A year in the life of OHCHR

The Un Human Rights Office presents its 2009 annual report to Member States © OHCHRUN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay presented her Office’s “2009 Annual Report on Activities and Results” to representatives of UN Member States in Geneva.

“The release of a report of this kind is a chance to pause and reflect on what we have been able to achieve and the challenges we have faced along the way”, Pillay said. “We have made a conscious effort in the report to identify and describe the concrete outcomes of our work, to provide as many practical examples as possible of the impact of our activities on the level of human rights protection.”

The UN Human Rights Office, which operates in more than 50 countries, further expanded its global network by opening a new regional office in Brussels, Belgium for Europe and a training and documentation centre for South West Asia and the Arab region in Qatar. At the end of 2009, OHCHR had a work force of some 1000 people, half of which worked away from headquarters.

The technical expertise provided by OHCHR to Governments and legislatures helped inform the content of some 60 new laws related to human rights. Examples include a new law in Colombia making it easier to trace and identify victims of enforced disappearance; the withdrawal of a proposal that would have criminalized homosexuality in Rwanda; and a new penal code in Timor-Leste.

A substantial aspect of OHCHR’s work is to support the UN human rights machinery in Geneva and New York by servicing the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review, the Council's expert mechanisms known as special procedures, as well as the treaty bodies that monitor States’ compliance with international human rights treaties.

The High Commissioner indicated that by 31 December 2009, marking the half way through the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review process, all countries scheduled had participated with the support of OHCHR.

The UN Human Rights Office also undertook further efforts to reinforce the treaty body system and to reach universal ratification of the nine core human rights treaties. Eighty-seven new ratifications were recorded last year.

Six new Special Procedures mandates were created last year including the mandate of Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights. Experts carried out 73 country visits and also sent 689 communications alleging human rights violations to 119 States.

OHCHR’s expertise was essential while organising the Durban Review Conference in April 2009, where 182 countries adopted an Outcome Document which called on all Governments to combat discrimination in all its forms. On 10 December 2009, Human Rights Day, the UN Human Rights Chief also launched a year-long outreach campaign to “Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination”.

Commenting on the level of funding her Office received last year, Pillay expressed her satisfaction that despite the impact of the global financial and economic crises, most of the UN Human Rights Office’s donor countries were able to maintain or in a few cases even increase their support. OHCHR received US 118 million dollars in new contributions, down 1.5 per cent compared to 2008, of which 56 per cent - the highest proportion ever recoded - was unearmarked.

“I am less satisfied with the degree of diversity in our current funding base. I have used every opportunity of bilateral contacts and meetings with regional groups to appeal for contributions and I do so again today”, the UN Human Rights Chief added, noting that 69 out of the 192 Member States - fewer than in 2008 - made contributions last year.

28 May 2010