To Know – To Act – To Understand
To Know – To Act – To Understand

Office of the High Commissioner on HR – UN OHCHR

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), created in 1997 by merging all the UN human rights operations of the Secretariat into one body, represents the global authority on human rights and is responsible for leading the UN Human Rights program. It is a part of the Secretariat and is led by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This position is held by Ms. Michele Bachelet since September 2018.

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, adopted in 1993[1], called the UN for the creation of a position for a High Commissioner for Human Rights, a role created the same year through a GA Resolution (48/141). This resolution held that the High Commissioner should bear primary responsibility to drive global human rights efforts. The High Commissioner is appointed by the UN Secretary-General and elected by the General Assembly (GA) for a fixed term of four years, with the possibility of one renewal for another fixed term of four years.

The specific responsibilities of the High Commissioner, as set out in the mandate given by the United Nations General Assembly, are:

  • To promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights;
  • To provide advisory services and technical and financial assistance in the field of human rights     to States that request them;
  • To coordinate UN education and public information programs in the field of human rights;
  • To play an active role in removing the obstacles to the full realization of all human rights and in preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world;
  • To engage in a dialogue with Governments in order to secure respect for all human rights;
  • To enhance international cooperation for the promotion and protection of all human rights;
  • To coordinate the national human rights promotion and protection activities throughout the UN system;
  • To rationalize, adapt, strengthen and streamline the UN machinery in the field of human rights in order to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

The Office was created few years later in 1997. Both the High Commissioner and the Office are entrusted by the GA with a mandate to promote and protect all human rights for all, as well as safeguarding the three interconnected pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights and development. It provides assistance in the form of technical expertise and capacity-development in order to support eh implementation of international human rights standards on the ground. It assists governments, to fulfill their obligations and supports individuals to claim their rights.

The headquarters of the Office are located in Geneva (also an office in New-York) and have three substantive divisions:

  • Thematic engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division (TESPRDD): develops policy and provides guidance, tools, advice and capacity strengthening support on thematic issues
  • Human Rights Council and treaty Mechanisms Division (CTMD): provides the HRC and the UPR mechanism technical support.

Field Operations and Technical Cooperation (FOTCD): monitor and implement the Office’s work in the field.


[1] during the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, which reaffirmed the standards and principles that have evolved over the past 45 years and further strengthens the foundation for greater progress in human rights