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UN Human Rights Commission

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UN High Commission for Human Rights

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to protect and promote all human rights for all."

Mission Statement, Geneva, 2000

The UN Human Rights Commission was created in 1946 to respond to specific issues related to human rights. It has been the main vehicle for promoting acceptance of the principles laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Its first 20 years were spent drawing up the two International Covenants that gave legal force to the Universal Declaration.

Since the creation of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1946, the role of the UN human rights regime has expanded.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

As an indication of the expanding significance of the field of human rights, in 1993 the General Assembly created the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, from Brazil, is the current High Commissioner.

He is accountable to the Secretary-General and is responsible for all the activities of the Office, as well as for its administration.

The High Commissioner advises the Secretary-General on the policies of the United Nations in the area of human rights.

He also ensures that support is given to the projects, activities, and bodies of the human rights programme; he represents the Secretary-General at meetings of human rights organs and at events; and he carries out special assignments.
Sergio Vieira

Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello's four-year term began in September, 2002. His recent work has included important achievements in East Timor and as the head of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Mr Vieira de Mello has stated that the overarching theme of the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be "fostering the rule of law, without which it is not possible to have respect for human rights, democracy and good governance."

During his term, he will be paying particular attention to the protection of civilian populations in conflict; combating racism and discrimination; and the rights of women.

His work is aided by extra-conventional mechanisms. These include "special rapporteurs" or experts who operate independently of their governments and with the authority of the UN behind them.

They report on broad themes of concern such as torture, extra judicial executions, arbitrary detention, disappearances, the right to development, physical and mental health, indigenous rights, and religious intolerance, as well as investigating conditions in various countries.

The Office promotes the enjoyment of all human rights by giving practical effect to the will and resolve of the world community as expressed by the UN.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

  • Plays the leading role on human rights issues and emphasises the importance of human rights at the international and national levels;
  • Promotes international co-operation for human rights;
  • Stimulates and co-ordinates action for human rights throughout the United Nations system;
  • Promotes universal ratification and implementation of international standards;
  • Assists in the development of new norms;
  • Supports human rights organs and treaty monitoring bodies;
  • Responds to serious violations of human rights; Undertakes preventive human rights action;
  • Promotes the establishment of national human rights infrastructures;
  • Undertakes human rights field activities and operations; and
  • Provides education, information advisory services and technical assistance in the field of human rights.



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