​​​​​How we make a difference 2020

South African environmental activist demands responsible business practices during COVID-19
Margaret Ghogha Molomo, an environmental activist in South Africa, says that protecting her community from destructive mining companies has been made harder by the assembly restrictions during COVID-19.
Convention helps bring justice and focus to the disappeared
Disappearances are one of the issues at the heart of international human rights. Since the entry into force of the Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance ten years ago, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances has carried out sustained dialogues with States, family members, civil society organizations and others to highlight the continuing threat of this crime.
Reshaping the narrative on migration: the case for ethical advertising
Hate speech and disinformation targeting migrants and other minorities has intensified globally with the advent of social media. UN Human Rights is trying to counter those trends by helping to introducing ethical standards in the advertising industry to change negative perception of migrants.
International Migrants Day: Video message from the High Commissioner
Ahead of International Migrants Day, the High Commissioner launched a campaign and toolbox with the purpose to shift harmful narratives about migration. "We need stories that show that the values we hold in common are stronger than what divides us," she said. “Stories that paint a hopeful picture of the future we share.”
Migration: A chance to change the story
For too long, dehumanising narratives on migrants and migration have flooded media and public discourse. It is time to transform the old stories of hate and division into new ones about what unites us as human beings. Ahead of International Migrants Day, UN Human Rights is launching a new campaign, #StandUp4Migrants, as well as a toolbox that illustrates how we can change the story.
UN Human Rights Committee provides new guidance on the right of peaceful assembly
The Human Rights Committee has issued clear guidance on the right of peaceful assembly. General Comment 37 is a game changer for both protestors and the authorities who monitor them.
Landmark initiative to promote media freedom announced
The Netherlands, UN Human Rights and UNESCO have partnered in a landmark two-year initiative to promote media freedom and the safety of journalists worldwide.
Human rights key to build the world we want
In an address for International Human Rights Day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issues a call to stand up for human rights to build a world that is more resilient, sustainable and just.
Progress as States work to implement Human Rights Committee recommendations
The Human Rights Committee has given the highest ratings to two countries for their follow-up on recommendations on combatting discrimination and strengthening human rights institutions.
Law students in Uruguay help secure a family a safer home
Law students and their professor at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, help realize a vulnerable family’s right to adequate housing, through a landmark court case relying on international jurisprudence and human rights standards.
Spreading the message of human rights through music
“Voices” is an album by award winning composer and musician Max Richter, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He and filmmaker Yulia Mahr talk more about the project and how the 72-year old document is still relevant today.
Reporting on Belarus to a special meeting of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner details a range of serious concerns
In a special inter-sessional meeting of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner made a detailed statement on the deteriorating human rights situation – and issued recommendations.
Bridging the digital divide for escapee children from the DPRK
For the past 16 years, the Yeomyung School in Seoul, Republic of Korea, has been a place of refuge for thousands of children, sometimes unaccompanied, who have fled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). With the help of benevolent donors, the school has also been able to narrow the digital divide that was revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disability rights campaigners in the Gambia push for “law for all”
A pending bill with the National Assembly in he Gambia has the potential to make life better for thousands of persons with disabilities living in the country.
Fight against slavery must continue despite pandemic
The fight against all forms of slavery has turned more difficult under the pandemic, but anti-slavery activist Brahim Ramadhane won’t stop fighting. “I do this because I belong to this community of ex-slaves and I will give up my life, all of my life, for this fight.”
Human rights at the heart of the recovery
On Human Rights Day this year, let us stand up together to demand a new social contract anchored in the realization of all human rights for everyone. To recover better, let us stand up for human rights.
Berkeley Protocol gives guidance on using public digital info to fight for human rights
The first international protocol on using social media as evidence of human rights violations, launches today. The Berkeley Protocol – a joint publication of the UN Human Rights Office and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Centre -- offers global guidance on using public digital information.
Malawi: one woman’s fight against child marriage
Memory Banda is a 23 year-old activist, whose voice helped introduce a law in Malawi to end child marriages. She is now fighting to make sure it is enforced.
Role of human rights defenders in COVID-19 recovery crucial
The critical role of human rights defenders in holding businesses accountable for rights violations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath was discussed at last week’s Business and Human Rights Forum.
