Recent years have witnessed a considerable increase in the number of United Nations presence in the field, either for post-conflict reconstruction, or with preventive and confidence-building functions, and a corresponding increase in the number of United Nations personnel employed in the field.
A growing number of United Nations field operations established in recent years, under either the coordination of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or other United Nations auspices, have included a human rights mandate (in Angola, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, El Salvador, Former Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Haiti, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere). This intensification of field work is one of the most significant developments in the area of human rights protection and promotion in the last decade of the twentieth century. While the mandate of these field operations has varied, a major task they have been required to perform has been monitoring the human rights situation in the country of operation.
Human rights work — whether of a monitoring or a promotional nature — has become a specialized profession which requires adequate preparation, specific technical skills, and significant substantive knowledge in order to be effectively conducted. Human rights officers are being employed in the field on an unprecedented scale as a result of the recognition that human rights components provide a constructive contribution to the work of field operations.
It is in this context that OHCHR has been seeking ways to contribute to strengthening and professionalizing United Nations action for the advancement of human rights through field operations, an area to which I attach the highest priority as High Commissioner. The development of methodology for the effective conduct of human rights monitoring has been a central focus of work of OHCHR for several years. This Manual is offered as the culmination of OHCHR's efforts to consolidate the United Nations experience in the area of human rights monitoring. It is hoped that officials in charge of human rights monitoring, especially within field operations established by the United Nations or regional organizations, but also from governments, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations, will find it a useful contribution to their work.
As part of a wider programme being conducted by OHCHR in the context of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995–2004), the Manual is also offered as a tool to foster human rights promotion and protection throughout the world.
High Commissioner for Human Rights