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Each month in 2023, we placed a spotlight on a wide range of human rights issues, enshrined in the Universal Declaration, in need of concrete and urgent action from States and other duty bearers.

  • January: Arbitrary detention for exercising human rights
  • February: Care and support systems
  • March: Racial justice
  • April: Human rights enhancing economy
  • May: Offline and online civic space and human rights defenders
  • June: Women’s participation in public and political life
  • July: Prevention and peace
  • August: Justice
  • September: Social protection, sustainable development and the right to development
  • October: Business and human rights
  • November: Climate change/environment
  • December: Human rights education

A hand behind a wire fence


Arbitrary detention for exercising human rights

The right to liberty is enshrined in international human rights law. Yet, detention is often used to silence critical voices around the globe. Environmental defenders, climate activists, people calling out discrimination and fighting for equality, those speaking up against abuses and corruption, journalists jailed for doing their essential work, defenders of migrants’ rights and trade unionists seeking to improve labour standards languish in detention facilities, sometimes for long periods – imprisoned for exercising their human rights.

The basics


Human rights defenders

Human Rights 75

End arbitrary detention: UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk calls for release of all those arbitrarily detained


Expert: sustained detention is a "dark stain on our collective conscience"

Video: End arbitrary detention of drug users

A caregiver holding a person's hand


Care and support systems

For too long, we’ve relied on women and girls to provide care to sustain families, communities, and societies. At the same time, older people, persons with disabilities and children, are seen merely as passive receivers of care. Their rights, both as caregivers and care receivers, have been neglected. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that we need to transform our support and care systems. All of us need support and care that enable us to participate in society, and to live in dignity and with choice. Rights-based support and care systems, that are gender, disability, and age responsive, are a key lever for achieving sustainable development.

The basics

The right to care

Inclusion of persons with disabilities

Gender-responsive care

Human Rights 75

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk calls to transform care and support systems

ASG IIlze Brands Kehris calls for human rights-based care and support


Story: Care and support is about human rights

Story: Care and support systems: A matter of human rights

Two women hugging


Racial justice

Seventy-five years ago, article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the equal enjoyment for all of all human rights, without distinction of any kind, including race and colour. Yet, still today, racism, often rooted in the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, continues to affect the human rights of countless people, and its contemporary forms are present both online and offline. Racism and racial discrimination harm everyone, and undermine development, peace, democracy and the rule of law. No country is free of racism and everyone – States, civil society and youth - must play their role in combating it.

The basics

Racism, xenophobia and intolerance

Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Learn, Speak Up, Act! #FightRacism

Human Rights 75

Concrete action needed to end racial discrimination – UN Human Rights Chief


We have to figure out how to dismantle the monster

Video: The Sharpeville Massacre - standing up against racism


Photo credit: Duncan Shaffer

A masked person holding a sign in front of their face that reads: The world needs humanity now


Human rights economy

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said, the current moment calls into question many of the economic concepts and models that inform current policies. The current economic model fails to provide prosperity for all, as can be seen by rising levels of poverty as well as growing inequalities within and among countries. In a human rights economy, economic policies, investment decisions, consumer choices and business models are guided by human rights, and the integration of human rights at each level in turn measurably enhances outcomes for all. A ‘human rights economy’ places people and the planet at the heart of policymaking. Adopting a human rights economy is crucial to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The basics

The Surge Initiative

Türk’s call for a human rights economy

Promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights within the context of addressing inequalities in the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

Human Rights 75

Statement by UN Human Rights Chief on Human Rights Economy

Building economies that place people’s human rights at the center


UNESCO and OHCHR joint call for the establishment of university chairs on the Human Rights Economy

Supporting a human rights economy in Kenya

Video: Investing in social spending, tackling inequalities and promoting economic policies that advance greater realization of economic, social and cultural rights

Woman in a crowd


Offline and online civic space and human rights defenders

Hearing the voices of the multitude of communities and people in our societies – and ensuring they can shape decisions about their lives and their futures is key to ensure we use all of humanity’s talents and creativity for overcoming the challenges we collectively face – from climate change to increasing inequalities; from violence to growing lack of trust in institutions. New technologies, such as the internet and social media, have expanded the space for a wide range of people to speak up and reach out. At the same time, it has generated new risks in terms of censorship, privacy infringements and online threats and attacks. Preserving and expanding the space in which people can contribute to their societies is at the core of the mandate of UN Human Rights.

The basics

Civic space and human rights defenders

Digital space and human rights

Freedom of expression and opinion

Human Rights 75

UN Rights Chief issues call to protect and expand civic space


Shaping digital technologies that empower people to build their lives

"Journalism may be our only hope to secure human rights."

A young woman seated behind a microphone


Women’s participation in public and political life

Women's equal and meaningful participation in decision-making is not only a question of rights, justice, and democracy but represents a necessary condition for women's rights to be respected and women’s interests to shape public decisions. Only with the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspectives and lived experiences at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, sustainable development and peace will be achieved.

The basics

Gender equality and women’s rights

Volker Türk, International Gender Champion

#IStandWithHer campaign

Human Rights 75

Parliaments and women’s rights: Implementing the CEDAW Convention, realizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all

HC calls for equal and meaningful participation


HC: The digital space must undergo a feminist revolution

Human rights ensure all spaces are accessible to women in all their diversity

Two UN peacekeepers


Human rights, prevention and peace

Human rights are at the heart of the United Nations Charter because the drafters knew the best way to prevent another world war was to address the factors that had made the Second World War possible. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the blueprint to address the root causes of conflict. The rights set out in it include rights that help safeguard participation, liberty and the rule of law and stop oppression and totalitarianism, as well as the protection of people’s lives, livelihoods, welfare and development.

