The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,The History of a Contested Project

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional


This essay recounts the protracted history of the proposal to create a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, from the days of Cold War controversies and divisions until the post ultimately came into being after the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993). While early proposals perceived the High Commissioner as an independent authority receiving complaints and lending good offices, the envisaged role of the High Commissioner progressively evolved over the years ? with the setting up of a great variety of treaty-based and charter-based implementation procedures ? to encompass comprehensive policy-planning and global human rights advocacy. Thus, as the UN official with principal responsibility for human rights activities, the High Commissioner became firmly embedded in the structure of the UN organization. This paper further underscores the catalytic role of non-governmental organizations in consistently pushing forward the high commissioner project, as it finally emerged in an atmosphere of high expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-784
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

Cite this