Over the years, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has increased its presence in the field, reaching out more and more and giving a voice to the people who need it the most. OHCHR presences away from Headquarters are a strategic entry point for promoting and protecting human rights at the country level; mainstreaming human rights, that is, integrating a human rights perspective into the work of the United Nations Country Teams; and helping strengthen national institutions and civil society.
There are a number of ways in which OHCHR field presences assist in efforts to make human rights a reality; not only do they monitor the human rights situation in countries, but they also assists in building the capacity of Member States and other duty-bearers to address human rights issues. The following are OHCHR's field presences:
1. Country/Stand Alone Offices
In establishing country offices and stand-alone offices, OHCHR negotiates with the host government a full mandate that includes both human rights protection and promotion. At the end of 2010 OHCHR had offices in Bolivia, Cambodia, Colombia, Guatemala, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (stand-alone office), Kosovo (Serbia), Togo, and Uganda.
Activities by country offices include monitoring, public reporting, provision of technical assistance, and the monitoring and development of long-term national capacities to address human rights issues.
2. UN Peace Missions
OHCHR is the leading authority for human rights, but all UN entities have a role to play in promoting and protecting human rights through and within their operations in the field. In this respect, OHCHR seeks to integrate human rights in all components of UN Peace Missions with four priorities: ensuring justice and accountability in peace processes; preventing and redressing human rights violations; building capacities and strengthening national institutions; and mainstreaming human rights in all UN programmes.
By the end of 2010, OHCHR supported –through nearly 635 international human rights officers and national staff-- 14 human rights components of Peace Missions in Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic , Côte d'Ivoire, Darfur (Sudan), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Timor-Leste.
3. Regional Offices and Centres
By the end of 2010, OHCHR had 12 regional offices/centres covering East Africa (Addis Ababa), Southern Africa (Pretoria), West Africa (Dakar) Central America (Panama City), South America (Santiago de Chile), Europe (Brussels), Central Asia (Bishkek), South East Asia (Bangkok), Pacific (Suva) and the Middle East (Beirut). OHCHR has also a Regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Central Africa in Yaoundé, Cameroon and a Training and Documentation Centre for South West Asia and the Arab Region in Qatar.
Regional offices have a crucial role in promoting and protecting human rights in countries of their region, including by working with regional bodies, such as the African Union.
4. Human Rights Advisers
Human Rights Advisers are experts deployed by OHCHR to the field to support UN Country Teams following the request of UN Resident Coordinators. They follow up and analyze the human rights situation in the country in which they serve and advise the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team as a whole on strategies to build or strengthen nations' capacities and institutions in promoting and protecting human rights. They also engage with national actors (governments and civil society) on how to best promote and implement human rights standards. By the end of 2010, OHCHR had 16 Advisers in Chad, Ecuador, Great Lakes (Bujumbura), Honduras, Kenya, Moldova, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Russia, Rwanda, Southern Caucasus (Tbilisi), Sri Lanka and Tajikistan Ukraine as well as two national Advisers in Serbia and FYR of Macedonia.
5. Rapid Response to Emerging Human Rights Crises
In addition to engaging countries through field presences, OHCHR's Rapid Response Unit also supports the work of OHCHR by swiftly deploying personnel to the field. In view of anticipating and responding to deteriorating human rights situations across the globe, OHCHR is often requested to conduct or support fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry that investigate serious allegations of human rights abuses. Since its inception in 2006, the Rapid Response Unit has conducted or coordinated the establishment of fact finding missions or commissions of inquiry in Timor-Leste, Western Sahara, Sudan, Liberia, Lebanon, Beit-Hanoun, (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Kenya, Togo, Guinea, three times in OpT (Goldstone, Committee of high level expert to follow Goldstone and Israeli attack on humanitarian flotilla). Additionally Rapid Response Unit conducted human rights assessment missions in Togo, Sierra Leone, Bolivia, Somalia and Madagascar.