend on political will, they are clear legal obligations,” said Fabián Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations during the Human Rights Council.
“The day I stop believing is the day I stop fighting.”
Erika Aifán is a leading figure in the fight against impunity in Guatemala. The judge at Guatemala’s Criminal High Risk Tribunal, believes that making sure that justice is done helps both the government and more importantly, the citizens.
Many indigenous languages are in danger of extinction
Around 40 percent of the world’s 6,700 spoken languages are in danger of disappearing, and many of them belong to indigenous peoples. But this trend can be reversed, said Mona Rishmawi of the UN Human Rights Office. Rishmawi made her statement during a panel discussion at the Human Rights Council.
Rohingya refugees and the right to education
A learning centre in Malaysia is giving Rohingya refugees a chance to have an education. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited the centre on a recent trip to the country.
Maximizing the transformative power of education
Victoria Ibiwoye struggled with education as a student. Now, she works to create a more inclusive learning environment that would provide better prospects for the youth in her country, Nigeria.
Katura Halleday: “The youth today are the leaders of tomorrow”
Young Australian rights defender, Katura Halleday, is helping reduce education inequality. On the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October, we celebrate her and the countless other girls who are proving they are unscripted and unstoppable.
Education has the power to transform lives
“As the global refugee crisis deepens, children are often most affected,” said Maya Ghazal, 20-year-old Syrian refugee. “But they are also extraordinarily resilient. They find ways to cope, to progress and if given the opportunity, thrive!” Ghazal was a featured speaker during the 2019 Social Forum in Geneva.
A Human rights conversation in Australia
"Ambitious human rights gains are achievable and Australians can be mobilised to uphold the rights of others, as they showed the world in legislating marriage equality. Reason, evidence and empathy can help temper visceral emotional responses and advance rights for all. We need a conversation," Bachelet.
First-ever visit by UN Human Rights Chief to Malaysia
Bachelet calls on the people of Malaysia to celebrate the kaleidoscope of ethnicity, religion, language and other identities that make the country so special by standing up for the rights of those whose beliefs and backgrounds differ from their own.
The fight against ‘popular justice’ in Cambodia
In Cambodia, violent acts of popular justice are occurring year after year. UN Human Rights is urging the government to condemn publicly the violence, and to ensure effective investigation and prosecution.
Older persons invisible and vulnerable in emergencies
Lack of data, exacerbated inequalities and concerns for mobility and safety are some of the issues facing older persons in emergency situations, said Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights of older persons. This lack of assistance and programmes renders older persons invisible during emergencies.
Transparency and oversight needed for security arrangements in extractive industries
Human rights abuses by private security actors working for extractive companies, including private military and security companies need firmer accountability and oversight by States, said Chris Kwaja, chairperson of the Working Group on the use of Mercenaries. Kwaja presented the Working Group’s report during the Human Rights Council.
Relatives of missing migrants never lose hope
“For me he is alive because I have not found anything different. I am continuing to talk about him in the present,” said Maria Elena Larios. Her son, Heriberto Antonio Gonzalez Larios went missing nearly ten years ago while trying to make his way from El Salvador to Mexico, looking for better a better life.
Indigenous women balance identity, gender and politics when in power
For indigenous women, positions of political power are about balance – how to balance being a woman, being indigenous and being a representative of a larger community. In a recent meeting at the United Nations in Geneva, seven former and current politicians, all indigenous women, shared how they not only maintained the balance, but thrived because of it.
Wikipedia marathons: editing for rights in Argentina
UN Human Rights is partnering with Wikimedia to promote access to quality information on human rights through Wikipedia. A first event was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, gathering contributors to edit content about women and LGBTI rights.
Older people need stronger human rights protection
Older persons need a dedicated convention to protect their human rights, experts told the Human Rights Council. “We are leaving older people behind, they tend to be forgotten,” said Idah Mukuka Nambeya from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers programme, which supports older women working in communities across Africa.
Local governments unite to defend and promote human rights
A first time consultation in Geneva, Switzerland brought together local governments from around the world and UN Human Rights to discuss the growing human rights challenges in cities, especially in the face of massive and rapid urbanisation.
Forced sterilisations in Peru: one woman’s fight for justice and redress
In the late 1990s, some 300,000 Peruvian women were subjected to a programme of sterilisation, ordered by the government’s National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programme. Maria Elena Carbajal Cepeda was one of these women. She now heads an organisation which is defending the rights of survivors.
First UN Human Rights presence in Venezuela
Ending the first-ever visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Venezuela, Michelle Bachelet left a team of two staff to advise on, assist with, and monitor the rights situation in the country.
"I am striking for climate"
Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a Ugandan student and environmental rights activist, has sacrificed her Friday lessons at Kampala International University to protest against lack of action to tackle climate change.
Reporting Back to Myanmar’s Rohingya: The Most Important Report of All
International fact-finding mechanisms set up by the Human Rights Council investigate human rights crises globally and issue reports relying heavily on testimony from survivors and victims. In a rare move, the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar returned to those communities and reported back to them.
