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How does the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) work?

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has over 900 international civil servants who work across the globe on a wide range of human rights activities, and is headed by High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. The independent role of the High Commissioner as the principal UN human rights official comes from a direct mandate given by the General Assembly. (Note that OHCHR, which is part of the United Nations Secretariat answering to the Secretary-General, is a distinct entity from the Human Rights Council, which is the main UN intergovernmental body responsible for human rights and consists of 57 Member States.) OHCHR supports the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures and the expert committees monitoring international human rights treaties. With a number of field presences, it assists Governments in strengthening their human rights capacities, and promotes ratification and implementation of international human rights treaties. The UN Human Rights Office works with Governments and other partners such as national institutions to ensure all human rights are fully respected. The UN Human Rights Office engages with civil society organizations and assists them in promoting and protecting human rights more effectively. To fulfil its comprehensive human rights mandate, the Office speaks out objectively in the face of human rights violations worldwide. It provides a forum for identifying, highlighting and developing responses to today’s human rights challenges worldwide, and acts as the principal focal point of human rights research, education, public information, and human rights advocacy activities in the United Nations system.

What does the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe do?

Based in Brussels since 2009, the Regional Office works for the enjoyment of human rights by all people in the European Union (EU). Supported by headquarters in Geneva, the Regional Office addresses human rights challenges in the EU and its member States through advisory services, advocacy, technical assistance, monitoring, reporting, strategic litigation, and human rights education. It also promotes a human rights-based approach to EU external action, migration management and development cooperation, and fosters the mainstreaming of human rights in the work of the UN family represented in Brussels. In addition, the Regional Office fulfils a good offices role for the global partnership between the EU and the UN Human Rights Office. The interventions of the Regional Office are rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN human rights treaties and the mandate of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as described in UN General Assembly resolution 48/141.

What are the UN Human Rights Office’s priorities in Europe?

The priorities of the Regional Office for Europe for the period 2018 – 2021 build on the global priorities and theory of change in the UN Human Rights Office’s Organisational Management Plan. They include: broadening support for human rights, countering the erosion of democracy, fostering equality and inclusion from the perspective of leaving no one behind and starting with the ones most behind first, safeguarding the dignity of migrants, and advancing a human rights-based approach to EU internal and external policy-making and budgeting and to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Office seeks to strengthening regional and national human rights protection systems by working with States, regional organisations, national human rights institutions, equality bodies, civil society and human rights defenders. The Office promotes and facilitates the engagement of these stakeholders with the UN human rights mechanisms (Universal Periodic Review, UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council) and advocates for the implementation of their recommendations.

How can I get information about the UN Human Rights Office’s activities in Europe?

The best way to receive regular updates about the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe is to follow us on social media: https://www.facebook.com/europeohchr/ and https://twitter.com/OHCHR_Europe

This website, as well as OHCHR's general website, www.ohchr.org, is a good source of information about our work in Europe as well as about the UN human rights system, different human rights issues, international human rights law and the work of the human rights bodies that monitors the implementation of the legal obligations. You can also find human rights information on most countries in Europe, such as their status of ratification of international human rights treaties, their cooperation with OHCHR and Special Procedures, Government’s reports on their implementation of the core international human rights treaties and recommendations on state reports by the treaty bodies.

How does international law protect my human rights?

International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights. Through ratification of international human rights treaties, Governments undertake to put into place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties. The domestic legal system, therefore, provides the principal legal protection of your human rights guaranteed under international law. Where domestic legal proceedings fail to address human rights abuses, mechanisms and procedures for individual complaints or communications are available at the regional and international levels to help ensure that international human rights standards are indeed respected, implemented, and enforced at the local level. Regional human rights protection systems, such as the Council of Europe and its human rights mechanisms, including first and foremost the Strasbourg-based European Court for Human Rights, also have a crucial role in enforcing international law.

How can the UN Human Rights Office help promote and protect my human rights?

The UN Human Rights Office represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of
human dignity and has been given a unique mandate by the international community to
promote and protect human rights. It can also take up individual human rights cases presented
to it. Through its unique access, the Office works with Governments to ensure that all human
rights are fully respected.