COVID-19 is amplified by systemic racial discrimination; Bachelet says
In an important speech, the High Commissioner pointed out that due to discrimination, racial minorities and indigenous peoples communities have been over-exposed, under-protected – and disproportionately harmed
In Afghanistan, six points for a sustainable peace
In a major address prior to the opening of the Afghanistan Pledging Conference in Geneva, High Commissioner Bachelet outlined six points to enable parties to the peace negotiations to devise a lasting peace for all in Afghanistan
"Right to a Better World" - a video series on sexual and reproductive health and rights and the SDGs
WHO, HRP, Oxford Human Rights Hub and UN Human Rights have produced a new series, “Right to a Better World” to inspire activists and practitioners in health and development to use human rights-based tactics to deliver on the SDGs, and safeguard and drive progress in the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Hope Laing, a Scottish teenager fighting against child poverty and inequality
“To speak at the UN has been something I've always wanted to do. As I said when I ended my speech, I will make it there. I will be in that room one day.” Hope Laing is a 16-year-old human rights defender. She recently delivered her video statement to the UN Human Rights Council’s Social Forum.
Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights: preventing business-related human rights abuses.
At the opening of the 9th annual Forum on business and human rights, the High Commissioner highlighted the Office-s recently issued guidance on business and human rights in times of COVID-19. "All businesses have an independent responsibility to respect human rights, even in times of economic hardship and public health crisis," she said.
COVID-19 recovery “unattainable” without women-led organizations and movements- UN independent expert
In his latest report to the UN General Assembly, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, calls on States to protect and continue funding women-led organizations and movements during and after COVID-19.
Justice for Nigerian complainants supported by the UN fund for torture victims
In Nigeria, Avocats sans Frontières France, an organization supported by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, achieves redress for three victims of torture and arbitrary detention in seminal court cases.
Open Science: the power to unite nations
Open Science “can help to unlock vital keys to recovery, and a better world.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was speaking at an event to launch the Joint Appeal for Open Science.
International institutions join the High Commissioner in calling for open, inclusive and collaborative science
Speaking with the heads of CERN, UNESCO and WHO, Michelle Bachelet made a "principled, lifesaving and urgent" call to ensure the broadest possible sharing of scientific knowledge, and the broadest possible access to the benefits of scientific knowledge.
Forensic investigators hope to bring victims closer to justice in the DR Congo
A Technical Assistance Team was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to support judicial investigations into serious crimes in the Kasai provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We follow them on one of their visits to a location where a massacre took place.
Sudan: Considerable reforms but major challenges remain- independent expert
In his last report, the UN independent expert on the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, urges continued international support and engagement with the Sudan to help guide the country through a challenging transition period.
Launch of a new global platform for a progressive dialogue on economic and social rights and the right to development
At an event at Khartoum University to launch a new global series of dialogues, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet called for "renewed attention to economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development, in policy making, to ensure that our pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals are firmly grounded in human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation and accountability"
Building better policies will break the cycles of poverty and inequality
Poverty, inequalities and ways to break their cycles were the focus of the recent Human Rights Council Social Forum. The Forum brought together a wide range of people from academic experts to civil society activists and from government officials to people with experience of living in poverty and with inequalities.
Rape is a monstrous crime, perpetrators must be held accountable – but death penalty and torture are not the answers - Bachelet
Bachelet stands in solidarity and outrage with survivors of rape, and those demanding justice. Tempting as it may be to impose draconian punishment, she urges instead a victim-centred approach to preventing sexual violence and ensuring justice.
Ukraine: Leaving no-one behind in the battle against COVID-19
“One of our guiding principles – to leave no-one behind – is the cornerstone of our work in Ukraine. This has not changed with the COVID-19 crisis,” says Krassimir Yankov, Head of the Kharkiv field office for the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in the country.
Expert: COVID-19 exposure is exposure to hazardous substances
“Everyone has a right to be protected from exposure to hazardous substances and environmental pollution. Exposure to COVID-19 is no exception,” said Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes.
Experts: Indigenous human rights activists should be protected not criminalised
Indigenous human rights defenders are more likely to be killed, displaced or harassed as they defend their way of life from encroachment by businesses, paramilitary groups and others. At a Human Rights Council panel discussion, activists and experts called on States to be more proactive in helping to keep these activists alive.
Going Further Together: why human rights is so critical to the work of UN peace missions
A new study released today titled ‘Going Further Together,’ is highlighting the critical contribution of human rights components to United Nations’ peace missions.
Civil society organizations pave the road to end capital punishment in Chad
Civil society organizations in Chad have been at the forefront of the advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty. Salomon Nodjitoloum, member of a coalition of NGOs who actively campaigned in favour of abolition, recalls the path that led to ending the death penalty.
Expert: Memory is a key pillar for healing, democracy and peace
The memorialization process is a vital tool for enabling societies to emerge from the cycle of hatred and conflict and begin taking definite steps towards building a culture of peace, a UN expert on transitional justice said.
Expert: “flagrant” lack of data on older persons impacts their human rights
A new report by a UN Independent Expert details a significant lack of available data on older persons. The inequalities faced by older people are therefore frequently rendered “invisible,” according to the report’s findings.
