Note No. 5900
25 October 2004


Press Release
Note No. 5900

Note to Correspondents

Secretary-General to Launch Reform Initiative on Strengthening

United Nations Country-Level Support for Human Rights


In recognition of the importance of supporting the efforts of Member States in strengthening their national human rights promotion and protection systems, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will launch his reform initiative at Headquarters on Wednesday, 27 October.  The event, which will take place in Conference Room 4 from 1:15 p.m. to 2:20 p.m., aims to raise awareness about the initiative among partners and stakeholders, and to promote it with donors and beneficiaries.

Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, will chair the event.  Also speaking will be the Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), Mark Malloch Brown, Executive Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Jan Egeland, Chair of the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA) and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; and Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

A videotape of a message from Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), will be shown.

There will be a live webcast of the launch at the following Internet address:

Immediately following the launch, Ms. Arbour will hold a press conference in room S-226, at 2:25 p.m., accompanied by Ms. Bellamy, Mr. Egeland and Mr. Malloch Brown.

Background to the Initiative

This reform initiative (referred to as "Action Two") stems from the report of the Secretary-General on "Strengthening of the United Nations:  An agenda for further change" (document A/57/387 of 9 September 2002), which suggests 36 "Actions" for improvements aimed at ensuring that the United Nations devotes its attention to the priorities identified by its Member States, and that the Secretariat gives better service.

"The promotion and protection of human rights is a bedrock requirement for the realization of the Charter's vision of a just and peaceful world", stated the Secretary-General in that report.  "Action Two" calls for joint United Nations action to strengthen actions related to human rights at the country level.  It also calls for enhanced support for the efforts of interested Member States in establishing and strengthening national human rights promotion and protection systems, consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

In response to the "Action Two" call, a year-long collaborative process was launched, which culminated in the development and adoption by twenty-one heads of United Nations departments and agencies of an inter-agency plan of action, work plan and project under the framework of the UNDG, ECHA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The ultimate aim of the "Action Two" initiative is to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected and protected, through strengthened national human rights protection systems.  Among the specific objectives of the initiative are:

-- The development of a common understanding of the linkages between human rights and development or humanitarian actions;

-- Establishment of thematic groups to deal with human rights issues in United Nations Country Teams;

-- Development by United Nations agencies of cooperative programming arrangements to support national efforts to develop a culture of human rights, including through human rights education, and establishing and strengthening the rule of law at the national level; and

-- Encouraging the ratification of the seven principal human rights treaties:  the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination;  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;  the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women;  the Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;  the Convention on the Rights of the Child;  and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

For additional information, call Elisabeth Ruzicka-Dempsey, Department of Public Information, at (212) 963-1742.  For media accreditation, contact the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, tel.:  (212) 963-6934, (212) 963-6937, fax:  (212) 963-4642.

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For information media. Not an official record.