A Rough Guide to the OHCHR

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the United Nations (UN) official with principal responsibility for promoting and protecting the effective enjoyment of human rights. The post and its mandate were established by the General Assembly (resolution 48/141, 20 December 1993) in the wake of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is part of the UN Secretariat and supports the High Commissioner in the implementation of his/her mandate. The work of the OHCHR has three main dimensions: standard-setting, monitoring, and supporting implementation on the ground. It is implemented in two main ways: first, by providing secretariat support and substantive expertise to the different UN human rights bodies as they discharge their standard setting and monitoring duties; and second, as a UN agency, by promoting the implementation of international human rights standards on the ground through country engagement and through its field presences. The OHCHR serves as the secretariat of both Charter-based bodies – in particular the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms (Special Procedures, Universal Periodic Review and the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure), and treaty-based bodies – i.e. the treaty bodies established under the various international human rights conventions, and supports them in their standard setting and monitoring responsibilities. This includes, for example, assisting Special Procedure mandate-holders organise country missions and receive complaints from the victims of human rights violations; and organising meetings of the treaty bodies and conducting legal research for the consideration of members. The OHCHR also works to directly strengthen the implementation of international human rights standards on the ground through its engagement with countries and its field presences. Governments retain the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights, and the OHCHR thus seeks to work with them to strengthen capacity and provide technical support. In pursuit of this goal, the OHCHR has, over recent years, significantly increased its presence in the field (e.g. field offices, regional offices, country human rights advisors), allowing it to work more closely with governments, national human rights institutions, other UN actors and non-governmental organisations. They provide, for example, expert advice on the administration of justice, legislative reform, human rights treaty ratification, the UPR process and human rights education. The OHCHR is headquartered in Geneva, maintains an office in New York, and has numerous country and regional offices. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is assisted by a Deputy High Commissioner and supported by four substantive Divisions within OHCHR: the Research and Right to Development Division, the Human Rights Treaties Division, the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, and the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division. The OHCHR’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action, and the OHCHR Management Plan.