Creating the first, women-led student Human Rights Club in South Kivu, DR Congo
The Official University of Bukavu and UN Human Rights team up to create a new generation of young human rights defenders in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Reprisals for cooperating with UN continue unabated
Reprisals against people who cooperate with the United Nations are continuing unabated, with alleged cases in 45 countries, Assistant Secretary-General Ilze Brands Kehris tells the Human Rights Council.
Right to participation matters more than ever: UN Secretary-General
Meaningful public participation in decision-making is a human right that must be defended and enhanced in the face of pushback, an imperative heightened by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told an OHCHR event at the UN General Assembly.
No human rights progress despite new presidency, Burundi inquiry finds
The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi outlines the serious human rights violations occurring in the context of the 2020 elections, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions and arrests, torture and sexual violence.
High Commissioner calls for States to build smart, universal social protection systems
Every State has an interest in ensuring that no-one is left behind. COVID-19 has once again hammered home that message: we are only truly safe if all of us are safe. Even in a time of crisis – perhaps especially at a time of crisis – social protection systems are relatively small investments that return very powerful dividends.
High Commissioner calls for stronger education systems to enable national and global recovery
“Poverty harms the poor – but it also harms the rich”, the High Commissioner warned. “The misery and injustice of inadequate schooling does not only harm the children sitting on rickety benches. It harms us all”.
Intensifying cycles of violence in Belarus call for reforms and dialogue
In an urgent debate on Belarus, the Deputy High Commissioner called for the fundamental rights of all Belarusians to prevail over political interests and geopolitical calculations. “Instability and conflict are destructive and expensive,” she pointed out. “Repression – which drives grievances underground, to fester – fuels both.”
COVID-19 and the right to development: a call for international solidarity
Stronger international cooperation and solidarity is key to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, said participants of a panel discussion on the right to development at the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council.
Myanmar report details ongoing human rights violations
A report presented by the High Commissioner at the current session of the Human Rights Council highlights the increasing effects of the armed conflict in Myanmar on the Rakhine, Chin, Mro, Daignet and Rohingya communities. Ahead of the general elections in November, the High Commissioner encouraged the Government to “remove the barriers that impede democratic freedoms.”
Independent Mission says crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela
A 411-page report, released today by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela established by the UN Human Rights Council (resolution 42/25), urges accountability for crimes against humanity.
In her global human rights update, Bachelet calls for urgent action to heighten resilience and protect people's rights
Opening the latest session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner noted "at this critical moment in world history, with poverty and tensions shooting up and a sharp decline in many people's hope for a better life," human rights guidance will help States and people weather the crisis
"To learn from what went right, we must look at what went wrong" - how to address, and recover from, the impact of COVID-19
In an interactive discussion at the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner pointed out that while some leaders “have demonstrated deep mistrust of their people…( and) undermined public health”, others “have sought to preserve their peoples' rights and future. They have informed and empowered people and have helped them to weather this crisis.”
High Commissioner calls for human rights-based policies to strengthen action on COVID – and help build back
Calling for strong new measures to advance universal health care and social protection, the High Commissioner also emphasised the need for "more empowerment – more democracy – more participation by civil society".
Court ruling called a milestone in environmental justice
A court in Kenya has awarded the Owino Uhuru settlement the equivalent of USD$13 million in compensation for damage to the environment and health of their community blighted by lead poisoning. The court held that the Government and two corporations were responsible for lead contamination caused by smelting plant.
Ground-breaking report on human rights in Kosovo*
A new report by a coalition of non-government organisations, and supported by UN Human Rights, takes a first-ever comprehensive look at the human rights situation in Kosovo.
Censorship, smears, threats and attacks on press freedoms have been intensifying during COVID, High Commissioner says
At an event with Switzerland's President Simonetta Sommaruga, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet noted that "some Governments appear to have seized on this crisis as an excuse for much wider – and unjustifiable – crackdowns on criticism and dissent"
High Commissioner: Honour the fallen by recommitting to human rights values
"As we strive to build back better...[we] remember today many real life heroes who have worked to help others in need -- and made the ultimate sacrifice," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet during a memorial for those killed in the service of human rights
Advocating for human rights in Ukraine amidst the pandemic
“The pandemic has shown us that all societies have vulnerabilities, and demonstrated how interconnected we all are,” says Nigora Sachdeva of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
High Commissioner calls on Pacific nations to continue their work at the forefront of the global fight for climate justice
The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis share dangerous characteristics, the High Commissioner told a climate workshop in the South Pacific – and effective responses to both require immediate and global action to uphold human rights
Policies should include the needs and voices of young people, High Commissioner Bachelet tells a Central Asian forum
Speaking to a Youth Forum in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the High Commissioner said meaningful engagement and participation by young people will be vital to solving the damage done by COVID-19 and climate change – and to building back better societies
COVID-19 and young people: urgent action needed to stem ‘severe and long-lasting’ impacts
A new study looks at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, such as disruption to education and employment, which ‘risk reducing the productive potential of an entire generation.’
