Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

HQ: Geneva, Switzerland

Focal Point: Karina Holm

Key Figures: Greenhouse gas emissions 


Key Figures: Waste

Key Figures: Water


** Please note that the following information was last updated November 2016 **



The mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to work for the protection of all human rights for all people; to help empower people to realize their rights; and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights in ensuring that they are implemented.
In carrying out its mission OHCHR will:

  • Give priority to addressing the most pressing human rights violations, both acute and chronic, particularly those that put life in imminent peril;
  • Focus attention on those who are at risk and vulnerable on multiple fronts;
  • Pay equal attention to the realization of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights, including the right to development; and
  • Measure the impact of its work through the substantive benefit that is accrued, through it, to individuals around the world.
  • Operationally, OHCHR works with governments, legislatures, courts, national institutions, civil society, regional and international organizations, and the United Nations system to develop and strengthen capacity, particularly at the national level, for the protection of human rights in accordance with international norms.

Institutionally, OHCHR is committed to strengthening the United Nations human rights programme and to providing it with the highest quality support. OHCHR is committed to working closely with its United Nations partners to ensure that human rights form the bedrock of the work of the United Nations.

Experience so far

OHCHR is a part of the United Nations Secretariat with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. OHCHR is served by the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) for certain administrative support functions, including human resources management, finance, procurement and travel, and by UNDP in many field locations.

OHCHR is a member of the Environment Management Group (EMG), the United Nations System-wide coordination body on issues such as the Green Economy, Biodiversity, Environmental and Social Safeguards, and Sustainable Management.

On the substantive side, OHCHR has a dedicated human rights officer in the Research and Right to Development Division for monitoring human rights in relation to climate change and environment. In addition, the Human Rights Council in its 19th session decided to appoint an Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. OHCHR provides administrative and logistical support for such mandate holders.

On the management side, OHCHR does not have any posts dedicated to sustainable management or to the monitoring of any environmental impact arising from the activities of the office.

Since 2010, OHCHR actively participates in the UN-wide Issue Management Group for Sustainable Management (IMG) through a nominated IMG focal point. The IMG focal point for OHCHR is responsible for liaison between the IMG and OHCHR, and for communicating to OHCHR the requirements and action points set by the EMG and the IMG for sustainable management.

Reduction efforts

In response to the UN Climate Neutral initiative, OHCHR has already taken some measures to become more climate friendly. In 2011, OHCHR drafted and approved an Emission Reduction Strategy which will be implemented from 2012 onwards. To help reduce the need for travel between headquarters and field offices, more videoconferencing facilities have been installed in the Geneva buildings. In 2011, the office implemented a Skype policy to further encourage electronic communication internationally. In terms of local travel, OHCHR installed bicycles for staff commuting between the two headquarters buildings in 2010, reducing the need to use motorized vehicles during office hours.

Facilities-wise, one of the two Geneva buildings is already energy efficient with a fully automated temperature controlled heating and cooling system and motion sensitive lighting throughout. To save further energy and plastic waste, the supply of bottled water was discontinued in Geneva in 2010 and staff members are encouraged to use tap water only.

In terms of IT equipment, staff members are regularly reminded to save energy by switching off equipment when not in use. In Geneva, OHCHR is already using only recycled paper for printing purposes. In addition, environmental impact has been added as one of the criteria for evaluating large volume purchase agreements for IT equipment. OHCHR has also adopted a new printing policy which supports the objective of reducing desktop print machines and thereby reduces the use of paper, toner and CO2 emissions. A target has been set to reduce use of paper by 40% and restrict colour printing, and to ensure that all toners, fusers and drums are returned to the supplier for recycling/waste management.

Some processes have been converted from paper to electronic processing to reduce the amount of paper required. One such process is the travel booking and approval process which is managed through an internally developed “e-Travel” application.

A voluntary Green Group was established in 2010 and works with green groups in other UN organisations on  staff awareness initiatives in the form of intranet information, training, and events.


As with most UN organizations, there are currently no budgetary provisions for purchasing carbon offsets. OHCHR will continue to work with the Issue Management Group for Sustainability Management and other UN counterparts to clarify the organizational issues surrounding offsetting, such as sources of funding, donor acceptance, joint procurement efforts, and national/sector carbon taxes.

In the mean time, OHCHR will seek to explore the opportunity for engaging in pilot projects on offsetting for particular events or activities.

Next Steps

OHCHR will continue to calculate carbon emissions in accordance with the established format for UN organizations, and will increasingly seek to include the field presences in this exercise.

In addition, OHCHR established an Emission Reduction Task Force in July 2010, with representatives from all parts of the headquarters organization. The Task Force drafted the Emission Reduction Strategy, which was approved in 2011. The Task Force will be working towards implementing the strategy in 2012 and beyond.

As OHCHR is mandated to achieve very specific human rights objectives, the objective of the Emission Reduction Strategy is find a way to achieve these same objectives in a more climate friendly way.

Find out more about OHCHR and climate change