Events in New York, Geneva, Brussels, and around the world commemorated the annual Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Day


Date: 5 December 2013
Venue: Palais des Nations, Room XX
Webcast: (Recorded) Morning session | Afternoon session
Individual recordings of each panel are also available.
Programme: Download as a Word doc or click below for details.

Programme schedule >>

5 December 2013 | 9.30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Room XX | The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Human Rights: The Next 20 Years

9.30 a.m.- 9.50 a.m. INTRODUCTION
  • Welcome remarks by the President of the Human Rights Council and Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Remigiusz Achilles Henczel
  • Opening address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay
  • Promotional Video: “The Road Ahead”
9.50 a.m.-10.50 a.m. Protecting space for human rights defenders
  • Moderated by Ms. Ghida Fakhry Khane
    Ms. Hina Jilani
    Ms. Roselyn Hanzi
10.50-11.00 a.m. REMARKS AND MUSICAL PERFORMANCE by Mr. Salif Keita
11.00 a.m. - noon Bridging the equality gap: including the excluded in economic and political life
  • Moderated by Ms. Ghida Fakhry Khane
    Ms. Rita Izsák
    Chief Wilton Littlechild
    Ms. Martha Piedad Mosquera Figueroa
noon-2.30 p.m. BREAK
2.30 p.m.-3.30 p.m. Building a World Wide Human Rights Webhuman rights and the free flow of information
  • Moderated by Mr. Tim Sebastian
    Sir Tim Berners-Lee
    Ms. Navi Pillay
3.30 p.m.-4.30 p.m. Building a vision for an effective human rights system: the next two decades and beyond
  • Moderated by Ms. Ghida Fakhry Khane
    Mr. Christof Heyns
    Mr. Zied Mhirsi
    Ms. Deeyah Khan
4.30 p.m.-4.45 p.m. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE by Mr. Salif Keita
Programme participants >>



Remigiusz A. Henczel is the President of the Human Rights Council and Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Prior to his appointment to Geneva, Mr. Henczel held numerous positions in his government. He was Director of the Legal and Treaty Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Head of the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations in the framework of the United Nations Temporary Administration Mission in Kosovo and Director of the Department of International Relations and European Integration in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Navi Pillay has been the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since September 2008. Ms. Pillay, a South African national, was the first woman to start a law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967. She defended anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture, and helping establish key rights for prisoners on Robben Island. She is a former judge on the South African High Court, on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and on the International Criminal Court.

Hina Jilani is a Pakistani human rights lawyer and one of the world’s pre-eminent human rights defenders. She established Pakistan’s first all-women’s law firm in 1981, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1987 and served as the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders from 2000 to 2008. Ms. Jilani also served as a member of the UN international fact-finding commissions on Darfur, Sudan, and on the Gaza conflict.

Roselyn Hanzi is a lawyer from Zimbabwe. Ms. Hanzi has researched and written on the situation of human rights defenders, elections, law, and institutional reforms in her home country. She is a project manager at “Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights”, a non-governmental organization that aims to encourage the growth and strengthening of human rights in Zimbabwe through the rule of law.

Rita Izsák is the UN Independent Expert on minority issues. Ms. Izsák holds a Masters in Law diploma from Hungary. Inspired by her own experiences of prejudice and discrimination, due to her Roma origin, she has been working on human and minority rights since the beginning of her professional career. She has held key positions in civil society organizations and as a former Chief of Staff in the Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, she was responsible for the successful creation and adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Most recently she acted as a President and CEO of the Tom Lantos Institute based in Budapest.

Chief Wilton Littlechild, a lawyer, is the first Treaty First Nation person to acquire a law degree from the University of Alberta, Canada. He is a strong advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and promoter of the implementation of the treaties between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Crown. Chief Littlechild was a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993. As an avid athlete, he is a founder of the North American Indigenous Games. He has played a leading role in advancing indigenous peoples' rights within the United Nations, and is currently Chair of the Human Rights Council's Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Martha Piedad Mosquera Figueroa is a lawyer and a 2013 fellow of the UN Human Rights Office Minorities Fellowship Programme. Ms. Mosquera is a member of several non-governmental organizations that promote racial equality in Colombia. She has been actively advocating for minority rights and has extensively worked with Afro-Colombian communities.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is a scientist and academic. Having invented the Web in 1989 while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and subsequently working to ensure it was made freely available to all, Sir Tim is now dedicated to the Web's future. He is a Founding Director of the World Wide Web Foundation, which seeks to establish the Web as a global public good and a basic right.

Christof Heyns has been the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions since 2010. He is a former Director of the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, as well as former Dean of that faculty. He has published widely in the field of international human rights law and especially on human rights law in Africa.