COVID-19 - a critical threat to indigenous peoples
In a message to mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, Bachelet highlights their vulnerability to COVID-19, with many already facing environmental damage and economic depredation.
Galina Edin, indigenous rights activist: “I feel responsible for my people”
“We should ask ourselves what future we want for our children and ourselves. We want it to be bright, don’t we?” Galina Edin is an indigenous rights activist from the Russian Federation, working on youth issues. 9 August marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Bridging the divide between human rights and climate change from the Pacific
“The message is clear from Pacific youth activists: in spite of the COVID-19 crisis, climate activism must continue.” Solomon Yeo is a young climate change and human rights activist from the Solomon Islands.
A global crisis shows value of working together
“This is a global crisis. We need global actors to also face it internationally,” said Kely Brunner, a human rights officer for UN Human Rights in Honduras. Kely works on issues affecting human rights defenders and journalists and promotion of civic participation.
Sexual violence victims in Ituri’s conflict find a place for healing and justice
Solidarité feminine pour la paix et le développement intégral (SOFEPADI), an NGO founded by women in the north east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, helps women, children and men victims of conflict related sexual violence heal their physical and psychological wounds, and fights impunity for crimes in Ituri.
Digital rights are key to help cities build back better after COVID-19
In an editorial on digital rights, UN High Commissioner Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet -- along with the heads of UN-Habitat, Eurocities and United Cities and Local Government -- called on cities and local authorities to keep human rights central as they harness the potential of technology to shape their future after the pandemic
Report: Women detainees face serious human rights violations
“There were beatings. There were people who were out for interrogations and had bruises when they returned. They were crying.” This woman’s account of a pre-trial detention centre in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was one of over a hundred in a new report highlighting extensive human rights violations in the country’s detentions centres.
Overuse of biomedical interventions ignores humans emotional complexity, says UN expert
In his last report to the Human Rights Council, Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, calls for a human rights-based approach to treating mental distress and an end to the dominance of psychotropic medicines and coercive institutionalisation.
Persons with disabilities disproportionately affected by climate change
“Poverty, discrimination and stigma are the main elements that influence the impact of climate change on people with disabilities,” Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, told members of the Human Rights Council.
Women most affected by COVID-19, should participate in recovery efforts
Experts at the Human Rights Council discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and compounded gender inequalities and why States should focus more attention on women and girls when rebuilding the economy post-COVID-19.
New global data on human rights showcased in Sustainable Development Goals Report
High rates of discrimination around the globe, and increasing numbers of civilians dying in conflict zones are some of the human rights data measures reflected in the annual progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals.
‘Conversion therapy’ can amount to torture and should be banned says UN expert
LGBT persons endure severe pain and long-lasting psychological and physical damage because of so-called ‘conversion therapies’, UN expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz tells the Human Rights Council. He calls for a global ban.
Expert: COVID-19 has caused an “education crisis”
“The past failure to build strong and resilient education systems has opened the door to a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable and marginalised,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
Supporting the human rights of migrants in quarantine camps
The UN Human Rights in Bolivia provided support and assistance to Bolivians in an impromptu quarantine camp along the border with Chile. It was one of its joint activities with other United Nation agencies to help protect migrants.
Strengthening generations of human rights defenders, even during COVID-19
The pandemic has highlighted human rights as a collective responsibility and the need to put additional energies in building the capacity of students, who have more determination in changing the status quo, says Isha Kanu-Moriba, Human Rights Officer in South Sudan.
Expert: Give displaced persons with disabilities a chance to participate
With an estimated 5 million internally displaced people in the world having a disability, now is the time to create policies and programs that attend to their specific needs, said Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.
Realising children’s rights through a healthy environment
“The survival, health, well-being and development of children depends on an environment that is safe, clean, healthy and sustainable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. She was speaking at the Human Rights Council, during the annual full day meeting of the rights of the child.
Security Council debates peace operations and human rights
“Human rights are central to the Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security”, the High Commissioner told the Security Council during an open debate on peace operation and human rights. She stressed that currently 12 UN peace operations have human rights components that powerfully contribute to better protection; bring missions closer to the people they serve, and foster the capacities of governments to advance inclusive development, rule of law, and peace.
