OHCHR in the World: making human rights a reality on the ground
Over the years, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) has increased its presence in the field, reaching out more and more and giving a voice to the people who need it the most. The Office’s presences away from Headquarters are a strategic entry point for promoting and protecting human rights at the country level; mainstreaming human rights, that is, integrating a human rights perspective into the work of United Nations Country Teams and United Nations peace missions; and helping strengthen national institutions and civil society.
There are a number of ways in which UN Human Rights field presences assist in efforts to make human rights a reality; not only do they monitor the human rights situation in countries, but they also help build the capacity of Member States and other duty-bearers to address human rights issues. The following are UN Human Rights field presences:
* Reference to the State of Palestine should be understood in compliance with UNGA resolution 67/19.
** Reference to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
19 country and stand-alone offices
In establishing country offices and stand-alone offices, UN Human Rights negotiates with the host Government a full mandate that includes human rights protection and promotion. UN Human Rights’ 19 country or stand-alone offices includes 17 country offices in Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Liberia, Mauritania, Mexico, Niger, the State of Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic (based in Beirut), Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, and Yemen; one field-based structure in Seoul that covers the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); and the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU).
A mandate typically includes human rights monitoring and analysis, protection, interaction with and the provision of technical assistance to the host Government, national authorities, civil society, victims and other relevant counterparts through targeted technical cooperation activities, capacity-building and public reporting.
11 human rights components in UN Peace Missions
The Office is the lead United Nations entity for the protection and promotion of human rights, but all UN actors have a role to play in protecting and promoting human rights in their operations. In this respect, UN Human Rights seeks to integrate human rights in all components of UN peace missions.
In 2021, UN Human Rights supported nearly 900 international and national human rights officers and support staff in 11 Human Rights Components of UN peace missions in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
12 regional offices and centres
Regional offices cover multiple countries and are instrumental in integrating human rights into the broader development, peacebuilding and humanitarian programming of the United Nations and Member States.
UN Human Rights maintains 12 regional presences, which includes 10 regional offices, one Sub-Regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (Yaoundé) and one Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region (Doha).
The regional offices are based in East Africa (Addis Ababa), Southern Africa (Pretoria), West Africa (Dakar) South-East Asia (Bangkok), the Pacific (Suva), the Middle East and North Africa (Beirut), Central Asia (Bishkek), Europe (Brussels), Central America (Panama City) and South America (Santiago de Chile).
54 Human Rights Advisers in UN Country Teams and Human Rights Mainstreaming Projects
Human Rights Advisers are deployed to the field to support UN Country Teams at the request of UN Resident Coordinators. They are essential catalysts of human rights mainstreaming. They follow up and analyze the human rights situation in the country in which they serve and advise the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team as a whole on strategies to build or strengthen nations' capacities and institutions in promoting and protecting human rights. They also engage with national actors (Governments and civil society) on how to best promote and implement human rights standards.
As of the end of 2021, the Office had deployed Human Rights Advisers and/or undertaken human rights mainstreaming projects in 55 countries: Argentina, Bahrein, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Gambia, Georgia/South Caucasus, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazahkastan, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, the Republic of North Macedonia, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation*, Rwanda, Samoa, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
* Human Rights Mainstreaming Projects
Rapid response to emerging human rights Crises
A Rapid Response Unit supports the work of UN Human Rights by swiftly deploying personnel to the field. The Unit manages an internal roster of staff who can be rapidly deployed in human rights and humanitarian emergencies, and can provide surge capacity to UN Human Rights field offices. At the request of Member States, UN Human Rights often conducts or supports fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry that investigate serious allegations of human rights violations and abuses.
The Rapid Response Unit has, in recent times, conducted or coordinated the establishment of fact-finding missions or commissions of inquiry mandated by the Human Rights Council on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on the events in the Kasai regions, South Sudan, Burundi and Myanmar; as well as the Commission of Inquiry on Mali mandated by the Secretary-General.
The Rapid Response Unit manages the Contingency Fund that was established to implement the priorities and strategies of the High Commissioner to respond to human rights emergencies by deploying human rights personnel and providing logistical support.
In 2020, UN Human Rights used its Contingency Fund to deploy staff to the following countries or regions: Angola to monitor the human rights violations committed in Kasai, DRC; Bangladesh, to monitor the human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar, Yangoon and the Rakhine State; Qatar to gather information on the impact of the Gulf crisis; Guatemala to assist the country office in monitoring the crisis in the child welfare system; Honduras to assist the country office in monitoring the aftermath of the post-election crisis; Mauritania to strengthen human rights expertise in the humanitarian context; and the remote monitoring of the human rights situation in Venezuela.
In 2020, staff was deployed to monitor the deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua and Ecuador; and in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to provide human rights advice to the humanitarian organizations that assist the Rohingya refugees.