About the UNDG Guidance Note on Human Rights for RCs and UNCTs

Over 70 years ago, shocked by the horror and mass misery wrought by the Second World War, Member States adopted the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter’s Article 1 stipulates one of the UN’s purposes as “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction

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Guiding Principles and Key Messages


 Promoting and encouraging respect for human rights, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, is one of the core purposes and principles of the UN, and is enshrined in article 1 of the UN Charter. All UN agencies, funds and programmes are governed by, and have a mandate to promote, the principles of the UN Charter.

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Why is the UN's HR Role so Important?

The UN Charter, which establishes the mandate of the UN, sets out that a core purpose of the UN is “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all”, without discrimination (article 1).  Meeting this mandate is not optional; it is a duty for the whole

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The Human Rights Responsibilities of the Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams

All UN entities and all UN staff are required to consistently uphold human rights, as part of meeting the core mandate of the UN set out under the UN Charter. However, the RC bears particular responsibility to lead the UN Country Team in ensuring that all operational activities of the UN at the country level are consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN and the policy framework on human rights.

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What to do to Meet these Human Rights Responsibilities

This section sets out a brief checklist with concrete actions that the RC and UN Country Team can undertake to meet the human rights responsibilities set out above. This checklist was developed from RCs’ suggestions, based on their experiences. Where relevant, more detailed guidance on how to address these matters is provided in the following section.

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Understanding the Human Rights Situation on the Ground

The previous sections provide an overview of the core policy framework guiding the UN’s human rights role, the specific responsibilities of the RC and UN Country  Team at the country level, and a brief indication of concrete actions they can take to meet these responsibilities. This section addresses how to do so in more detail, providing guidance and concrete examples on why and how particular activities can be undertaken.

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Building Strategies for Immediate and Longer Term Priorities

Once the information is collected and analysis is complete, the next step is to develop a strategy that leverages the different roles and responsibilities of the UN Country Team to address human rights issues in the country. RCs have a strategic coordination role and, drawing on the expertise and capacities of the wider UN Country Team, are expected to coordinate an integrated strategy as part of their One Leader, Communicating as One and One Programme responsibilities.

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Acting to Advance Human Rights

Adopting a human rights-based approach to programming is a critical part of UN activities that can be taken to meet the responsibilities to promote the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights.

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Ensuring the UN is Exercising Due Diligence

In all its operational work, the RC, UN Country Team and entire UN system must always exercise appropriate due diligence to avoid actual or perceived complicity or association with human rights violations and to promote compliance with human rights standards.

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Annex A: International Human Rights Law: Defining Human Rights

Human rights and fundamental freedoms are recognized in the UDHR and the various international human rights treaties (called covenants, conventions or protocols), declarations, guidelines and bodies of principles elaborated by Member States through the UN and regional organizations.

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Annex B: Human Rights up Front: Support mechanisms

This section briefly summarizes information from the Fact Sheet: Overview of Human Rights up Front. It outlines a three-stage strategy of support available to the RC and UN Country Team through the RQR 
and SAG.

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Annex C: The UN Human Rights System: Human Rights Mechanisms

The UPR was created by the General Assembly in 2006 (A/RES/60/251). It is a State-driven process which provides the opportunity for each Member State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their country and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

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Specific Human Rights Issues

This section includes brief guidance notes on a catalogue of specific human rights issues, including some of the most sensitive issues that RCs and UN Country Teams might face in their day-to-day work, with the aim of facilitating a common UN voice on these issues, guided by the normative human rights framework.

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