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Technical cooperation is an integral part of the OHCHR programme. Technical cooperation activities are seen by the United Nations as a complement to, but never a substitute for, the monitoring and investigating activities of the human rights programme. As emphasized in various reports of the Secretary-General on the subject, and in Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Council resolutions, the provision of advisory services and technical assistance does not reduce a Government's responsibility to account for the human rights situation in its territory and, where applicable, does not exempt it from monitoring through the various procedures established by the United Nations. Indeed, action by special procedures of the Human Rights Council often takes place in parallel with programmes  involving advisory services and technical assistance.

While the Technical Cooperation Programme occasionally provides grants in support of projects initiated by non-governmental organizations, Governments and regional human rights organizations, it is not, in the first instance, a funding source for projects developed outside the OHCHR. It is rather a source of substantive advice and assistance in the field of human rights within the framework of a comprehensive programme and in line with overall OHCHR programme and its thematic strategies. In order to benefit from the United Nations Programme of Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, a Government must submit a request for such assistance to the Secretariat which, in response, will conduct an assessment of the country's particular human rights� needs. The assessment is normally conducted, when there is an OHCHR presence on the ground, by that presence or through a mission to the State.  These needs assessment efforts provide an opportunity for consultation of a wide range of parties in the country, including governmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals, regarding the areas where assistance may be necessary and ensure  linkages with existing OHCHR programmatic  thematic priorities as to ensure the maximum optimization of existing resources.  

In the light of the needs assessment, an assistance programme is developed to address the needs identified in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. Periodic evaluations of country programmes during implementation are normally followed by a post-implementation evaluation to measure the effect of the assistance rendered and develop follow-up plans.

The OHCHR directly implements all programmes for which it has unique or specific competence, drawing on the expertise of its staff, and serves as a focal point and coordinator for other programme elements relating to the human rights needs of the country concerned. This comprehensive approach was first described in the 1993 report of the Secretary-General on advisory services in the field of human rights, and has been further elaborated in his 1994 and subsequent reports.