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Oral presentation on Report of the Secretary-General
Ms. Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

Human Rights Council 49th Session, Agenda Item 5

Geneva, 22 March 2022

Presentation of Secretary-General’s report on “Current system-wide delivery and financing of, and existing gaps in, technical assistance and capacity-building that support the implementation by States of their international human rights obligations and commitments.”
Madam Vice President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to present to you today the Secretary General’s report on the technical assistance and capacity-building that supports States’ implementation of their international human rights obligations. 


The High Commissioner for Human Rights opened this Human Rights Council reiterating our   continual refrain that “more needs to be done to prevent conflict and human rights crises”. 

OHCHR’s strategic approach to prevention focuses on addressing the root causes of crises through human rights in an effort to build resilience, and sustain peace and development. The international human rights framework, and its mechanisms for implementation, provides a critical foundation to achieve this. As the pandemic has shown us, investing in the promotion and protection of all human rights will reinforce our resilience to unexpected shocks. 

Our approach builds on the Secretary-General’s prioritization of prevention as a system-wide responsibility and the centrality he places on human rights to this end.

The report I present today reflects on resilience, highlighting the relationship between a society’s enjoyment of all human rights and its resilience to crises. When human rights are protected and fulfilled, we can build open and just societies, spaces for vibrant debate and promote and protect civil space. With deep and secure human rights foundations, we can address discrimination and exclusion, reduce the causes of crisis and strengthen our capacity to face future pandemics and the climate crisis.

Building resilience means building trust. This means that people feel that they are taken seriously, their dignity is respected, their voices heard, and they can genuinely change the outcome of decisions. Building resilience means renewing the social contract, anchored in human rights, at the national level, as emphasized by the Secretary-General in Our Common Agenda. If we can establish solidarity at home, efforts to prevent and address emerging and existing crisis beyond borders will greatly improve. 

This is why strengthening national human rights capacities, as well as the ability of the UN presences to support national efforts, is a current priority for the UN system under the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights. States’ commitments on the full spectrum of rights – economic, social, cultural and civil and political rights – must be a reference point in the design and delivery of all United Nations activities, development assistance and crisis prevention. The pandemic has shown how it is only when this full spectrum of rights is protected that robust resilience is established.

The report highlights the progress we have made in working together within and beyond the UN system towards effectively integrating human rights in development, peace and security and humanitarian work.  It traces the critical role played by our partners, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society, in preventing human rights violations and crises. It urges us to maintain and build on that relationship and expand our collaboration to other actors, including parliaments and regional organisations. 

A critical tool in our work in incorporating human rights in the field has been the deployment of human rights advisers, regional gender advisers and emergency response teams to the field. This has borne fruit. For example, an evaluation conducted in 20171 highlighted the positive role played by regional gender advisers in contributing to the removal of the structural causes of gender inequality and discrimination against women and in promoting  women’s rights over the longer term.

But we can do more. This report provides us with some guidance on the way forward. Above all, we need more expertise on the ground to develop efficient human rights technical assistance and capacity-building activities. We need to do better at integrating human rights in United Nations common analysis and programming and ensuring that their design and implementation includes the broadest possible participation. Mainstreaming a gender perspective remains crucial, both within UNCTs and when States are implementing human rights recommendations. We need to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and all our partners.

For all of this we need your support. As highlighted in this report, the regular budget submission for OHCHR for 2022 represents just over 3 per cent of the total United Nations regular budget.2 To effectively prevent crises and conflict through national human rights capacities, this is woefully insufficient. 


States hold the primary responsibility in implementing their human rights obligations. Through this report, we hope that States will see that investing in implementation of human rights is a smart investment in the future for stability, prosperity and the benefit of all. Technical assistance and capacity-building programmes are often central to supporting States implementation, providing specific expertise to inform the development of sound national policies, thus contributing to building national resilience.  

Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

We stand ready to assist you in meeting your obligations and rely on your support. It is time, now, for strong preventive action that will match our words. 

Thank you.

2/ See the Secretary General’s call to action for human rights, “Our Common Agenda” and General Assembly resolution 76/247.