United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk.
© OHCHR

Foreword

I began my tenure as High Commissioner in mid-October 2022, inspired and impressed by the very real difference in individuals’ lives made by this Office.

Each day, my colleagues are working to protect the world’s most marginalized, to stamp out discrimination in all its forms, and to ensure the full and meaningful participation of every person in their societies.

Above all, the Office is a formidable ally to those fighting for justice and equality, and against human rights abuses and violations.

This voice was critical in 2022: a year defined by a myriad of crises.

We witnessed profound geopolitical divisions threatening peace and sustainability. We saw what happens when international laws are flouted, with conflict and violence raging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Myanmar, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine.

The world continued to grapple with the rapidly intensifying climate emergency, soaring rates of poverty, gaping inequalities and the human rights reversals triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As humanity navigates these complex and interconnected crises, we face crucial decisions on how, and when, to act. Now more than ever, we must remember that we have more in common than we may think.

This is the underlying notion that gave birth to human rights – the idea of a shared humanity, that every individual has inherent rights and freedoms, and that we all bear responsibility to care for one another.

This common language of human rights can unite us and help us overcome the divisions that threaten our societies and our planet.  

Preventing and responding to human rights violations requires determination and courage.

Last year, my Office’s 1,841 staff across our 104 field presences and at headquarters worked to advance human rights, and to ensure those who disregard them are held to account.

I am immensely proud to be working alongside them.

This annual report lays out the achievements of my Office, a few of which I would like to highlight.

In 2022, we continued our efforts to address discrimination and reduce inequalities. We supported Montenegro in adopting a new strategy to protect people with disabilities. Our advocacy also contributed to the Disabilities Act coming into effect in Jamaica. In Uganda, my Office supported the launch of the National Action Plan on Albinism: a strategy that will be critical to promoting and protecting the rights of this marginalized and excluded group. And in North Macedonia, my Office provided advice on drafting the Gender Equality Law, which recognizes diverse gender identities for the first time.

We also worked to prevent human rights violations in law enforcement and justice systems. Our advocacy and technical support contributed to the adoption of laws abolishing the death penalty in the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia. We supported authorities in Thailand with the adoption of the Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance, which came into effect in October 2022. In Haiti, our advocacy on illegal detention contributed to the release of 155 detainees, some of whom had been held on minor charges in inhumane conditions for more than 10 years, without a trial. And at the global level, we supported the establishment of the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement.

We focused significant efforts on ensuring adequate legal and social frameworks for the protection of women and girls. In Libya, we supported the drafting of the new Law on Violence against Women. We assisted national authorities in Guinea in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence crimes, representing a historic moment in the long quest for justice of more than 100 women and girls who were victims of rape at the Conakry Stadium massacre in September 2009.

When humanitarian crises strike, there are also immense consequences for human rights. In 2022, my Office established an Emergency Response Team in Fiji. Supporting early warning and analysis in the region, this is now the seventh such team we have stationed across the globe.

To strengthen the human rights response to other crises, we also sent surge teams to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, the Gambia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan, Peru, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Finally, grants provided by our two Humanitarian Funds assisted over 46,000 victims of torture and 13,000 survivors of slavery around the world.

These are just a few examples of the breadth of my Office’s work, none of which would be possible without the generous funding we receive.

We are deeply grateful for our donors’ support.

But despite receiving US$240.8 million last year, our work to advance human rights remains underfunded and underresourced.

If history has shown us anything, it is that we can never be certain of what tomorrow will bring.

We know that human rights challenges are becoming ever-more complex: from growing hate speech in unchecked online platforms and the human rights dangers of rapidly evolving artificial intelligence, to the current and looming deadly consequences of the climate emergency.  

We have no choice but to confront these uncertainties. Doing so will require strengthened funding and renewed resolve.  

As we mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year – one of the most pivotal documents in modern history – we have an opportunity to truly revitalize its promise of human rights, for everyone.

Through my Office’s Human Rights 75 Initiative, each month in 2023, we will highlight human rights issues and call on Member States and others to take concrete and urgent action. We will facilitate dialogues on human rights at the country, regional and global levels. And we will urge that innovative and dynamic pledges be made by States and other stakeholders to strengthen human rights at a high-level event for Human Rights 75 in December 2023.

We seek to reignite the remarkable vision and hope that the Universal Declaration set out, and to advance towards a worldwide consensus on human rights: one which will help unify humanity in the face of critical challenges.  

Over the coming years, it is my sincere hope that we can build on our past achievements, unleashing an even greater potential for human rights to achieve peace, freedom and a sustainable future for everybody.

Thank you very much for your continued support.
Volker Türk
United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights
May 2023
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