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Human rights

Human rights is a core pillar of the United Nations. All staff in peace operations have the responsibility to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights through their work.

A UN Human Rights officer standing in front of a board with text.

UN Photo/MINURCAT

A UN Human Rights Officer provides training to prison officers.

Most multi-dimensional peace operations have a human rights team including: MONUSCO (DR Congo), UNAMID (Darfur) , UNMISS (South Sudan), UNMIL (Liberia), UNOCI (Côte d'Ivoire), MINUSTAH (Haiti) and UNAMA (Afghanistan).

Our goals

Our teams implement the human rights-related mandates given to missions and they help to mainstream human rights across all mission activities. The goals of a human rights teams are:

  • to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights through both immediate and long-term action;
  • to empower the population to assert and claim their human rights;
  • to enable State and other national institutions to implement their human rights obligations and uphold the rule of law.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides expertise, guidance and support to these human rights teams. The head of the human rights team is the advisor to the Head of Mission and also the representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in-country.

Our work

Core activities undertaken by the human rights section typically include:

  • Human rights monitoring, investigations and analysis;
  • Preventing human rights violations, including through mission-wide early warning mechanisms;
  • Responding to violations of human rights, including support for accountability;
  • Advocacy, intervention and reporting;
  • Human rights advice, support for institutional reform and capacity building, working closely with host governments, national institutions and civil society;
  • Advising and assisting other mission teams in integrating human rights in their mandated tasks.
Human rights teams work in close cooperation and coordination with other civilian and uniformed components of peace operations. In particular, in relation to:

Achievements

Examples of our work include:

Afghanistan

Sustained public reporting and advocacy by OHCHR/UNAMA on the protection of civilians in armed conflict saw an encouraging decline in the proportion of civilian deaths caused by pro-Government forces. In 2010 the level was 16 per cent, down 26 per cent from 2009. However, the overall number of civilian deaths continued to grow (2,777 in 2010, an increase of 15 per cent from 2009).

Democratic Republic of the Congo

On 4 April 2010, following sustained advocacy by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), the Senate of the DR Congo adopted a draft Law on the Criminalization of Torture, making torture an offence and providing for severe penalties. The Law remains to be approved.  UNJHRO’s efforts also contributed to the signing, on 23 June 2010, of two directives by the Military Attorney-General. These are addressed to the Military Prosecutors offices and contain measures designed to help combat torture and death in detention.

Haiti

The Human Rights Section of MINUSTAH advocated for and thereafter coordinated a joint security assessment carried out by UN police and military, other UN agencies, NGOs and the Haitian National Police. This resulted in joint policing according to a specifically developed strategic plan, and the deployment of a police presence in some camps to provide a measure of protection for the displaced population. Training was also provided to UN and Haitian security forces on human rights and sexual and gender-based violence.