Brazil: Fighting the double epidemic of racism and COVID-19
“As the black population in Brazil, we still have to face police brutality, we still have to face inequality in many different ways. And now, hunger and poverty and COVID-19.” Dalila Negreiros is a Brazilian human rights defender calling on her government to do more.
“Only together can we address the negative impacts of pandemics”
“The pandemic has also drawn out human values from deep within and shown that the world survives best when we in togetherness put the survival of the group above the survival of the self,” says, Denis Fuh Chenwi, Human Rights Office in South Sudan.
High Commissioner urges States to “grasp the vital importance of this moment”
Opening the Human Rights Council, she compared COVID-19 to “a heat-seeking device that exposes, and is fuelled by, systemic failures to uphold human rights”, and called for “strong, transformative measures to heighten the powerful protections that human rights based-policies can provide”
COVID-19 exacerbates the risk of ill-treatment and torture worldwide – UN experts
The UN Anti-Torture mechanisms unanimously warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to an escalation of torture and ill-treatment worldwide, and torture survivors are especially in danger of getting infected by the lethal virus.
Working together to better protect South Sudan’s vulnerable during COVID-19
“Our individual resources and capabilities are limited but, when pulled together, our comparative advantages will facilitate greater results for the vulnerable groups we support,” says Anthony Nwapa, team leader at the UN Mission in South Sudan Human Rights Division in Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan, of working with partners in South Sudan to promote human rights during COVID-19.
Voices from the Field, Belarus: Defending the rights of the vulnerable in the face of the pandemic
“You cannot hope to effectively limit the spread of an infection if you leave entire parts of the population out of the effort,” says Omer Fisher, Senior Human Rights Adviser in Belarus.
HC tells business leaders: build back better by focusing on the vulnerable
“Business needs to look beyond the generic categories of “stakeholders” – employees, suppliers, customers, communities – to give due consideration to those who are most vulnerable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said. She made her statement during a virtual gathering of more than 20,000 business, and sustainability leaders from across the globe.
High Commissioner calls for strong action to combat racial discrimination in law enforcement and across society
"We need schools and universities that are free of bias; economies that give truly equal opportunities and fair treatment to all; political institutions that are more responsive and inclusive; justice systems which are truly just," the High Commissioner told the Human Rights Council, in an urgent debate. "Pervasive racism corrodes institutions of government, entrenches inequality and underlies so many violations of human rights. The cycles of impunity which have permitted this to happen must end."
Speakers urge definitive action to combat systemic racism
“I am asking you to help us – Black people in America,” said Philonise Floyd to the Human Rights Council. The death of his brother George in the USA in May led to global protests against racism and police brutality. It also led to an urgent debate on systemic racism during the Council’s 43rd session.
Roadmap for digital cooperation is "collective guide to ensure digital technologies better serve humanity"
The High Commissioner spoke at an event on implementing the Secretary-General's roadmap to digital cooperation. She also said the roadmap can "guide us at the United Nations as we strengthen our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and protect the human rights of all."
To build “resilient and inclusive” societies, standing together with migrants is essential
With the COVID-19 pandemic deepening existing structural inequalities for migrants, according to Pia Oberoi, standing together with migrants is an essential part of “building back better.” Pia is the Senior Advisor on Migration and Human Rights for the South-East Asia Regional Office of UN Human Rights.
“Artistic expressions for human rights”
A documentary series showcasing various faith leaders across the globe gets broadcasted this month. The series Believe to See has collaborated with the “Faith for Rights” initiative of UN Human Rights.
Months in fear, anxiety and confusion: the life of people with disabilities in COVID-19
“Like many in the disability community, I felt under siege. I didn’t feel in control of my situation,” said Rosemary Kayess, the Vice Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Kayess has not left her house in Sydney, Australia for more than three months. She realized that it was crucial to stay home but she didn’t expect to feel so helpless.
Annual report 2019: Human rights-based actions bring tangible results
UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet highlights the results of her office for 2019 in a report that underlines growing funding challenges.
Philippines: Report details widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity
A new report by UN Human Rights highlights long-standing and acute human rights concerns in the Philippines, including killings, arbitrary detentions and the vilification of dissent.
COVID-19: Standing up for the human rights of migrants and refugees in France
“We need to address inequalities, and we need to provide a human rights-based response to the situation of migrants and refugees,” says Steve Irakoze, a human rights activist working with migrant and refugee communities in France.
Strengthening the Treaty Bodies, guardians of the world's human rights covenants and treaties
Speaking at the launch of the General Assembly's Treaty Body review, the High Commissioner lauded the valuable work of the Committees, providing victims an essential space for justice and remedy, and offering Member States in-depth guidance and recommendations
Informing people is protecting people
"Reliable and critical information has always proven to be important. However, in this time of crisis, it has proven to be even more important,” said Gabriela Gorjón. Gabriela is a public information officer in UN Human Rights Mexico Office. She said the pandemic has led the Office to prioritise the promotion and support of trustworthy information.
