Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Presentation of the 2023 Annual Appeal
Presentation of the 2023 Annual Appeal
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
It is great to see you all on this brisk Friday morning.
I’m very glad to be with you, and to extend my warmest wishes for a happy, peaceful and healthy new year.
This is the first annual appeal that I present, and it is of great significance.
We know that without human rights there can be no enduring peace. No sustainable development. No justice. That profound insight of interlinkages, principles and purposes of the United Nations is at the core of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter.
The 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR makes this year a vital one for our Office and the United Nations.
I plan to take the opportunity of this anniversary to renew our determination to bring the words of the Universal Declaration to life.
To do this we need to ensure economic, social and cultural rights as equal partners to civil and political rights.
We need to insist on action – globally, regionally and domestically – that addresses inequalities; strengthens social protections; and eliminates discrimination in whatever form and other root causes of conflict, environmental crises and misery.
We need to strengthen the capacity of my Office so that we can meet the needs and requests of States and partners. And all our human rights work needs to be as operational as possible, to produce maximum impact.
In recent years, my Office has stepped up practical engagement to anchor human rights in laws, policies, economies and practises.
But this is only just the beginning.
We have supported efforts to rebuild trust in institutions, including by mobilising public participation, taking steps to enhance civic space, and strengthening the protection of human rights defenders.
We have built up our work in support of rights-based, gender-responsive economic policies that can effectively tackle inequalities.
This includes working to expand coverage of social protection systems, learning lessons from what was possible as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More detailed monitoring – on the ground but also using remote and open-source data – has enabled us to have a clearer focus on crisis situations, as well as on vulnerable communities at risk of being left further behind. In several situations, the deployment of surge capacity staff in response to early warning signs has significantly boosted our preventive work.
We have enhanced our capacity to produce regular, reliable and authoritative data on discrimination; civilian deaths in conflict; killings and disappearances of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists; and progress of national human rights institutions – making us a key source of information for development partners and many others. And we have increased our support to human rights investigations.
Today, we need urgently to build on and expand this proactive and practical approach.
Our UDHR75 initiative will include multiple actions aimed to reinvigorate and ensure that human rights offer solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.
Recently I issued an appeal for States to release all people arbitrarily detained. This was a first step towards putting UDHR75 into action. We will be following up on specific cases that need resolution. And over the course of the year, we will add more calls to States and other actors for strong specific actions that manifest their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The 75th anniversary can also act as a launchpad that projects to the future. Together, I'd like to see us embark on discussions that deliver practical solutions to existential challenges and emerging human rights concerns that threaten humanity.
These and other workstreams will culminate in December, in a high-level, future-driven meeting that will bring together Governments, civil society and others to discuss; to pledge; and to showcase ambitious actions that are delivering positive impact in people’s lives.
My Office, too, will take this opportunity for renewal. I plan to strengthen our links with the broader UN system, and within the international human rights ecosystem. We know that human rights tools and guidance need to inform the design and delivery of UN activities in a powerful, action-oriented and seamless manner. We need to build further on the Secretary-General's Call to Action and Our Common Agenda.
It is especially important that we move swiftly to deepen our work with development actors across the UN, to help place the Sustainable Development Agenda back on track for people and the planet by 2030.
Our Office has already been delivering significant impact in this area. Today I'd like to highlight one example where your support can make a major difference to that effort: the current critical situation that we face in deployment of our Human Rights Advisers.
- Last year, in 50 countries, our Human Rights Advisers provided essential guidance to UN Country Teams and Governments on human rights-based budgeting; a human rights approach to data collection; and policy and programming that leave no-one behind. In 70% of the countries where Human Rights Advisers were deployed in 2021, UN Cooperation Frameworks were linked to UPR recommendations – amplifying the likelihood of their rapid and effective implementation.
In Kenya, our Human Rights Adviser helped the Country Team strengthen links with and between the National Human Rights Institution and the National Statistical Office. The resulting human rights lens in data collection and analysis meant programming – the operational implementation - could better identify and target people who could be left furthest behind – including indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and those with albinism.
- Advocacy and technical support from human rights advisers also contributed to progress towards ending capital punishment. This was especially notable in Equatorial Guinea, where the death penalty was abolished for civil offenses; in Kazakhstan, where the death penalty was completely abolished; and in Zambia, where plans to do the same were announced.
- Human Rights Advisers also help UN Country Teams strengthen their work with civil society organisations, including representatives of minority communities.
For example, in Guinea Bissau, our Human Rights Adviser – with other colleagues – supported government-led consultations with civil society in all the country's administrative regions, as well as the autonomous sector of Bissau. A wide range of stakeholders, including representatives from groups who have traditionally been overlooked, collectively identified priority SDG work. Their discussions had significant impact on the Voluntary National Review and the UN Common Country Analysis, as well as future programming.
This is powerful work. By anchoring human rights in the work of the United Nations system on the ground, we see more effective and inclusive programming and results over time. We currently have 6 more requests from Resident Coordinators for Human Rights Advisers to be deployed. But we need additional financial support to be able to provide this help.
In fact, currently – unless more funds can be found – we will instead need to cut our deployment of Human Rights Advisers in 2023, from 50 to 43 countries.
This is just one very clear example of how your assistance can make the difference to our work, and to the people of this world. The Appeal that we are distributing today is a snapshot of the many areas in which with your help we can seek to bring human rights to life in every part of the world.
Last year, voluntary donors contributed 240.8 million US dollars to my Office – an increase of 5.7% over 2021 that helped us to make a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives.
I sincerely thank every one of our 87 donors, particularly the five largest contributors: Sweden, the European Commission, the United States of America, Norway and Germany. I am concerned by an increasing trend of earmarking our funding, and I particularly thank Sweden, the United States, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, the top contributors of unearmarked funding, which is key to enabling effective implementation of our plans.
I won’t hide that there is quite a gap. I am disappointed to note only 60% of our annual appeal for voluntary funds was covered in 2022.
This meant we fell short of our goals, notably in terms of providing key field support and in digitalizing our work within the Office.
Especially in the Pacific region, Southern Africa and the Caribbean, we were unable to adequately support our staff with additional capacity.
The funding shortfall has also forced us to limit technical cooperation work that was requested by several States. We receive requests on a daily basis from countries for help in this regard.
We must do better in 2023. And we can. Our total needs for 2023 amount to US$ 452 million. With deep gratitude, I really hope that we can count on your increased support as we embark on this exciting and dynamic reinvigoration of human rights. Now, more than ever, we need human rights to keep the world stable and provide us a roadmap to a better future – as part of UDHR75 and beyond.