On June 5, 2020, the UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet made an online presentation of the 2019 UN Human Rights report to Civil Society Organizations.

She pointed out how this year her office has upheld and supported States in the promotion of Human Rights in a context of eroding multilateralism, new threats to civic space and ever more complex environment for human rights promotion and protection. She also recognized the collaborative work with Civil Society Organizations.

This report covers an entire year of her term as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and two years into the OHCHR Management Plan (2018-2019). The OHCHR office counts on the extensive work of more than 1,400 staff based in Geneva and in 84 field presences all over the world.

Among the various accomplishments by the office were work on 39 treaty actions, help and assistance extended to more than 35.000 victims of torture, 133 reports were reviewed by treaty bodies and increase in the number of Human Rights Advisers.  Of note was the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the office’s efforts to enhance the participation of children and to give space to listen to them specifically through the 2019 Social Forum.  She also mentioned their work in the importance of protecting civic space, recognizing its great impact on the protection of freedoms and privacy.

She affirms that this Report highlights how human rights-based action achieves tangible results, though the gap between increasing demands and available funding keeps growing. The over-all funding shortfall throughout the UN system has funded only 56 per cent of their annual appeal.  The office continually relies on states’ voluntary contribution.

Currently, in the face of COVID-19, mobility has been greatly affected and it sees ever more the challenge to continue advancing HR work to face the consequences of the Pandemic. Hence, she called for continual support from civil society organizations.

“…the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our societies and ourselves, presenting a colossal test of leadership and humanity. In these unsettling times, the importance of human rights has become even more evident. This is essential for an effec­tive response and recovery – but also to ensure that we “build back better”, as enshrined in the COVID-19 and human rights report “We are all in this together”, released by the Secretary-General.”

She concludes that this would entail identifying what world we would want to live in, building an economy that is sustainable and respectful of nature, requiring innovative thinking and incentivizing states to work for socio-economic frameworks that strengthen social protection systems.  In doing so, she continues to count on the collaborative work with engaged civil society organizations at the international and national levels.

The OHCHR 2019 Human Rights Report is accessible through this link.