The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the United Nations. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lay down the principles that brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities.
Human rights are at the core of all the work of the United Nations system and - together with peace and security and development - represent one of the three, interlinked and mutually reinforcing pillars of the United Nations. There is virtually no aspect of the work of the United Nations that does not have a human rights dimension.
Human rights are essential to achieving sustainable development that leaves no one behind and are central to all its three dimensions – social, environmental, and economic. This is reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), which aims “to realize the human rights of all” and is firmly anchored in human rights principles and standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights treaties.
The 2030 Agenda puts the principles of equality and non-discrimination at its heart, with a commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ and ‘reach those furthest behind first’ and two dedicated goals on combating discrimination and inequalities (SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 10 on inequalities within and between countries) as well as a cross-cutting commitment to data disaggregation.
The international community has recognized that the rule of law and respect for human rights are mutually interdependent, with SDG 16 articulating the role that the rule of law plays in achieving peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. SDG 16 promotes the importance of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, and sets target 16.3 to “ensure equal access to justice for all”. Key to the success of this target is the reduction of rates of victimization and ensuring that victims have access to justice.
The unprecedented importance of human rights was further emphasized in 2020, when the Call to Action was launched by the Secretary-General as a transformative vision for human rights. Underpinning the work of the entire UN system, human rights are essential to addressing the broad causes and impacts of all complex crises, and to building sustainable, safe, and peaceful societies.
Focusing on seven thematic areas, the Call to Action recognizes human rights as central to our most pressing issues: the urgent achievement of sustainable development; the protection of all people irrespective of their circumstances; dismantling barriers to women’s equal participation once and for all; ensuring robust civic space for everybody; creating a healthy environment for future generations; ensuring a safe digital world; and finally – all of us working together to turn this vision into reality.
Furthermore, the Secretary-General launched Our Common Agenda, which is a vision for the future of global cooperation. It calls for inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism to better respond and deliver for the people and planet and to get the world back on track by pushing for action on the Sustainable Development Goals. It outlines possible solutions to address the gaps and risks that have emerged since 2015, calling for a Summit of the Future that will be held in 2024.
More specifically, our Common Agenda recognizes that the rule of law and human rights are central to humanity’s greatest challenges, and essential to resolving them. It emphasises the renewal of the social contract by placing people at the centre of governance and justice; building trust by ensuring institutions are responsive to the needs of those they are meant to serve, and concretely addressing drivers of inequality.
The mission of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is to contribute to global peace and security, human rights and development by making the world safer from drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism by working for and with Member States to promote justice and the rule of law and build resilient societies.
The UNODC Strategy 2021-2025 underscores the Office's commitment to human rights across its various mandate areas. The Strategy embeds human rights as a cross-cutting theme into all its programmes, spanning normative and policy work, research and technical assistance delivery. Moreover, the Strategy underscores our commitment to human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as the protection of children and harnessing the transformative power of youth. It lays out a people-centred approach to achieving sustainable improvements in the lives of the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities.
In implementing its mandates and supporting States to address crime, corruption, drugs and terrorism, and in coordination with the entire United Nations system, we work systematically in upholding human rights through our programmes and activities throughout the world. We work with justice institutions and other actors in the criminal justice system, while paying particular attention to adherence with human rights.
Many forms of crime have direct implications on the enjoyment of human rights, and for this reason States have an obligation to put in place mechanisms to prevent and respond to them. There is also a risk of committing human rights violations in the name of responding to drugs and crime challenges. In this context, UNODC promotes a holistic approach in its obligation to respect, protect and promote human rights.
All UNODC activities aim to be in line with international human rights law and related policies of the United Nations and are based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, and accountability and the rule of law.
Integrating human rights and gender equality in all evaluations is of utmost importance to all members of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG), including UNODC.
The UNODC Evaluation Policy of 2022 is aligned with the Charter of the United Nations, humanitarian principles, a commitment to human rights and gender equality, and the principle of leaving no one behind. It is also aligned with the requirements of the 2020 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system and those of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. The Policy provides that human rights must be integrated and effectively mainstreamed into all stages of the evaluation process, and reflected in evaluation terms of reference, evaluation reports, and meta-synthesis reports. As it is the responsibility of evaluators and evaluation managers to ensure that human right values are respected, addressed and promoted in all evaluations, all evaluators in UNODC should have substantive knowledge of human rights, and be aware of the main components and methods of human rights mainstreaming for human rights responsive evaluations.
In line with UNEG Evaluation Norms and Standards and the 2030 Agenda, all UNODC independent evaluations are guided by the principles of human rights and leaving no one behind, with one dedicated section on human rights and the whole evaluation process fully incorporating human rights considerations. At least one in each evaluation team should further have expertise in human rights and gender equality. Moreover, evaluation tools and guidance have been adapted to specifically address marginalized, disabled, hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations, especially important in the context of a pandemic or other crises.
Relevant documents by the Independent Evaluation Section that might have relevant information relating to human rights: