Skip to main content

q&a on human rights at the un

ICJW representative Fran Butensky attended a Q&A session at the UN with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonic, in December 2013. 
 
This briefing provided an overview of the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The OHCHR was established in the 1940s as the UN office responsible for promoting and protecting the human rights of all people as articulated in the UN Charter and in international human rights laws and treaties. The mandate of OHCHR includes preventing human rights violations, securing respect for all human rights and coordinating related activities throughout the UN system.
 
OHCHR works with world governments and institutions to develop and strengthen the protection of human rights in accordance with international norms.
This briefing as well as many other meeting held during the week was organized to commemorate Human Rights Day 2013 and to celebrate the 1950 General Assembly proclamation of December 10 as Human Rights Day to bring to the attention of  “the peoples of the world” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1993, the UN General Assembly created the mandate of the High Commissioner for the promotion and protection of all human rights.
 
Mr. Simonovic began with a quote by Kofi Annan, “Without development there can be no security, without security there can be no development and you can’t have either without human rights”
 
Theme- 20 Years of Human Rights The Road Ahead
Progress of the Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights

·        Increases in awareness that people are entitled to their human rights and when deprived enough, it eventually leads to conflict (Arab Spring).
·        When human rights violations occur, it is an early indication of threats to peace and security
·        Damage control-every year, the OHCHR informs the Security Council of at least 10-12 violations.
·        Community tribunals have paved the way for permanent International Criminal Courts
·        Treaties and obligations have tripled
·        Duty of the States themselves to report and act on crimes and violations
·        There are Periodic Reviews where Member States are reviewed by their peers.
·        More and more treaties on human rights are becoming universal.
·        The OHCRH has expanded its operations. The now have 500 people in Geneva and New York, 500 people in the field and a staff of 800 in departments of human rights missions.
·        Improved interaction with civil society has had a tremendous impact on member states: campaign against land mines, pushing for Criminal Court.
 
Mr. Simonivic acknowledged that there are still unresolved areas  such as climate change, increased inequality,  mass atrocities not being adequately addressed and more work in support of women, people with disabilities, migrants, LGBT and indigenous peoples and minorities.
 
Many challenges lie ahead in the struggle to promote and enhance the dignity, freedom and the rights of all human beings. However, significant progress has been made in the last two decades.