UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay to Present OHCHR Annual Report for 2012

OHCHR Annual Report 2012

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will present the 2012 annual report of her office on May 24, 2013 in Geneva. The report provides an assessment of the current state of human rights with respect to six thematic priorities and reviews efforts by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the last year to promote human rights in those areas.

The thematic priorities covered are: discrimination; impunity and the rule of law; poverty and social, economic, and cultural rights; migration; violence and insecurity; and human rights mechanisms. Beyond providing information on these human rights issues, the report can also help civil society actors increase their awareness of the OHCHR’s programmatic activities.


The High Commissioner and her office continue to work with governments to enact laws and policies that combat discrimination against women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, sexual orientation and other marginalized groups. As part of these efforts OHCHR supported the organization of conferences to draft new laws and published reports drawing attention to need for improvement in specific countries.  OHCHR also focused on increasing participation between marginalized groups and their counties’ governments, serving as a liaison, funding legal clinics, and helping to run educational workshops. Additionally within the UN, OHCHR has sought to mainstream anti-discrimination efforts  to ensure that all UN agencies and partners find new ways to include minority groups often left out of decision-making process.

Impunity and the Rule of Law

The report highlights that OHCHR works closely with domestic government and non-government actors to promote the rule of law and reduce impunity within UN Member States. Among its activities in 2012, OHCHR promoted legislation to reduce the application of the death penalty for criminal convictions; ensure that national definitions of torture are consistent with those under international law; and guarantee that all residents have access to the justice system.

As one example, in Sierra Leone OHCHR supported the new Legal Aid Law which created “an independent legal aid body to provide free legal advice and representation to the underprivileged.” The High Commissioner’s office also worked closely with advocates, victims and witnesses to document human rights violations in Mexico and then engaged with national law enforcement to decrease impunity. Moreover, OHCHR provided education and training for newly formed national human rights institutions to help them better monitor elections and stand against government impunity.

Poverty and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

With respect to reducing poverty and promoting economic, social, and cultural rights, OHCHR worked with with Member States on national laws and policies that will address economic disparities and other social and cultural concerns that entrench poverty. The report emphasizes that civil society organizations are key OHCHR partners for identify where government programs fall short and how residents can become upwardly mobile with better support.


As with other thematic priorities, the report examines how OHCHR worked alongside government actors, including border patrol agents and national legislatures, to uphold essential human rights in the context of migration.  Equally so, OHCHR also drew on the knowledge of domestic human rights organizations to inform its own efforts to protect and promote migrants’ rights. The High Commissioner regularly worked with civil society groups to advocate for legislation that enshrines the rights of migrant workers, and these non-state actors are also recognized as essential for amplifying migrants’ voices and encouraging their governments to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which is the least ratified of the international human rights agreements.

Violence and Insecurity

Recognizing the tremendous challenge of curbing violence, the report by the High Commissioner gives special attention to the safety of human rights defenders, including journalists, who expose human rights violations. While working primarily with governments to put in place security and monitoring mechanisms, OHCHR also supported the inclusion of civil society actors through dialogues with government actors about what policies or programs are needed and how to carry them out. In particular, the report calls attention to OHCHR having helped survivors of sexual violence access national courts and other support resources in multiple countries. Non-governmental organizations are also recognized by OHCHR as vital for overcoming insecurity, both in identifying patterns of violence and helping victims express their needs.

Human Rights Mechanisms

Supporting the UN human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and special procedures mandate holders, is a core responsibility for the High Commissioner and a central objective in 2012 remained encouraging Members States to ratify and implement the human rights instruments.  Civil society actors can be a useful partner to this end, using their local experience and knowledge to effectively advocate for the implementation of human rights instruments and compliance with human rights mechanisms.  Likewise, local human rights defenders can draw on reports from special procedures mandate holders and the Universal Periodic Review when advocating domestically for human rights.

The report notes that civil society groups have several opportunities to become involved directly with the review of human rights compliance by the Human Rights Council through video messages, participation in side events, and written submissions.  OHCHR also continued to provide trainings on making submissions to treaty bodies that can help civil society organizations around the world more effectively communicate their findings and concerns at the international level.