The protection and the promotion of human rights is one of the three pillars of the UN system, together with development and peace and security. Geneva houses key UN bodies mandated to advance human rights: The Human Rights Council, a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, comprised of 47 elected members, is the prime intergovernmental body in this respect. Its mandate includes addressing situations of human rights violations; it also serves as a forum not only for government delegations, but also for representatives of civil society and national human rights institutions. Its meetings are public.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, who heads the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is also based in Geneva. This function was created as a result of the World Conference on Human Rights held 1993 in Vienna. The current High Commissioner is Navi Pillay (South Africa). She and her office monitor human rights violations and support governments and other entities to improve their human rights record on the ground, including through field representations, and mainstreaming human rights concerns throughout the UN system.
On the basis of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Members have elaborated a broad range of international treaties to protect human rights. The committees established to monitor States’ compliance are mostly meeting in Geneva and are serviced by the Office of the High Commissioner.
The Austrian Mission actively participates in the proceedings of the Human Rights Council. Austria is traditionally the main sponsor of resolutions on the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the rights of internally displaced persons, and of human rights in the administration of justice. The Austrian Mission systematically engages in dialogue with other countries, in particular in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review, and addresses thematic and country-specific human rights concerns in its statements during regular and special sessions of the Council. The Universal Periodic Review has been created in 2006 as a peer review where the human rights record of all UN member states is being reviewed within a 4-year cycle. Austria also supports a range of projects carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner in different countries.
Austria’s longstanding record of active engagement in the strengthening of the international human rights regime and its commitment to dialogue and cooperation is well-known and enjoys high esteem in the international community. In May 2011, Austria has been elected by the UN General Assembly as a member of the Human Rights Council for a three-year term. The voluntary pledges and commitments adopted by the Austrian government for this membership can be found here. In June 2011, the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Christian Strohal, was elected Vice-President of the Human Rights Council.