The question of ‘what happened to Human Rights up Front’ is an oft-repeated refrain in meetings with New York civil society. However, little consistent and clear information has been provided by the UN secretariat on the status of the initiative. This has led many inside and outside the system to claim that the initiative is dead or reconfigured beyond recognition. This report, funded and supported by the Universal Rights Group and the Jacob Blaustein Institute, is the product of nearly a year of conversations, research and analysis, and serves to shed light on the current status of the UN’s “Human Rights up Front” (HRuF) initiative, by identifying key areas in which it resembles as well as differs from the original.
In 2013, then United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the HRuF initiative, following the publication of an Internal Review Panel report by Charles Petrie documenting the catastrophic failure of UN actors to protect and come to the aid of populations caught up in violent conflict in Sri Lanka. Grounded in the UN Charter, HRuF sought to ensure that UN staff in the field took a cross-pillar approach to the prevention of serious human rights violations and conflicts, regardless of their agency or mandate. It envisioned early identification of risk situations combined with a leveraging of the full range of UN mandates and capacities to ensure that country-level action is adequately supported by UN headquarters. HRuF was received warmly by human rights activists, many of whom hoped the initiative would allow the UN to uphold its responsibilities under the UN Charter, even in the most difficult operational contexts.
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