13 July 2016, New York – Statement delivered by Stavros Lambrinidis, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights “UN@70 – Human rights at the centre of the global agenda”
– Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
I wish to start by underlining the EU’s steadfast commitment to the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of all human rights. As the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini states in the new EU Global Strategy on foreign and security policy, we are fully committed to live up to the values and principles that have inspired the creation and development of the EU. These include respect for and promotion of all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. They encompass justice, solidarity, equality, non-discrimination, pluralism, respect for diversity and good governance. We will act globally to address the root causes of conflict and poverty, and to champion the indivisibility and universality of human rights.
I would particularly wish to highlight the importance gender equality and countering violence against women and girls, as well as safeguarding the human rights of persons belonging to vulnerable groups and children’s rights. Regarding death penalty, we continue our campaign for universal moratorium, the attainment of which would be a milestone in the promotion of human rights around the world.
We hold a firm belief that human rights belong to the very core of the work of the United Nations and it is in that spirit that the EU continues to lend its fullest support for the role and work of the UN and its bodies tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the two landmark human rights covenants later this year – respectively promoting respect for civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights – the EU will continue to strive for a strong UN as the bedrock of international law and a multilateral rules-based order, and develop globally coordinated responses with international and regional organisations, states and non-state actors.
This year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council plays a key role as platform for open exchanges, including on issues on which we do not see eye to eye. It is in interest of the entire community of states that the Council will continue to effectively fulfill its mandate. The EU is therefore concerned by signs of growing polarisation of the Human Rights Council and calls on all states to refrain from obstructive strategies putting the success of the Council’s mandate at risk. The Universal Periodic Review is one of its key instruments and we continue calling on all countries to fully engage with this mechanism and give full consideration to all recommendations and fully and effectively implement the accepted ones. As in the past the EU stands ready to support the practical implementation of UPR recommendations through the exchange of good practices and support to technical assistance and capacity building.
The EU will continue to promote full cooperation with and support to the UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures. The independence of the Special Procedures is of paramount importance to produce meaningful recommendations to strengthen human rights on all levels. We call on all states to issue a standing invitation to Special Procedures and welcome discussions within the Council on ways to improve the interaction with Special Procedures as well as follow-up to recommendations they produce, including those made after country visits.
The EU is resolute in its support for the human rights treaty bodies in view of their fundamental role in translating international human rights law and norms into practical measures for the realisation of human rights and assisting countries in living up to their international human rights obligations. We are strongly attached to the sustainability, effectiveness and efficiency of the treaty bodies, and to their independence.
We also wish to express our strong appreciation for the work of the OHCHR and High Commissioner Zeid who ensure with determination and impartiality that the human rights voice is heard at the UN in promoting the full realisation of all human rights and the prevention of human rights violations throughout the world.
At the global level, humanity overall has never enjoyed a higher standard of living, and never had more resources at its disposal to find solutions to problems. This is good news. But the challenges remain immense, and urgent. Too many people live in fragile and conflict-affected states, violent extremism is on the rise and forced displacement worldwide has reached unprecedented levels.
To attain lasting political solutions and prevent violent extremism we must address the root causes by advancing universal human rights and fighting marginalisation, discrimination, intolerance, violence, poverty, corruption, authoritarian rule, and denial of basic economic and social rights. Even when confronting the gravest violence, there can be no trade-off between security and human rights; on the contrary, solutions and policies firmly based on the rule of law, a rules-based international system and rooted in respect for human rights are more effective and sustainable. Indeed, we need to incorporate in our vocabulary the term ”sustainable security” just as we did a few years ago with ”sustainable development”.
We need holistic and integrated approaches to tackling these problems. The 2030 Agenda helps us do exactly that. It makes the necessary linkages between all our efforts. It is a complex Agenda for a complex world. This integrated approach, which is firmly anchored in and infused with human rights and equality, marks a significant evolution in the global development paradigm. The EU is determined to play its full part in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which will shape our internal and external policies, and looks forward to working with partners from all regions to transform and secure our common future where no-one is left behind. We call on all to tap the potential of the Agenda, move forward to its full and comprehensive implementation swiftly. In this context I wish to highlight the centrality of gender equality, peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and accountable institutions to the success of the Agenda.
We firmly believe that societal resilience is strengthened by deepening relations with civil society, notably in its efforts to hold governments accountable. In a democracy, a government is under no obligation, of course, to agree with the recommendations of NGOs. But it is under obligation to respect freedom of expression, assembly and association and to ensure an enabling space for civil society, letting it function unhindered by government without reprisals or other intimidation or interference. In spite of increasing repression, global civil society is growing and fostering new types of activism. The EU pays tribute to the human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, labour activists, lawyers and others from around the world who work peacefully and tirelessly to defend the human rights of others, even at great risk to themselves. The EU will sharpen the means to protect and empower civic actors, notably human rights defenders, sustaining a vibrant civil society worldwide.
We remain concerned over the ever increasing attempts around the world, including here at the UN, to restrict civil society space. The EU strongly supports the right of individuals and members of organizations to unhindered access to and communication with the United Nations without reprisals. We would like to underline once again that the UN must remain a safe space for NGOs and civil society to express concerns and raise issues; and the EU will vigorously oppose all efforts to limit the debate.
| Top |