Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
“We need to double our budget” – High Commissioner Volker Türk
14 June 2023
Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Presentation of 2022 UN Human Rights Report
Thank you for attending, and for your support of our work. I am pleased to present my first annual report on OHCHR’s activities and accomplishments in 2022.
It’s been eight months since I began my tenure as High Commissioner at a time of increasing challenges.
It would be impossible to describe the extent and impact of our work in one brief statement. Our report for 2022 delivers a more abundant picture, and demonstrates how valuable this work is, in a nutshell -- with benefit not only in specific countries, but as a major contributor to safeguarding global stability, promoting development, and paving the road to peace.
To help bring this work to life I’d like to share a few examples in three key areas.
First, support for human rights-compliant policy and laws is absolutely crucial, to enable each State to address people’s grievances, and nourish their confidence in their institutions.
In 2022, the Office supported the establishment of the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, with a global mandate. This expert body examines laws, policies and practices regarding use of force by law enforcement, and it recommends concrete steps that will address and redress discriminatory and excessive use of force, as well as other human rights violations against people of African descent.
Our field presences also did extensive work in numerous countries to prevent human rights violations in law enforcement and justice systems.
In the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia, we successfully contributed to the abolition of the death penalty.
We helped advance legal and social frameworks for the rights of women and girls in many countries. We assisted North Macedonia to draft its Gender Equality Law, which recognizes diverse gender identities for the first time. And we contributed to a new law in Libya on violence against women.
We also supported Montenegro in adopting a new strategy to protect people with disabilities. And our advocacy greatly contributed to the Disabilities Act in Jamaica.
A second and profoundly impactful area of our work is support to victims and the advancement of accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses.
In 2022, grants provided by our Voluntary Fund for Torture and our Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery assisted over 46,000 victims of torture in 2022, and 13,000 survivors of slavery around the world.
In Guinea, our assistance has been crucial to the national authorities investigation into the 2009 Conakry stadium massacre. Eleven men now are on trial, a landmark in the long quest for justice for more than 100 girls and women who were sexually assaulted.
In Ukraine, we have a crucial role in the collection of information regarding evidence of gross violations of international crimes, together with the Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry. This evidence will help to shape future efforts for accountability and justice for victims. From 24 February 2022 to 4 June 2023, using the rigorous methodology developed by our Office over dozens of investigations globally, our staff have verified more than 8,900 civilian deaths in Ukraine, and over 15,400 civilians wounded.
In Colombia, our field presence verified 83 cases of massacres and 112 killings of human rights defenders in 2022. We continue to contribute to strengthening the presence and capacity of the State’s civilian institutions to ensure better protection for human rights defenders – including environmental human rights defenders – and to ensure investigation and prosecutions for any attacks.
Third, the impact of our work to mainstream human rights within all UN operations is growing – and we need urgently to accelerate that impact.
The UN exists to prevent crisis and conflict, while advancing justice. Human rights is the best prevention tool we have. Without it, there can be no enduring peace and no sustainable prosperity.
We must make sure that every UN Country Team advances human rights across all its work.
In 2022, 50 Common Country Analyses and UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework processes further integrated our specific human rights analyses and recommendations.
This is work that delivers impact, for societies and for individuals. More broadly, people around the world benefit from our advocacy, our assistance in reforming laws, and our direct interventions across a range of issues. None of this would be possible without your support. But we need to do more.
We need more people on the ground to prevent human rights abuses, so the world does not have to deal with more catastrophic fall-out later.
We need to constantly sharpen our tools, including strong guidance on concrete ways to advance economic and fiscal policies that advance human rights and address inequalities and exploitation.
In response to the vast need to protect human rights, my Office has become increasingly operational. We now have more than 100 field presences around the world, and they deliver measurable advances to human rights in the countries where they work.
We have expanded our Regional Office in East Africa and have established seven Emergency Response Teams around the world.
Being close to our partners and the people we serve allows our Office to better deliver on its mandate.
But ensuring our field presences have the right people with the right skills requires funding.
As it is, less than 20 percent of our field presences receive regular budget funding. They do receive some voluntary contributions, but this does not match the increasing demands imposed on them.
If we had the assurance of predictable, flexible multi-year funding, we see many places in the world where we could and should be doing much more, including in the area of economic, social and cultural rights. For years we have been doing as much as possible with very little.
But standing up for human rights — preventing abuses, ensuring respect, getting justice for victims — is not optional.
Human rights is one of the three pillars on which the UN is built. Peace and security and development cannot be achieved without human rights.
I’m sure all of you know well the giant Broken Chair sculpture facing the entrance to the Palais. It is the legacy of a campaign to ban land mines and cluster bombs, but I often think it also illustrates the importance of human rights in the UN system and the world.
Unlike the ingeniously engineered statue, in the real world a chair with one broken leg cannot stand.
Despite being one of the UN's vital pillars, in 2023 the overall approved amount that we will receive is just over five percent of the UN’s regular budget. This simply is not adequate in a world facing increasing threats to human rights, and we will need to continue to count on your support for extrabudgetary funding.
When my mandate was established 30 years ago, it supported existing human rights mechanisms.
Today it is world’s leading office on human rights. And it should be funded accordingly. We need an adequate structure to enable us to be where we need to be, to do the work we are mandated to do. To deliver our mandate for everyone.
Last year, we received slightly more than $392 million in regular and voluntary contributions. We are grateful for your support. But for us to work, everywhere, to advance the human rights that are so badly needed, we need to double our budget.
This year we mark the 75th anniversary of one of the most pivotal documents in modern history, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I appeal to you to use this 75th anniversary to help revitalize its promise of human rights for everyone.
As you read our 2022 annual report, noting our achievements made possible by your contributions, I’m sure you’ll see the value of investing in OHCHR.
We count on your support to help us build strong legs to support a stable world.