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The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is accountable to the Secretary-General and is responsible for all the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as for its administration.
The job advertisement published by the UN Secretary-General on 11 June 2018, describes the following top level responsibilities: The High Commissioner:
- Carries out the functions specifically assigned to him or her by the General Assembly in its Resolution 48/141 of 20 December 1993 and subsequent resolutions of policy-making bodies;
- Advises the Secretary-General on the policies of the United Nations in the area of human rights;
- Ensures that substantive and administrative support is given to the projects, activities, organs and bodies of the human rights programme;
- Represents the Secretary-General at meetings of human rights organs and at other human rights events; and carries out special assignments as decided by the Secretary-General.
The closest thing to a formal job description for the role is contained within the 1993 General Assembly Resolution (48/141) which created the mandate of the High Commissioner. In this resolution, the duties are outlined as follows*:
- (a) To promote and protect the effective enjoyment by all of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights;
- (b) To carry out the tasks assigned to him/her by the competent bodies of the United Nations system in the field of human rights and to make recommendations to them with a view to improving the promotion and protection of all human rights
- (c) To promote and protect the realization of the right to development and to enhance support from relevant bodies of the United Nations system for this purpose;
- (d) To provide, through the Centre for Human Rights of the Secretariat and other appropriate institutions, advisory services and technical and financial assistance, at the request of the State concerned and, where appropriate, the regional human rights organizations, with a view to supporting actions and programmes in the field of human rights;
- (e) To coordinate relevant United Nations education and public information programmes in the field of human rights;
- (f) To play an active role in removing the current obstacles and in meeting the challenges to the full realization of all human rights and in preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world, as reflected in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action;
- (g) To engage in a dialogue with all Governments in the implementation of his/her mandate with a view to securing respect for all human rights;
- (h) To enhance international cooperation for the promotion and protection of all human rights;
- (i) To coordinate the human rights promotion and protection activities throughout the United Nations system;
- (j) To rationalize, adapt, strengthen and streamline the United Nations machinery in the field of human rights with a view to improving its efficiency and effectiveness;
- (k) To carry out overall supervision of the Centre for Human Rights;
*Please note: this resolution predates various developments within the UN's human rights system, such as the creation of the Human Rights Council. As such the duties listed have been expanded on and updated by subsequent resolutions of policy making bodies.