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Statement by Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations General Assembly 69th Session

New York, 22 October 2014

Mr. Chair,
Excellencies,
Colleagues and friends,

I am honoured to present this report on the work accomplished by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights between August 2013 and July 2014, under my predecessor, Navi Pillay.  The breadth and depth of the achievements that it outlines are impressive.

During this period, at a time of deepening turmoil in the world, OHCHR was under pressure on multiple fronts.   From the relentless slaughter in Syria and its spill-over to a new wave of barbarity in Iraq; from the deplorable conflict in Ukraine to the entirely avoidable bloodshed in South Sudan – and, at the end of this reporting period, the slow, smouldering  spread of Ebola – 2013-2014 was a year of devastating impact on human rights.

A toxic tide of discrimination and xenophobia has undermined the dignity, equality and rights of people in numerous States.   The right to development has been threatened by austerity policies that disproportionately burden the poor and marginalised, as well as by corruption; by failures to prioritize public services; and by refusal to uphold people’s right to participate in decisions that shape their lives. Migrants have continued to endure appalling suffering, with recent events at sea demonstrating a striking disregard for human life and human rights.   The individual agency of women has been viciously and violently attacked in some States, while many more continue to fail to uphold women’s equality.

On all these topics and more, solutions can only come from more emphatic and comprehensive protection of human rights.

Excellencies,

In this room, as in many other rooms, the representatives of many States continue to repeat the mantras of human rights concern. But it must now be clear to all that the only way to avoid disaster is to take real action to uphold the rights that all States are committed to respecting.

In this past year we have seen multiple examples of Member States and their proxies directing personal attacks against Special Procedures mandate holders, members of Commissions of Inquiry, and human rights officers and officials who report on shortcomings and gaps in their human rights protection.   This is not only unbecoming of the dignity of Governments; it also generates a clear impression of guilt.    Rarely, if ever, have these mandate holders criticized the persons of the Heads of Government, no matter what abuses they have allegedly instigated.    I urge Member States to address their attention to the content of reports, rather than to the person who has issued them.

On Commissions of Inquiry – which are independent from OHCHR, but which do work that is fundamental to the cause of human rights – I urge all States concerned to co-operate with their efforts, which can only contribute to stability and justice in their countries.

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