Zied Mhirsi is the co-founder of Tunisia Live, an online news organization. A health professional and a radio host at the Tunisian radio Express FM, Mr. Mhirsi has worked extensively with English speaking media analyzing the post revolution political situation, intervening on shows and helping media outlets produce stories, documentaries and other shows. In 2006, he was selected a UN Global Youth Leader and he is the author of a book on the history of mental health in Tunisia.

Deeyah Khan is a music producer, composer, award-winning documentary film director and human rights activist, known for her support of women’s rights, freedom of expression and peace. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, Ms. Khan’s life and work has been informed by several cultures. She believes artistic expression is an essential language to enact positive change. She works as an artist and activist through FUUSE, her social purpose music and film company.


Ghida Fakhry Khane is a TV broadcast journalist and, until recently, a primary news anchor for Al Jazeera English. She also presented the flagship award-winnning documentary program 'Witness'. She has conducted in-depth interviews with leading international political figures and has moderated several major UN conferences, including the last Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna.

Tim Sebastian is Chairman of the New Arab Debates and a former BBC foreign correspondent. Mr. Sebastian has reported for BBC Television from more than 25 countries over a 30-year period. He is perhaps best known for being the first host of the BBC’s flagship interview programme Hardtalk – for which he was twice named Interviewer of the Year by the Royal Television Society.


Salif Keita, from Mali, is one of the most influential musicians on the African continent. Known as the "Golden Voice of Africa", Mr. Keita was born with albinism. In 2005, he founded the Salif Keita Global Foundation to raise awareness about albinism. His award-winning album La Différence was dedicated to ending violations of the rights of persons with albinism across the world.

New York

Date: 10 December 2013
Venue: United Nations Headquarters
Programme: The awarding of the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Prize

Around the World

See the story on Human Rights Day Celebrated Around the World and explore the panels below. (Click headings to open and close the panels)

OHCHR Middle East and North Africa Regional Office >>

The Beirut-based Middle East and North Africa Regional Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights celebrated Human Rights Day 2013 with a series of activities starting on 6 December, with a concert of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, organized by The National Higher Conservatory of Music. The concert featured two musical pieces especially composed for the occasion: "Human Rights Overture," and "Human Rights Cantata." It was the first time in Lebanon that a philharmonic orchestra devoted a special concert to human rights in order to shed light on human rights through music. The concert was a joint endeavor between OHCHR (Regional Office in Beirut), UNIC Beirut and Resident Coordinator's Office, and was held under the patronage and in the presence of Lebanese Minister of Culture Gaby Layoun.

On 7 December, Regional Representative Abdel Salam Sidahmed gave an interview on Arab Radio and Television Network (ART). The show was broadcasted live for the Arabic-speaking audience at large in the USA, Australia, Canada, Venezuela, Brazil and South Africa. It was also made available on ART's social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook).

On 10 December, Regional Representative Abdel Salam Sidahmed addressed a plenary session at the Lebanese Parliament, whereby he reiterated the High Commissioner's message on the occasion of Human Rights Day. His address fell within the frame of a broader Human Rights Day celebration activity jointly organized by OHCHR's regional office, UNDP and the Lebanese Parliament. Other key speakers included the Head of the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee Dr. Michel Moussa, the Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, UNRC and UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Robert Watkins.

On 12 December, Regional Representative Abdel Salam Sidahmed led a panel discussion dubbed "Open Dialogue with the Media" whereby light was shed on human rights achievements during the past 20 years and the remaining challenges waiting ahead. Other panelists included Chief of UNIC Beirut Mr. Bahaa el Koussy, the Head of the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee Dr. Michel Moussa, as well as Mrs. Joumana Merhi, representing the Arab Institute for Human Rights. The event hosted journalists and correspondents from major local and regional media outlets, in addition to CSO's representatives from active local, regional and international human rights institutions. During the event, the 20th anniversary Arabic video spot featuring celebrity actress and producer Nadine Labaki was released. Labaki was hosted as a guest of honor.

OHCHR Southern Africa Regional Office >>

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa, Government of the Republic of South Africa, South African Human Rights Commission, Delegation of the European Union to South Africa, and Delegation of the Flemish Government (Belgium) to South Africa will co-host the event to commemorate Human Rights Day 2013. The panel discussion will be moderated by Adv. Mushwana, Chairperson, South African Human Rights Commission.


  • Prof. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;
  • Ms. Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill, Member, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination member;
  • Mr. Anton Katz, Chairperson-Rapporteur, Working Group on the issue of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (TBC);
  • Dr. Zonke Zanele Majodina, Member, Human Rights Committee;
  • Ms. Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.


  • Monday, 9 December 2013, 10:00 to 13:00


  • Auditorium, Constitution Court, Constitution Hill, 1 Kotze Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Media is invited to join representatives of the Government, national human rights institutions, the diplomatic corps, civil society, and academia at the event.

After the panel discussion, a media briefing will take place, followed by a lunch reception.

For further information and requests for interviews, please contact:
Aleksandra Plesko, OHCHR, +27 12 354 8684 / +27 79 876 6802,
Ben-Albert Smith, United Nations Information Centre Pretoria, +27 12 354 8507 / +27 71 508 0801,

OHCHR oPt >>

OHCHR's office in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) held two large events to mark Human Rights Day and raise awareness of human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the West Bank, in collaboration with SHAMS, the Centre for Media and Democracy, a 6 km walkathon was organized in the city of Jericho, in which over 500 people participated including the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, James Rawley. In addition, The Gaza Sub-Office partnered with the Tamer Institute for Community Education to host five competitions on various topics ranging from painting and essay writing to photography and film making. Competition themes included the right to education and the right to freedom of expression.

Brussels >>

In Brussels, almost a thousand people shone their lights for human rights in an interactive performance called ‘Shine Your Light’ by the Dutch creative group PiPs-Lab. The audience was asked questions on major human rights issues and they spoke their minds on several issues such as discrimination, education, vote and democracy, access to sanitation etc.  If the issues highlighted were serious, the PIPs lab artists succeeded in tackling them with humour and creativity. The performance was preceded by a film- “Fruitvale Station”, by Ryan Coogler . The evening was organised by UNRIC in partnership with the UN Human Rights Office, the EU and the BOZAR fine arts centre.

Trailer: 'Shine Your Light' performance by Dutch creative group PiPs-Lab to mark Human Rights Day from United Nations on Vimeo.

Kosovo* >>

In Kosovo, a series of events were held on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2013. In Prishtina/Priština, a conference took place in which a series of panelists addressed three themes -- rule of law, women’s rights and post-2015 development agenda. In Mitrovicë/a North, the Office participated/contributed to two events -- one organized by the NGO Women Rights and the other by the NGO Mission of People of Good Will (MPWG). In the framework of the MPWG event organized at the EU Info Point, the Office participated in a panel discussion and gave a brief overview of the historical background of the development of human rights in the international context and broadcasted the OHCHR interactive presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the same day, the Head of the Office together with the UN Development Coordinator published an Op.-Ed. in Kosovo media, focused on women’s rights and their participation in public life and the need for Kosovo to strengthen the implementation of gender equality legislation. In addition, the Head of Office participated in two TV shows. One was an occasion for the Office to exchange views on the human rights situation in Kosovo together with one Deputy Ombudsperson and one representative of the civil society, while the second one provided an opportunity to reflect on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.

* Reference to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

Mexico >>

A celebration to mark Human Rights Day 2013 was organized by OHCHR Mexico, along with Amnesty International Mexico, the Red de organismos civiles de derechos humanos - Todos los Derechos para Todos y Todas (Red TDT, a national human rights NGO’s Network) and the University Claustro de Sor Juana. With 2400 guests registered to attend, the audience was diverse and included some of the most important NGOs in Mexico City, as well as the Caravan of Migrants Mothers from Central America, and students and artisans from Chiapas and Oaxaca. A highlight of the event was a live show, Cine a Mano (“Hand Cinema” in English), produced by the Mexican artist Arturo López Pío. who used his hands to create evocative images to explore some of the most relevant topics in human rights, including migrants, peaceful demonstrations, law enforcement, and human rights defenders, among others. As almost no language was used, the show can be used to convey a human rights message worldwide. An excerpt of the live show is available on YouTube. OHCHR Mexico also distributed promotional materials to attendees , such as commemorative pins and bracelets, leaflets containing the text of the Vienna Declaration, HRD notebooks, and posters.


In honor of Human Rights Day, United Nations staff in Rwanda created a very special video illustrating the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


New York, 25 September 2013

The UN Human Rights Office, with the support of the Austrian government, organized a high-level 20th anniversary event on September 25 in New York to discuss achievements, shortcomings and next steps on human rights.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay and President Heinz Fischer of Austria co-hosted the event in New York. Two previous High Commissioners – Louise Arbour and Mary Robinson – were panellists leading the discussion on institutional and political obstacles to progress on human rights, and setting out a vision for the future of human rights action.

Open Day at Palais Wilson in Geneva

The UN Human Rights Office opened its Geneva headquarters, Palais Wilson, to the public on Saturday 14 September, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The day celebrated the 20th anniversary of the creation of the UN Human Rights Office. It was also dedicated to the efforts of human rights defenders, civil society actors and staff around the world who work to fulfill the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Vienna +20 Conference

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) co-hosted the Vienna +20 conference in Vienna, Austria on 27-28 June, with the Austrian Government to commemorate 20 years since the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. The High-Level Expert Conference examined the legacy of the original conference and the challenges ahead. All plenary events of the Conference were webcast. The Conference report reflects the main thrust of the discussions. It has been elaborated by the Austrian hosts in close consultation with the Chairs and Rapporteurs of the Working Groups and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. To coincide with the Conference, the Human Rights Council Special Procedures held their annual meeting in Vienna on 24-25 June.