Header image for news printout

Presentation of the Annual Appeal

2017 Annual Appeal

Statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

14 February 2017

I am honoured to present to you the Annual Appeal of my Office, which carries with it the hopes and achievements of my staff, as we, together with our partners, seek to advance and to uphold human rights in a world of deepening turmoil.
Human rights are under attack. Hateful ideologies are being whipped up by leaders in many regions for political benefit. Conflicts are being stoked. War and deprivation cast many out to seek new hope elsewhere.  
This is no way to build a future. The most effective, most sustainable, fairest and cheapest way to achieve stability and resilience is investment in human rights. Justice, equality and non-discrimination, and broad-based development which brings the benefits of economic and social progress to all: these are the levers that build peace.

The appeal I present to you today is above all an appeal to sanity and sound investment. It represents the most ambitious programme of work ever drawn up by my Office – one that will enable us to contribute to important institutional and policy advancement across every region of the world.
My Office, as you know, is dramatically underfunded. The regular budget largely fails to fund Human Rights Council mandated work, let alone our extensive country related work which it is essential that we continue to perform. We consistently have to turn down requests for support from countries– because no matter how great their need, we simply cannot afford to provide the support they requested. Moreover, almost two-thirds of our funding is earmarked or restricted, which hamstrings the flexibility of our response to human rights situations that are subject to rapid and frequently alarming change.

And yet, thanks to contributions from 81 donors, including multilateral organizations, private donors and 65 States, our expertise has led to very significant achievements in every region. My Office has led a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop practical guidance to ensure the rights of vulnerable migrants are protected. We have laid the groundwork for a comprehensive new methodology to follow-up global implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In Serbia, Kenya and many countries across the Americas and Asia, we have advocated substantive consultation with minorities and indigenous people. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s South Kivu province, we helped lay out a new law to protect human rights defenders. In Tunisia, Côte d‘Ivoire and Morocco, we are working on setting up national barometers to monitor hate speech. Throughout every region, we have helped mainstream human rights into UN and national development plans.

By promoting the values of justice, equality, dignity and peace, our work changes laws, and saves lives. It helps protect the most vulnerable.  It helps support and sustains thousands of local actors who exercise their rights to build a better world every day.  Our hard-hitting investigations into war crimes and human rights crises establish unassailable facts, and lay the ground for justice. Our advocacy helps persuade authorities, at every level, to better protect rights. Our technical assistance, from torture prevention to advancing women's equality, helps build local and enduring capacity so that these fundamental responsibilities can be fulfilled.    

As many of you know, my Office recently launched a global public campaign, Stand Up For Someone’s Rights Today, because we feel it is urgent that human rights be upheld by everyone. Today I ask all of you to stand up for human rights.  

With your support, we can help to prevent human rights crises from escalating. We can counter the rising waves of hatred, xenophobia and violence.  We can advocate a broad, open democratic space and impartial rule of law institutions in every country. We can contribute to sound governance of migration and continue to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda.

To do this, we need to broaden our financial support base, to include more Member States, and encourage participation from a broader range of private donors. Our aim is to receive extrabudgetary contributions from all States – as a symbol of their universal support for human rights. I hope all of you in this room, and many beyond these walls, will be stepping forward to assist us.

Thank you for your assistance. Thank you for your sustained attention to human rights values. This is your office: my staff works to assist you to protect the rights of your people and build more sustainable and resilient societies. And just as people around the world count on us, we count on you – because this is work we need to do together. The global context may be difficult, but by building human rights values into reality, we know we can construct a safer world.