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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

4 November 2015, New York – European Union Statement delivered by    Pit Koehler, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee on Item 72 a) & d): Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

– Check against delivery – 

 Mr Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

At the outset, let me underline the EU’s staunch commitment to the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of all human rights. The European Union is steadfast in its support for the role and work of the United Nations bodies tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.

At the 50th anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the EU reaffirms its strong opposition against all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance and recalls the importance of international legal standards to promote and protect human rights and fight discrimination. In view of this, the EU continues to advocate for and lends practical support to the ratification and implementation of international human rights treaties worldwide. We are heartened by the further increase of ratifications and call on all to consider further adhesion to human rights instruments and their Optional Protocols.

Mr Chair,

The EU is resolute in its support for the human rights treaty bodies in view of their fundamental role in translating universal human rights norms into practical measures for the realisation of human rights. We are strongly attached to the sustainability, effectiveness and efficiency of the treaty bodies, and to their independence. The European Union is honoured that 2015 also saw the first review by the UN on how the EU is giving effect to its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We prepared carefully for the review, and participated actively in it. We believe that we have greatly benefited from the review, and are now giving active consideration to the concluding observations of the Committee.

Mr Chair,

Likewise, the EU will continue to promote full cooperation with and support to the UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures. We uphold the independence of the mandate holders, and call on all to afford full cooperation. Moreover, we support their free and unhindered interaction with individuals, civil society more broadly, and other stakeholders.  The EU itself is always open to cooperating with mandate holders; we are happy to facilitate visits, we are ready to participate in discussions, and we carefully examine their recommendations. A number of Special Rapporteurs have visited EU member States, and in addition, this year the EU received the second visit of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in Brussels and responded in public to his latest report on the management of the migration crisis by the European Union.

More generally, we believe that this close interaction with special procedures and UN human rights bodies provides a valuable contribution to our debates on this current and most pressing challenge and we look forward to continuing such interaction and fruitful debate. While strongly committed to protecting the rights of migrants in the European Union, we also believe that the discussion of lasting solutions also requires a close look at the root causes and other driving factors of displacement and migration.

The EU also reaffirms its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review and calls upon all countries to fully engage with this mechanism and to effectively implement accepted recommendations and give further consideration to other recommendations. As we often offer in bilateral contacts, the EU stands ready to support the practical implementation of UPR recommendations through the exchange of good practice and support to technical assistance and capacity building.

Mr Chair,

We have already underlined the need for the practical implementation of international human rights standards; this often requires technical assistance and institution building, in addition to deliberation at the human rights bodies. Providing such assistance is just one of many essential functions that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights performs, in addition to the servicing of Human Rights Council and treaty body meetings, the support to the UN Special Procedures et cetera. The EU expresses strong appreciation for the work of the OHCHR and also pays tribute to the human rights leadership displayed by High Commissioner Zeid, who ensures that the human rights voice is heard at the UN, and who holds us all to account against our commitments with determination and impartiality.

The EU also welcomes steps launched by the High Commissioner for Human Rights intended to increase the Office’s effectiveness and impact and to provide enhanced opportunities for close cooperation with its Member States. In order to carry out its important functions, the Office needs more than ever independence, and it is incumbent upon all of us to maintain the resources of this important institution. In the same vein, the EU also supports the work carried out in and by the Human Rights Council aimed at making its work more effective and impactful, notably aimed at enhancing the concrete effect of HRC action on the ground.

Mr Chair,

Human rights will only realize their true potential when we bring them to the heart of the work of the United Nations. There human rights shall and can provide a crucial reference point and basic guidance for all areas of work. Against this background, the EU welcomes the new Agenda for Sustainable Development as a landmark achievement—the 2030 Agenda unites the whole world around common goals for a more sustainable future and one that fully integrates the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. 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.

Mr Chair,

The post-2015 negotiations have shown once again that the UN and Member States stand only to gain from the involvement, knowledge, and experience of civil society actors and other stakeholders. NGO networks and independent national human rights institutions have played an important part during the run-up to the World Summit. Moreover, the role notably of independent national human rights institutions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda has been explicitly recognized in the post-2015 process. The EU supports this emphasis and will strongly support their role in the future; alongside with their important other functions as convener of national debates on the realisation of human rights, in their advisory capacity to competent authorities, in their role in remedying human rights violations, in the dissemination of human rights information, and in providing education in human rights as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action already recognized in 1993.

On a more general note, the EU strongly supports the right of individuals and members of organisations to unhindered access to and communication with the United Nations. We would like to underline once again that the Human Rights Council 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. The EU will also continue to speak out should human rights defenders be prevented from participating in debates or suffer reprisals after their cooperation with the UN human rights system.

In closing, Mr Chair,

We would like to underline that the 70th anniversary of the United Nations should also serve to reinvigorate the human rights cause. At the founding of this organisation, freeing mankind from the scourge of war and underdevelopment was just as strong a motivation as saying “never again!” to the total annihilation of the human person. The defence and full restoration of the dignity of the human person, born free and equal and endowed with inalienable and universal rights, is a fundamental tenet of this unique organisation. It should continue to inspire our work at the Committee and beyond.

Thank you Mr Chair.

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN15-164EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: Third Committee - Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee
  • Date: 04/11/2015

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