The present report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 48/141, gives an overview of the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at headquarters in Geneva and New York and through its country and regional human rights presences, from 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016. The report follows the OHCHR thematic priorities set out in the Office Management Plan for 2014-2017.
As at 1 November 2016, OHCHR supported 60 field presences consisting of 15 country or stand-alone offices, including a new office in Honduras; 12 regional offices/centres; human rights components in 14 peace missions; and 19 Human Rights Advisers in United Nations country teams. While there is increased demand for Human Rights Advisers, funds are insufficient, challenging both existing deployments and the ability to respond to new requests. Consequently, in 2016, the posts of Human Rights Adviser in Bangladesh, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia and the regional Human Rights Advisers for Asia and the Pacific and for Latin America and the Caribbean were discontinued. The maintenance of a further nine Human Rights Advisers will be reconsidered during 2017, should funds become available. OHCHR will continue working with the United Nations Development Group to seek sustainable funding for this valuable form of human rights presence.
During the period under review, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. The Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Albania, Austria, Denmark, Ecuador, Honduras, Iraq, Turkey (on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit) and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Myanmar and Sri Lanka as part of a delegation headed by the Secretary-General. The former Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights visited Austria, Ethiopia (to attend the African Union Summit), Guyana, the Republic of Moldova, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States, as well as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan as part of a delegation headed by the Secretary-General. His successor, who took up his functions on 1 October 2016, also visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The reporting period was one of significant and protracted crises. Civilian casualties in conflicts reached alarming levels, while deaths and suffering from large-scale movements of people continued to rise. During the reporting period, the death toll from attempted migration across the Mediterranean Sea surpassed that of previous years, despite fewer overall arrivals in Europe. Political discourse around many of these human tragedies, relating in particular to migrants, has become more and more tainted by intolerance, xenophobia and prejudice, while basic human rights principles are being questioned. At the World Humanitarian Summit in May, OHCHR promoted the importance of both international human rights law as well as international humanitarian law in humanitarian action and made 32 commitments to enhance its engagement in humanitarian action.
An overarching priority for OHCHR is to support country-level implementation of international obligations and recommendations emanating from human rights mechanisms. Throughout the reporting period, OHCHR continued to work with Governments, national human rights institutions, civil society and United Nations country teams to develop common human rights strategies and better align development plans with human rights recommendations. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has reinforced the intrinsic connection between human rights and development. Throughout the world, OHCHR presences worked to gather information on gaps in the realization of human rights and collaborated with national actors to address them through advocacy, legislative reform and training.
OHCHR increased efforts to strengthen partnerships with regional organizations and to enhance complementarity between international and regional human rights mechanisms. In Africa, OHCHR supported the implementation by the African Union of its Human Rights Strategy for Africa, and worked with the League of Arab States to develop a regional human rights strategy. Moreover, OHCHR engaged regularly with the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union, and engaged with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the prevention of violent extremism. OHCHR also filed amicus briefs or provided expert opinions before the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The High Commissioner pursued strategies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Office in delivering its mandate and to expand its donor base, as well as organizational changes to facilitate better support to Member States, rights holders and other partners.