Apps can help fight impunity for sexual violence
Technology can help survivors of sexual violence, said Peggy Hicks Thematic Director at the UN Human Rights Office. The key is ensuring the needs of survivors are paramount in the design. Hicks was speaking during a recent round table discussion on the subject.
Working to eradicate torture in Afghanistan
Rates of torture and ill treatment for conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan have declined since 2016, according to a new report from UN Human Rights. However, there is still a long way to go to fully eradicate the practice.
Experts recognise sexual and gender-based violence amounting to torture
Recognising that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) may amount to torture empowers victims to seek redress and rehabilitation as well as holds States accountable for better provision for victims, said Gaby Oré Aguilar, a member of the Board of Trustees the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
I fight for the rights of the most vulnerable
Aneta Genova Mircheva doesn’t think of herself as a human rights defender. Yet as a member of Validity, an international NGO that uses the law to secure equality, inclusion and justice, she fights for the rights of those with mental disabilities in Bulgaria.
Victims mount as extreme nationalism fuels racism
From Montenegro to New Zealand, racist intimidation and violence cast a dark shadow over this year’s global commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
"Because your voice is valid"
Law student and UN Human Rights Fellow, Mary Consolata Namagambe, has decided to challenge the exclusion she and other people of African descent endure in a majority-white Danish society.
Brazilian environmental defenders fight for recognition and justice
Moises Borges and Leticia Oliveira are environmental human rights defenders with the Movement of those Affected by Dams (MAB), a Brazil-based grassroots movement that fights for the rights of communities affected by dams. They were recently in Geneva highlighting the plight of those dealing with a recent dam collapse.
"Housing is a human right, not just a commodity."
"What we are trying to do is build a multi-stakeholder global movement of people who know that housing is a human right and who want to reclaim it," said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. Farha was talking about The Shift, an initiative to move away from treating housing as a commodity to housing as a place to live in peace, security and dignity.
Breaking taboos to better human rights
Oyungerel Tsedevdamba is a human rights defender and leads an NGO called Local Solutions, which provides sanitation solutions for local communities in Mongolia. Her aim, to stop toilet from being a dirty word in Mongolia.
"Racism is the opposite of everything we stand for"
All of us need to call out and openly condemn all messages – especially political messages or discourses – which disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, or which incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Poetry to inspire the fight against racism
21 March is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To mark that day, UN Human Rights associates itself with poets, musicians and lyricists to inspire us all to fight racism.
Attacked because of who they are and what they do
“In the current political climate there is a backlash against human rights. Women defenders are often the first to come under attack,” Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders told members of the Human Rights Council.
On International Women’s Day, Stand With Her
Generations of courageous women and feminist movements have together stood up for social change by fighting for human rights. On International Women’s Day, they are being recognised and honoured. The #IStandWithHer campaign will tell some of their stories.
20 years of the Mine Ban Treaty
The Treaty’s focus on the protection, dignity and rights of individuals makes it an outstanding example of multilateralism
High Commissioner condemns Venezuela violence
Michelle Bachelet condemns the “disgraceful” violence in Venezuela, urging the Government to stop its forces from using excessive force and to rein in armed pro-Government elements that are attacking protestors.
"I will bring back hope to people."
A Sudanese refugee activist is the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate. Abudul Aziz Muhamat highlights the situation of refugees in offshore detention by the Australian government. Two other finalists included an Afro-Colombian rights campaigner and a human rights lawyer from Turkey.
Bachelet tells "good human rights stories."
"Human rights are useful. Respect for human rights generates practical benefits in everyday life," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told an audience recently. She made her comments at the Geneva launch of the “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative, a partnership of 13 organizations and countries dedicated to showing that human rights matter.
When you stand up for girls, you stand up for everyone
Francis Oko Armah is a student who stands up for the right for young people to have access to and be educated about reproductive and sexual health. He works for the Young Leaders for Change Foundation in Accra, Ghana.
Tortured lives after the death penalty
At the screening of the BBC documentary “Fallout” at the UN in New York, exonerated death row victims narrate their struggles to piece together their broken lives without government compensation or support.
Benjamin Orenstein, Holocaust survivor
Benjamin Orenstein, 93, is one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust and the only surviving member of his family who were all executed in the camps. He tells us his story.
"Anyone can use their voice. Believe in yourself."
At 14 years old, water rights activist Autumn Peltier, of the Wikwemikong First Nations community in Ontario, Canada, says helping the environment is something anyone can do at any age. Her activism has earned her a nomination for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize.
Missing persons receive attention and help healing in Kosovo*
The Multi-Ethnic Resource Centre on Missing Persons in Kosovo* provides a place for families and representatives from associations across all ethnic lines to cooperate and gather information those missing as a result of the 1998-1999 conflict. The centre was opened with the help of the UN Human Rights Office of UN Mission in Kosovo*
Showcasing human rights success in daily lives
Defending cultural rights of indigenous weavers in Guatemala; challenging discrimination against minorities in Moldova; supporting families of missing persons in South Korea and Kosovo*. As the UN Human Rights Annual Appeal kicks off for 2019, witness the difference our everyday work in human rights makes in people’s lives.
Stories by year