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Updated 06/23/2006

Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal U.N. official responsible for human rights. The position is independent of the Commission on Human Rights and is appointed directly by the U.N. Secretary General, with the approval of the General Assembly. The position was created in 1993 as a result of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, largely due to the lobbying of nongovernmental organizations.  

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the commissioner "seeks to lead the international human rights movement by acting as a moral authority and voice for victims." The commissioner also works with governments to strengthen national human rights protection and seeks to build widespread commitment to human rights by engaging with nongovermental organizations, academic institutions and the private sector as well.


The commissioner is required to give equal emphasis to all rights as outlined in the Vienna Declaration, and he or she may take up issues with governments without waiting for approval from U.N. bodies. The commissioner has the power to be openly and consistently critical of all governments. Therefore, the position is highly public, and the commissioner’s effectiveness is dependent on his or her personality. In recent years, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has increased its field presence in every region of the world for monitoring and technical assistance purposes. 

For more information

Web site of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights