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Quaker United Nations Office: Human rights and refugees

QUNO: Human rights and refugeesWhat is the work about?

The Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva focuses on topics of concern to Quakers. It fosters informal, off-the-record discussions between governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and experts on problematic issues. The human rights and refugees programme work includes the issues of women in prison, children of prisoners, conscientious objection to military service, and protection of refugees, particularly the over-use of detention.

Why does it matter?

QUNO helps get key issues onto the UN agenda, such as the rights of children of prisoners. It helps create new standards, such as the draft Bagkok Rules on the treatment of women offenders, and achieve new interpretations of existing standards – for example, the interpretation of 'freedom of  religion' now covers conscientious objection. QUNO helps countries to make positive policy changes by working within UN processes and by cooperating with local and national NGOs.

Who benefits from the work?

Citizens around the world benefit from policy changes brought about by QUNO’s work, including conscientious objectors in Colombia who gained new rights after QUNO submitted a briefing to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, highlighting the UN’s view that conscientious objection is protected under international human rights treaties. QUNO worked with conscientious objectors and NGOs on the issue, meeting government authorities to discuss how international standards apply to Colombia and reiterate the UN’s recommendations that governments provide for conscientious objection.

What action can we take?

  • Support the Quaker peaceworker scheme, which sends programme assistants to QUNO in Geneva each year.
  • Donate to Britain Yearly Meeting for QUNO Geneva.
  • Keep up to date with QUNO’s work by subscribing to the Geneva Reporter and to alerts of new documents on the QUNO website.

Rachel Brett       +41 22 748 4804