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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization

D. Promotion of human rights

Human Rights Council hall in GenevaThe year 2013 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. I call for the renewed commitment of all stakeholders to live up to their responsibilities and ensure that human rights is a core purpose of this Organization, in deed and in action. People reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights during the past year, raising their voices around the world to demand freedom of expression, justice, accountability, an end to corruption and misrule, decent work and a decent life. They did so through peaceful protest, engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms and through consultations on the post-2015 development agenda. I urge Member States to hear those voices and to ensure that they live up to their human rights responsibilities, not only to listen but to act. Our ability to hear individual voices was strengthened with the long-awaited tenth ratification and entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides for an individual communications procedure. Thirty-seven years after the equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force, it is a landmark achievement. Yet there were too many cases in the past year of the opposite trend: civil society groups, human rights defenders, migrants and minorities faced growing pressures and restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Member States also reaffirmed important commitments and principles in the past year. At the informal, interactive dialogue in the General Assembly on timely and decisive response in the context of the responsibility to protect, in September 2012, and in Human Rights Council resolution 22/22 on the prevention of genocide, in March 2013, they recognized their obligations to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. At the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law in September 2012, Member States also made a commitment to ensuring that impunity is not tolerated for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity or for violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights law. The intergovernmental human rights treaty strengthening process also advanced during the year. Effective implementation of the United Nations human rights instruments remains essential to promoting human rights and preventing violations. I urge Member States to ensure the functioning and integrity of the system.

I regret that, in spite of these commitments, we have let too many people down. In the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, the Syrian Arab Republic and elsewhere, serious and massive violations of human rights were committed. United Nations bodies endeavoured to provide Member States with the necessary information to prompt action, making use of commissions of inquiry and other fact-finding missions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights deployed a series of missions to Mali and neighbouring countries to gather information about the human rights situation. The High Commissioner published a study reporting the number of casualties in the Syrian Arab Republic from March 2011 to April 2013. She briefed the Security Council more often in the past year than ever before. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic for the third time. It established a fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and a commission of inquiry for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Human Rights Council also created new special procedures mandates for Belarus, Eritrea and Mali, and agreed on initiatives to protect journalists and human rights defenders. Reprisals against people who engage with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and restrictions on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights also remain matters of serious concern.

Within the United Nations system, important steps were taken to integrate and mainstream human rights across all our activities and to hold our own personnel and those we support to the highest possible standards. I called on all stakeholders to ensure that international human rights standards and principles guide the post-2015 goals and objectives and on Member States to ensure that human rights shape policymaking across the United Nations. Measures were put in place to strengthen human rights capacities and accountabilities in resident coordinators’ offices and country teams. The human rights due diligence policy on United Nations support to non-United Nations security forces was disseminated to Member States and implemented in a wide variety of cases. In December 2012, I endorsed a new policy on human rights screening of United Nations personnel, outlining the principles and methodology by which the Secretariat will seek to ensure that all its personnel will be screened for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.