"Putting people first is paramount" says UN High Commissioner for Human RightsListen /
2012 has been a daunting year for human rights, said Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as she presented her annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Ms Pillay said that the on-going crises in Syria, Mali and the Sahel region, Palestine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have resulted in thousands of deaths, massive displacement and grave violations, marked by a climate of impunity.
She said that the situations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen demonstrate that sudden major social and political transitions are never easy and that much work needs to be done to ensure that democracy and human rights prevail.
In referring to the impact of the financial crisis, Ms Pillay said that the poorest and most marginalized members of society are suffering disproportionately, and that austerity measures introduced in many countries have had serious implications for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
She said that human rights need to be at the heart of the work of the UN and the international community:
“ The imperative of putting people first is paramount. The many challenges we face, ranging from armed conflict to economic crisis, require a solid response from the international community. And human rights must be part of that response – reflected in the decisions of intergovernmental bodies, and throughout the work of the Organization. This is the core purpose of the United Nations.”
The High Commissioner's annual report highlights the promotion of gender equality and women's human rights, on-going work on anti-discrimination legislation, efforts to address xenophobia and public perceptions of migrants, as well as the rights of migrants at international borders. It also stresses the need to integrate human rights in UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions, and to improve the UN's operational capacity to respond to crises.
Donn Bobb, United Nations.