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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Presentation of the Annual Appeal by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

16 January 2019

16 January 2019


It is an honour and a pleasure to present the Annual Appeal of the Office of the High Commissioner.  It is a powerful asset for States, as it  assists them with the essential work of governance: ensuring sustainable and inclusive development; accessible and fair justice; and societies that are peaceful, harmonious and resilient. 

Human rights are your tools – the best and most effective investment in a sound and safe future for your people, providing, as the Secretary General has said, "real-world solutions, through real change on the ground". 

This Annual Appeal presents the financial requirements of our work in 2019. At $321.5 million US dollars, it represents the most ambitious programme of work ever drawn up by my Office, and will enable us to contribute to important institutional and policy advancement across every region of the world. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank the 63 Member States who contributed to the work of the Office in 2018, the year of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when our revenue reached a record-high US$185.6 million.

In line with our Office Management Plan – which benefited from extensive consultations with stakeholders -- our 2019 programme of work focuses on pushing forward in key areas. Across every region, we will aim to strengthen rule of law and accountability; to protect and expand the civic space for greater participation; to counter discrimination of all kinds; to integrate human rights more strongly in development policies and programmes; to support early warning and protect rights in situations of conflict and insecurity; and to increase implementation of recommendations by all UN human rights mechanisms. 

In addition, we will upgrade our efforts on key emerging issues such as inequality; climate change; human rights in the digital landscape; corruption; and migration. We will also deepen our coordination and focus on women, young people, and people with disabilities, as part of our efforts to assist States to implement the 2030 Agenda and fulfil their commitment to leave no-one behind. 

Prevention, expansion of the civic space, and creation of a broader global constituency for human rights will be at the core of all our work, with a particular emphasis on our work in the field.  Why? Because human rights work is prevention work. It prevents grievances, conflicts, inequalities, and suffering and discrimination of all kinds. By assisting all States in upholding civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development, we bring solutions to the many challenges you face – from climate change to infectious disease; artificial intelligence and the future of industries; urbanism, and the rights of peasants and people in rural areas.  

The Annual Appeal I present today demonstrates how lean and powerful a tool the Office has become. 

Our 72 worldwide presences have demonstrated impact.  We have developed and implemented effective and well-targeted technical cooperation programmes to help States implement their human rights commitments and elaborated strong guidance to legislators and decision-makers to ensure better laws and policies.  We have also provided increased support to the rest of the UN system, so that the Organisation makes best use of the preventive power of human rights in identifying, addressing and preventing challenges. 

In addition, our uniquely close partnerships with civil society organisations assist in identifying innovative solutions to the human rights needs of their communities and help bring people together across sectors and regions. Our partnerships with companies enhance their drive to embed human rights into their operations. And our monitoring shines a light on often hard to detect protection gaps, so that States and other actors can act, with us, to prevent the escalation of grievances. 

The Office, like all human endeavours, is not perfect, and I will always be ready to listen and act on any suggestions you may have on how to improve our work. But I believe we are a vital tool for greater prevention, and better protection, around the world. 

However, we need your help and your support. Today, I ask you for financial support.  You will find the breakdown of the budget in the document attached. I draw your attention to the large number of field activities to be funded – essential technical cooperation programmes that are much appreciated, and cover issues and situations that are often critical. I also note that because our regular budget resources have not kept pace with the continuing increase in mandated activities, including by the Human Rights Council, this budget also includes funding for some 10 percent of officially mandated activities.

I am often asked what is the value of investing in human rights and why should your taxpayers’ funds be used to support the work of OHCHR. 

My answer is relatively simple: building robust societies with strong governance mechanisms leads to countries having solid financial infrastructure.  This, in turn, creates opportunities and can help prevent conflict, as well as brain drain due to migration, among other benefits for all.

We also work with parliaments and the judiciary to amend or draft laws, to strengthen human rights protection.  For example, in Georgia we have worked closely with the Bar Association and the training institute for judges, to address various structural shortcomings of the legal system; thereby, enhancing fair trial guarantees. In Niger, we have worked with the government, providing analysis of compliance of national migration legislation with international human rights instruments, while in Guatemala our technical cooperation has helped to create a new national migration institution.

Climate change and migration are clear examples of complex challenges that States can only overcome through human rights-based action. My Office can assist States to address them by designing human rights-based legal mechanisms for admission and residence of migrants compelled to move, due to natural disasters. 

In addition, the Office can share and build on emerging examples of practice in countries around the world, and support States to develop appropriate screening procedures and interview techniques for the identification of migrants leaving because of slow onset climate change.  Finally, we can also help States to strengthen and monitor specific aspects of their current migration policies in order to improve their capacity to protect the human rights of climate migrants.

Last year, the voluntary contributions of UN Member States, together with the support of multilateral organisations, private foundations and the corporate sector were the lifeblood of the assistance we brought around the world. The donations ranged from $2,000 to $20 million US dollars. 

However, over two thirds of this funding was earmarked – the highest proportion in the past ten years. Some increased earmarking may be due to greater local funding for field activities, as well as contributions from non-traditional budget lines that can only be accessed as earmarked funds. But in other cases we are seeing previously unearmarked funds becoming restricted. So although we are deeply grateful for the increased resources, I appeal to you to provide unearmarked funds, so that the resources can be allocated to areas where they are most urgently required. 

I am confident that you have recognised the competence and the practical focus of this Office and its work. I am committed to deepening that focus on assisting States to protect the rights of your people and build more sustainable and resilient societies. Just as people around the world count on us, we count on you – because this is work we need to do together. And so I thank you, in advance, for your help.