UN Committee welcomes Spain’s decision to allow Moroccan child to attend public school
The UN child rights committee has welcomed Spain’s prompt decision to allow a 12-year old Moroccan girl to go to school in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, setting a positive example for over 80 other similar unresolved instances.
Vulnerable groups in Serbia facing deeper discrimination due to COVID-19
In Serbia, the “already existing gaps or inequalities are now being exacerbated” as a result of measures taken to combat COVID-19, says Milan Markovic, Head of UN Human Rights in the country.
Human rights staff in West Africa help street children reunite with families during COVID-19
Aminata Kebe, Human Rights Officer in UN Human Rights’ West Africa Regional Office, has been working to get children in the region off the streets and reunited with their families to minimise their vulnerability to infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fiona Adolu, prioritizing human rights in Zimbabwe during COVID-19
“While the pandemic is primarily a public health crisis, it has impacted the entire gamut of human rights and if we do not stand together to fight to protect all human rights for everyone now, we will not be able to successfully win the war against the pandemic,” says Fiona Adolu, Human Rights Adviser in Zimbabwe.
Defending rights of Iranian prisoners amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike in detention has brought public attention and outcry to conditions in the country’s prisons. Her husband, Reza Khandan, explains more.
UN Human Rights in East Africa: Leave no one behind during COVID-19
“If people say, “We are in this together,” then we should really all be in this together,” Nwanneakolam Vwede-Obahor, head of UN Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office, says of the response to the pandemic.
Supporting human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico, “a privilege.”
“Human rights work is all about people and the bonds we create,” said Ricardo Neves a UN Human Rights staffer working in Mexico. During the pandemic, Ricardo’s work has centered on shedding light on the plight of human rights defenders and journalists and supporting those affected by emergency measures and the longstanding violence throughout the country.
Voices from the Field: Zero COVID-19 cases in DPRK, but human rights concerns remain
While there are no official confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, UN Human Rights fears increased hardship for a country already affected by decades of human rights violations. Signe Poulsen, our Representative in Seoul, describes the situation.
Threshold test on hate speech now available in 32 languages
Free speech vs. Hate speech: A one-pager by the UN Human Rights Office offers a framework test to identify cases of incitement to hatred, now translated into 32 languages, thanks to Facebook.
High Commissioner discusses coming out of COVID-19 lock-downs with Geneva press
Michelle Bachelet’s opening remarks at a virtual press conference with the UN correspondents’ association in Geneva on the human rights ramifications of coming out of lock-downs and other human rights issues relating to COVID-19.
Safety at home, an illusion for far too many women in Iraq
Reports of domestic violence in Iraq continue, while COVID-19 lockdown measures prevent many women from seeking legal and medical help.
COVID-19 and the human rights of older people
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing a particularly severe threat to the lives and health of older people, the High Commissioner said at a webinar. She called for their rights to be placed front and center in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
Human rights staff in Kenya join forces with partners to support COVID-19 prevention and response
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Li Fung, Senior Human Rights Advisor to the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, and partners have joined forces to keep human rights a priority in Kenya’s COVID-19 response.
SG calls on strengthening immunity against “virus of hate.”
COVID 19 does not distinguish between people yet “yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. In a powerful statement against increasing hate speech caused during the pandemic, Guterres said the virus “doesn’t care about any distinction.”
UN virtual meeting gives victims chance to be heard
The testimony from a woman whose son has been missing more than five years featured at the opening of 18th session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. In the first of its kind, the Committee hosted a virtual meeting, which was broadcast online.
“Seven Actions”: A guide to protect African women’s rights during COVID-19
UN Human Rights’ East Africa Regional Office and the African Union has developed a joint guidance notes for States and civil society actors to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on women, and ensure that a gender lens is included in the responses to the pandemic in Africa.
Marlene Urscheler, doing human rights work during the COVID-19 pandemic
Marlene Urscheler heads the Emergency Response Team at UN Human Rights’ Regional Office for West Africa based in Dakar, Senegal. She was recently designated as the Office’s focal point for COVID-19 related issues in the region.
Voices from the Field: Protecting human rights in Moldova amidst COVID-19
“Our country was already suffering, and the pandemic is just worsening the situation,” says Cristina Mardari, a UN Human Rights staffer from Moldova. She shares her experience from lockdown, and how she and her colleagues are still working to protect and promote human rights in the country.
