Sep 15

Review technical cooperation programme UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) commissioned this study to further develop its strategic approach to technical cooperation with governments to respect, protect and promote human rights. The project consisted of five country studies and thematic studies on national human rights institutions, national human rights action plans, human rights education and administration of justice and a synthesis report. The conclusions and recommendations in the synthesis report were adopted by the OHCHR and forwarded to the UN Commission for Human Rights.


States may for various reasons need assistance in implementing their human rights obligations. The Technical Cooperation Programme of the OHCHR supports countries in promoting and protecting all human rights at the national and regional level by incorporating international human rights standards into national laws, policies and practices and by building sustainable national capacity and institutions to implement these standards and ensure respect for human rights. The aim of the review of the programme was to compile relevant lessons learned to improve future assistance interventions.


The review covered four thematic studies and five country studies, including missions to the countries concerned.

The topics for the thematic studies were:

  • establishment and functioning of national human rights institutions;
  • development of national human rights action plans;
  • human rights education;
  • administration of justice.

The countries covered were Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Malawi, Mongolia and Russia. In each of the countries technical cooperation activities in relation to each of the four thematic topics were reviewed, with the exception of Russia for which only technical cooperation activities relating to human rights education were reviewed.

During the field missions interviews were conducted with representatives of a wide variety of stakeholder groups: institutions and groups benefiting from the programme, human rights NGOs, independent human rights experts, government representatives, representations of the major UN agencies in the country and representatives of other donors in the field of human rights.

The desk study research on the four thematic topics informed the country reviews and vice versa. Elaborate and specific terms of reference were developed for the thematic and country reviews.

Report(s) / events

The (extensive) reports on the four themes and five countries were submitted as intermediate deliverables to the OHCHR. These reports have not been published and are not publicly available.

Two presentations were given to share the preliminary findings and in order to receive feedback on ideas for conclusions and recommendations: a first one for the staff of the OHCHR, a second for the Board of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation (the board is appointed from candidates proposed by the countries which donate to the Fund).

Following the feedback sessions, the final 90-page synthesis report with conclusions and recommendations was written. The synthesis report summarises the main findings for each country and reports on and reviews issues relevant for the development of overall policies and priority setting regarding the technical cooperation programme. It then addresses the effectiveness and efficiency of the technical cooperation programme and includes involvement of local partners and programme ownership, programme and project management and technical cooperation activities in the framework of the overall UN country strategy.

Main findings

The review yielded ample evidence that the OHCHR's added value and role as the UN expert organisation in the field of human rights is recognised, acknowledged and valued by governments and NGOs as well as other members of the UN family.

A challenge was found to be how the OHCHR could effectively respond to growing expectations from inside and outside the organisation, while its resources remain limited. The implication is that the OHCHR would no longer simply be the UN human rights expert organisation, but would manage human rights development, being extremely selective in what it does and considering carefully how to promote others to work along the same lines as the OHCHR.

In view of this, the OHCHR would need to enhance it capabilities in strategic programme and project management, including ensuring the sustainability of the developments it sets in motion through its technical cooperation activities.


Global Review of OHCHR Technical Cooperation Programme (2003)

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

In partnership with the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM)  

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Malawi, Mongolia, Russia

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