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New UN human rights chief puts most vulnerable people as top priority

New UN human rights chief puts most vulnerable people as top priority

Louise Arbour
The new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who took up her position at the beginning of the month, today put protecting the rights of the most vulnerable people at the top of her list of priorities as she publicly outlined her work programme for the first time.

The High Commissioner told a press conference in Geneva that her Office would come to the aid of the very poor, the imprisoned, the disenfranchised, the targets of intolerance and hatred through the solid legal and institutional framework of human rights protection and promotion that the UN has built up during 60 years of work.

"Now we have the opportunity to actually put that framework to work for people, for each individual right holder," she said.

Ms. Arbour noted the paradox that in an age of advanced human rights consciousness, the world was also witnessing daily and on a massive scale the worst atrocities that human beings could perpetrate on one another, all too often with the passive acceptance of others, or under the benign gaze or even at the instigation of powerful people.

Meanwhile, a senior UN rights official says in a new report that those organizations that put human rights in the core of their mandate are more effective in assisting governments in this field than those which restrict their work to a particular context.

In his report to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Bertrand Ramcharan calls for integrating human rights throughout the UN system, "with the ultimate objective of assisting Member States, at their request, in developing their national systems for the promotion and protection of human rights."

The report suggests that ECOSOC periodically review the progress made in making human rights an essential part of UN programmes.

Organizations that have adopted human rights treaties as the basis for their work have applied a rights-based approach most extensively in their programming, Mr. Ramcharan says.

On the other hand, organizations examining human rights in a particular context have channelled resources to particular human rights programmes without adopting a rights-based approach to the rest of the organization's work, he says.

"The Council may wish to facilitate the integration of human rights throughout the United Nations system by re-affirming that human rights law provides an important framework for the technical work of the Organization," Mr. Ramcharan says.