Human Rights Council talks COVID-19 with independent experts
Independent experts take part in Human Rights Council “virtual conversation” echoing urgent appeals to ensure national policies on COVID-19 are deeply rooted in human rights, and spell out good practices to uphold rights.
Training helps experts handle increases in gender-based violence
One side effect of emergency lockdown measures because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in reports of domestic violence. In South America, where reports have increase by 70 percent in some countries, UN Human Rights has been working with judges to better help women caught in the cycle.
Young people, tell us what impact COVID-19 has on your rights
UN Human Rights joins the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for the Youth to hear from young people what effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their rights, and how their rights can be protected.
We are all in this together: UNSG delivers policy brief on COVID-19 and human rights
Human rights can and must guide COVID-19 response and recovery, according to the latest brief by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. By respecting human rights, Guterres says, “we will build more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow.”
"Finding Hope": High Commissioner Bachelet calls for urgent national measures – and global solidarity – on COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare some of the most glaring vulnerabilities of our societies," Bachelet wrote in a special TIME takeout. "Millions of the people at greatest risk of contagion are those whose needs are often overlooked". To uphold their rights to life and health—and prevent the pandemic from spreading — we need human rights-based action.
COVID is “a colossal test of leadership” requiring coordinated action, High Commissioner tells Human Rights Council
Michelle Bachelet called for urgent and detailed action to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from creating “ even wider inequalities and extensive suffering”
Human Rights Council holds “virtual conversation” with High Commissioner to address COVID-19
Participants in a Human Rights Council-sponsored “virtual conversation” with the High Commissioner for Human Rights echo calls for global solidarity and human rights based approaches in response to COVID-19
Kenya’s informal settlements need safe water to survive COVID-19
Handwashing is a key measure to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, for people living in informal settlements in urban centres in Kenya, access to safe and affordable water remains a daily challenge
Justice delayed but not denied: transitional justice in El Salvador
Since 2016, the UN Human Rights Office has provided technical and legal support and assistance to State institutions and officials, civil society organizations and others in El Salvador. The work is aimed at contributing to providing justice, recognition and reparations for those affected by the 12-year civil war.
Despite COVID-19, Human Rights Council carries on with its work virtually
Human Rights Council Bureau holds its first formal virtual meeting since suspending its regular session on 13 March. Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger assures that important human rights work continues to address the needs of the most vulnerable
Act now to stop COVID-19 ‘rampaging through prisons’
Bachelet calls on governments to take urgent action to stop COVID-19 sweeping through places of detention where people are often extremely vulnerable to infection.
Bachelet calls for easing of sanctions to enable fight against COVID-19
Both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions in Iran, Venezuela and other countries should be eased or suspended, the High Commissioner said.
COVID-19 and its human rights dimensions
Respect for human rights is fundamental to the success of the public health response to COVID-19. Now is the time for solidarity and cooperation to tackle the virus.
COVID-19 and human rights
The UN human rights system, including UN High Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, have encouraged us to keep in mind the most vulnerable individuals and groups, and to ensure they are protected during this crisis.
UN expert urges action against xenophobia related to COVID-19
Governments must ensure that their response to the COVID-19 pandemic does not contribute to xenophobia and racial discrimination, said the UN Special Rapporteur on racism.
#FightRacism: Interview with British football star Raheem Sterling
#FightRacism: Manchester City Football star Raheem Sterling speaks out against racism on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination join us to #FightRacism every day, everywhere.
Children provide insight and advice at CRC meeting in Samoa
In a historic outreach session, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child met with government officials, NGOs and children to discuss the state of child rights in the Pacific.
Expert calls for resolution on right to healthy environment
David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, called on the Human Rights Council to pass a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment, saying it would lead to stronger State actions on environment.
Coronavirus impact on human rights
Bachelet urges States to ensure human rights are front and centre in their response to COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable both medically and economically.
Reflecting on 25 years of women’s rights action
Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, experts celebrate that document’s vision of women’s rights and discuss its continued relevance to address remaining and new challenges.
High Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council on human rights concerns, and progress, across the world
Raising many serious concerns – including the COVID-19 epidemic – the High Commissioner emphasised that upholding human rights can strengthen the effectiveness of policies and boost societies’ resilience
Stand up for human rights
Join us in promoting and defending human rights for everyone, everywhere. Stand up for human rights and take action for stronger respect, greater freedom and more compassion.
#IStandwithHer: It is time to change the story
Gender stereotypes lie at the heart of discriminatory attitudes, policies and laws. They are so deeply ingrained that we often replicate them unconsciously. On International Women’s Day, join us to change discriminatory narrative and demand more equal and inclusive societies.
