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UNODC and the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Human rights are interrelated and indivisible, which means that all international human rights are relevant to the work of UNODC.The responsibility to protect human rights is engaged where UNODC encounters denials of rights within the sphere of UNODC technical assistance and its relations with governments that do not present a risk of UNODC complicity in human rights violations, but where UNODC may nonetheless be able to take positive action.

With its expertise in the areas of the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice, and drug prevention, treatment and care, UNODC can significantly contribute to enhancing challenging human rights situations. Where appropriate, a UNODC country presence may be able to use contacts with relevant counterparts to draw attention to relevant international standards, including, in this case, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. UNODC may also point to provisions in the United Nations Convention against Corruption and United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime relating to the protection of witnesses and provision of support to the judiciary, prosecutors, defence counsel or law enforcement in implementing procedural and non-procedural protection measures. In some contexts, concern is often expressed over a perceived 'tension' between effective aid delivery and the 'monitoring and reporting' of human rights violations. This apprehension is frequently overstated. Whilst the maintenance of effective working relationships with government counterparts is important, technical assistance cannot be delivered in a vacuum that is divorced from the wider human rights and rule of law context.

Protection of human rights need not involve public denunciation of abuses. Rather, through constructive and open dialogue with government counterparts, human rights protection may be achieved alongside the delivery of technical assistance. Indeed, effective support for the rule of law requires both the willingness to partner and the willingness to be clear and bold on international human rights law and  standards. From a practical perspective, human rights protection issues are most usually to be addressed in coordination with OHCHR and the UN Resident Coordinator system.

A core proposition of the human rights based approach is that the realization of human rights is the ultimate goal of all development programmes. Planning for maximization of human rights realization therefore begins from the very conception, or strategy setting, of programme activities, whether at the national, regional or global level. Efforts are underway to ensure that continuous monitoring of the human rights situation and impact occurs during programme implementation, and human rights standards form an integral part of programme evaluation.

For more information on the UNODC approach to protecting and promoting Human Rights, please refer to the UNODC Human Rights Position Paper.