The basics

Prevention and human rights

Preventing human rights violations

Human rights, peacebuilding and sustaining peace

Human Rights 75

Human rights will build peace, Türk tells Security Council

UDHR at 75: a conversation with the High Commissioner

Uniting for peace and human rights: The 75th anniversaries of the UDHR, Peacekeeping, and Special Political Missions


Human rights, prevention and peace

A war victim’s search for peace, reconciliation in Colombia

group marching in favor of justice



The Universal Declaration states in its first paragraph that the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world.  Throughout its 75 years,  the Universal Declaration has helped many people find justice – by changing laws and practices and providing opportunities for people to claim their rights.  However, countless others are still seeking justice.  Injustice and impunity affect not only those directly concerned – they affect society as a whole, undermining the rule of law, sustainable development and peace and security.  Let’s take action today to invest in justice and make the Universal Declaration a reality for all! 

The basics

Administration of justice and law enforcement

Democracy, right to participate and the electoral process

Transitional justice and post-conflict peacekeeping

New Vision of the Secretary-General for the Rule of Law

Human rights 75

UN Human Rights Chief’s call to States to reinvigorate access to justice for all

Volker Türk’s open letter to UN Member States (PDF)


Advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples

Trial monitoring to protect the right to a fair trial

A man in a hard hat.


Social protection, sustainable development and the right to development

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and other crises, global poverty has increased for the first time in over 20 years. Socio-economic inequalities within and among countries have deepened, with millions pushed deeper into poverty and more countries struggling under debt distress. Much of the progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been halted or erased. Social protection, the right to development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals are key to eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and making sure we leave no one behind. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for the right to social security and the right to development and is the cornerstone of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The basics

OHCHR and the right to social security

OHCHR and the right to development

OHCHR and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Declaration on the Right to Development

Poverty, the right to food and social protection

Human Rights 75

Short stories on social protection

Event: Discussion on Social Protection, Sustainable Development, and the Right to Development


Human rights are key to ensuring no one is left behind

In Paraguay, social security creates safety net and builds rights for all

Human rights measures can rescue the SDGs, said High Commissioner Türk

ASG Brands Kehris statement on human rights and sustainable development

Statement by UN Human Rights Chief on human rights economy

Workers preparing button in a factory in Savar on August 21, 2023. Credit: Ahmed Salahuddin via Reuters Connect


Business and human rights

Business enterprises are a major source of investment, innovation, and development and can be a major driver in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, economic activity can also pose significant risks to human rights. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) was developed to clarify the relationship between business and human rights and has become the authoritative global framework to prevent and mitigate human rights risks relating to business. Anchored in international human rights law, the UNGPs reiterate and elaborate on States’ obligations to protect against human rights abuse by businesses and ensure that victims of business-related abuse have access to an effective remedy.

The basics

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Our work in Business & Human Rights

Human Rights 75

Developing safer digital technologies for all

Promoting sustainable and inclusive growth in business


Working Group on Business and Human Rights

12th United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights


Photo credit: Ahmed Salahuddin via Reuters Connect


Climate change and the environment

Tens of millions of people displaced by climate and weather-related disasters each year, pollution leading to 1 in 6 deaths per year, mass extinction and ecosystem loss – these are but some elements of the environmental crises that shape our present-day reality. Without decisive action, things will get worse. Human rights, including the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, offer a roadmap for preventing and remediating the harms caused by the triple planetary crisis. This means, protecting environmental human rights defenders, holding those responsible for environmental harms to account, mobilizing resources for rights-based environmental action, and empowering rights-holders, including Indigenous Peoples, women, young people, local communities, and peasants to exercise their rights to participation, access to information and access to justice in environmental matters.

The basics

Climate change and environment

What is the Right to a Healthy Environment? [Infonote]
English | Español

A/HRC/37/59: Framework Principles

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

Special Rapporteur on climate change

Human rights 75

Volker Türk’s Open Letter for COP28 (PDF)

Volker Türk – Climate Rights, Frontline People and States (video)


Link between humans and the environment must be preserved

“Young people have power” Climate activist Saoirse Exton


Schoolgirl raising hand in classroom


Human rights education

Human rights can only be achieved through an informed and continued demand by people for their protection. Human rights education promotes values, beliefs and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others. It develops an understanding of everyone's common responsibility to make human rights a reality in each community. Human rights education constitutes an essential contribution to the long-term prevention of human rights abuses and represents an important investment in the endeavour to achieve a just society in which all human rights of all persons are valued and respected.

In view of the important role of youth in promoting and protecting human rights, the international community has decided to focus human rights education activities for the period 2020-2024 on human rights education for youth in the context of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.

The basics

World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing)

United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training

The Right to Human Rights Education

Human Rights Education and Training Materials and Resources

Human Rights 75

Statement by Volker Türk, Human Rights Chief, at the Global Forum on Human Rights Education

Türk calls for more human rights education to build “just, peaceful and sustainable world”

Changemakers: Stories of Young Human Rights Educators | Full Documentary


Database on Human Rights Education and Training

From student to human rights defender: the power of human rights education

Standing up for human rights at Swiss Scouts National Jamboree

Student study shows human rights education helps conflict prevention