Threats to human rights are rising – but so are solutions, High Commissioner says
Opening the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said “Today’s turbulent political landscape requires usable policy tools that are rooted in experience, with a proven track record. These tools exist.”
A call to action for human rights
Calling human rights “part of the very identity of the United Nations,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined a commitment to step up action on human rights in seven key areas.
#WikiForHumanRights: Promoting knowledge of human rights in a multilingual world
Launched in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, our #WikiForHumanRights campaign resulted in the improvement of 721 quality articles about human rights in 12 languages on Wikipedia.
Six years after killings in Ukraine, justice remains elusive
Between January and February 2014, during Ukraine’s months-long Maidan protests, eighty-three protestors, thirteen law-enforcement officers, a journalist and one bystander were killed or died violently. Six years on, weaknesses in the justice system have prevented investigations and prosecution of perpetrators from progressing further.
Multilateralism in action: cooperating with the OSCE to prevent crises and uphold human rights
“We can choose to work for peace – or we can watch as grievances fester and build up, until violence escalates into conflict,” the High Commissioner said at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. “Peace depends on us.” She emphasised the increasing effectiveness of cooperation between the Office and OSCE bodies.
Justice for past crimes can build a shared future
The High Commissioner briefs the Security Council on experiences with transitional justice across the world
Fighting hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media
The prevalence of hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media is driving societal divisions even deeper. A Syrian organisation promoting human rights and justice is working hard to address the issue. Yayha Fares is a Syrian refugee, in charge of the organisation’s hate speech project.
LUCHA rights defender hopes her struggle can bring change in the DR Congo
Rebecca Kabuo is a member of LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement), a non-violent, non-partisan youth movement that campaigns for good governance in the DR Congo. She wants a country where people have access to clean water, healthcare and security.
Impartial, independent rule of law is vital to sound societies
The rule of law makes institutions accountable for upholding human rights and the fair delivery of public services. And it empowers all individuals – including those who suffer entrenched discrimination -- to claim their rights. But the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is coming under threat in many countries.
Fellow: “Colourism” is a hidden human rights challenge
“There is a correlation between skin colour and social class,” said Stephanie Sewell, a UN Human Rights 2019 African Descent Fellow. Sewell says colourism, discrimination based on skin tone, impacts the human rights of the majority of Jamaicans.
Mueda Nawanat’s fight for the right to nationality
Mueda Nawanat was born without a nationality, and only became a citizen of Thailand, the country where she was born, when she was 21. Today, she is an advocate for stateless people and has helped many obtain citizenship. She is also a UN Human Rights Fellow.
Toolkit aims to link faith and human rights
A new toolkit has been launched looking at the relationship between religions, beliefs and human rights. The #Faith4Rights toolkit is a collaboration of faith-based groups and UN human rights mechanisms.
DR Congo: A “window of opportunity” after peaceful political transition
“The DRC is a huge country with huge problems – but also huge potential. It is poor but it could be rich, with an abundance of valuable minerals, and vast tracts of land that could – should -- be highly productive. Its people are resilient and hard-working,” says UN human rights chief.
Cameroon crisis: preventing the speech that incites violence
Ahead of next month’s elections in Cameroon, UN Human Rights works with the media, civil society and national institutions to find solutions to prevent speech that incites hatred and exacerbates violence in that country.
Human rights education helps protect all societies from the mindset that produced the Nazi Holocaust
75 years after the liberation of the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the end of the devastating crimes of the Holocaust, violence and discrimination continue to be directed against Jews and others.
From student to human rights defender: the power of human rights education
Premalatha Tamilselvan was 12 years old when she took part in a human rights education programme in her school in a small village in southern India. Nine years later, she came to Geneva, Switzerland to advocate for similar programmes to be rolled out across more schools. 24 January marks the International Day for Education.
High Commissioner Bachelet launches a 2020 funding appeal based on fundamental new challenges
Total extra-budgetary resources required for 2020 amount to US$ 375.5 million, for a programme the High Commissioner termed “unmatched in the history of this Office”
A Syrian lawyer’s battle for justice and human rights
Eight years of devastating conflict in his home country, Syria, have not stopped Jalal Alhamad from fighting for justice. After fleeing his home to neighbouring Turkey, he established a human rights organisation.
UN Human Rights staff member: “You can change your life to help others make a change”
Jamila Mahdi was born in a refugee camp, and was married at 13 years of age. Despite her own childhood being stripped of rights, she was determined to get an education and support her family. A high school diploma and two university degrees later, today she works for UN Human Rights in Iraq.
Using the arts to stand up for human rights
“I believe that we (dancers and artists) have a role in society to defend human rights for our communities,” said a 2019 UN Human Rights Minority Fellow.
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