18 October 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Christophe Forax, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, General Assembly Third Committee Item 68 a) and d): Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, , as well as Ukraine, align themselves with this statement.
As we gather here at the Third Committee people in different parts of the world are being harassed, detained, tortured, and sometimes simply killed because they promote human rights or because they defend the human rights of others. Hiding behind the argument of fighting terrorism, violent extremism or separatism a worrying number of governments stifle the voice of human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations. With the adoption of the VDPA, all States reaffirmed the “importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Governments and NGOs” and that NGOs “should be free to carry out their human rights activities, without interference, within the framework of national law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Civil society reflects the plurality of voices that is the bedrock for any open and democratic society. States have the responsibility to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance, insecurity and reprisals and that those who speak up for human rights are protected.
The alarming situation of human rights defenders, NGOs, and journalists makes the EU even more resolute in its support for the human rights treaty bodies. We attach particular importance to the independence and integrity of the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office and insist that access must be granted to any part of the territory of each State to the OHCHR and to other human rights mechanisms. The EU expresses high appreciation for the work of the OHCHR and its strong support to the mandate of the High Commissioner. We are convinced that their important undertaking is an essential addition to the work in and by the Human Rights Council, aimed at magnifying the concrete effect of HRC action on the ground.
The EU opposes attempts to revise relations between the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee, including attempts to reopen HRC outcomes. We encourage States to do everything in their power to implement UPR recommendations they have accepted. We welcome the practice of submitting voluntary mid-term reviews as appropriate and encourage civil society to independently report on the implementation of the UPR recommendations. In that context, the EU underlines the importance of providing technical assistance and capacity building if needed. The EU stands ready to support the implementation of UPR recommendations through the exchange of best practice, technical assistance and capacity building.
We welcome the appointment of several special procedures mandate holders during the recent session of the HRC, including the first ever Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We uphold the independence of the mandate holders, and support their free and unhindered interaction with individuals and civil society organisations. People are the principal beneficiary of the rights recalled in the VDPA and should be able to participate actively in their realization.
Since the Vienna World Conference progress has been achieved in many areas but obstacles and challenges to the enjoyment of human rights remain. The VDPA clearly reaffirmed the universality of all human rights and the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms in particular with regard to persons belonging to minorities, indigenous people, and vulnerable groups. For this reason, we should not accept that under historical, cultural and religious pretext, homosexuality is still punishable by law in several States and that persons can be prosecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no excuse for the humiliation, exclusion and punishment of homosexual people. In the same vein, the EU is committed to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and therefore makes calls to further enhance the effectiveness of follow-up mechanisms to the DDPA.
The European Union emphasizes that full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls, as well as equality between women and men are universal, inalienable, integral and indivisible human rights’ principles. The World Conference urged recognition of the equality principle as well as the equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, as a priority for Governments and the United Nations. However, much remains to be done to achieve full equality in practice, as women and girls continue to be disproportionately subjected to violations of human rights in all parts of the world. The EU will engage in all relevant UN forums in order to counter any attempt to roll back the commitments on gender. We also recall the necessity of combatting all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence. This also needs to be fully applied to situations of armed conflict.
The EU emphasizes the priority it attaches to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as the primary standard in that regard and we would like to reiterate the fundamental importance of universal adherence to, and full implementation of this instrument. The EU encourages all that have not yet done so to accede to both Optional Protocols to this Convention. For several years the EU and GRULAC have been presenting jointly a resolution on the Rights of the Child at UNGA. We are pleased that at this session the EU and GRULAC are continuing their longstanding tradition and good example of cross-regional cooperation.
In the Global Strategy it adopted earlier this year, the EU reiterates its strong commitment to multilateralism. We are “committed to a global order based on international law, including the principles of the UN Charter, which ensure peace, human rights, sustainable development and lasting access to the global commons” and we “strive for a strong UN as the bedrock for the multilateral rules-based order”. Bearing also in mind the shared commitment for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, the EU will continue to take this responsibility very seriously and is seeking the cooperation of all Member States in joining efforts towards the full realization of human rights which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.
Thank you Madam Chair.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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