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Speech by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the High Level Donors Meeting: “Emergency Response to the Kyrgyz Republic: Reconciliation and Recovery”

27 July, 2010

Madame President, members of the Kyrgyz Government, Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Many of you will be wondering why, of all UN entities, the human rights office is here to speak today.  This is because the UN system as a whole is committed to human rights and mainstreaming human rights into all of its activities.  That human rights are integral to sustained development as well as peace and security is not just a principle commitment of the UN system, but is also a practical dictum that is increasingly being born out through experience and evidence generated on the ground.

So with that proviso, may I begin by saying what a great honour it is for me to be with you at this Donor Conference, which comes at a very pivotal moment for the Kyrgyz Republic and its people.  Before proceeding, I would like to express my deepest condolences and those of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to all those who lost loved ones during the violence that has taken place in this country in recent months.

The Kyrgyz Republic has undergone major upheavals in the past few months following the change of leadership.  In particular, the work that was undertaken by the Interim Government in drafting a new constitution, which was adopted following the successful organisation of a referendum on 27 June, was a crucial step towards strengthening the democratic institutional framework and the rule of law in the country. 

The past few months have also been traumatic, particularly in the south where many have died or been injured in communal violence, have been subject to criminal acts, or have lost their homes, livelihoods or documentation.  Others, more recently, have suffered from acts of revenge, often arbitrary law enforcement, or extortion by those who are trying to take advantage of people who find themselves in a vulnerable situation. For many, the future is insecure.  We are here to support the efforts of the Kyrgyz Government and people in coming to terms with the despair generated by the violence and to undertake measures that will address the challenges of insecurity, poverty and discrimination in order to ensure the long term development and stability of the country.  In this, we must make human rights principles and standards the basis for social and political stability and security and the key foundations for economic and social recovery.  A strong human rights system is key to creating a basis on which recovery can be built.

Where violence has taken place, knowing and understanding the causes is key to enabling communities and countries to move on.  In this regards, we welcome the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into the events in the south and we are considering, with other departments in the UN Secretariat, support to an International Commission of Inquiry that is being organised under the leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative for Central Asia. It is essential to address questions of accountability properly and fully - without which wounds will be left open, undermining efforts at long term sustainability and reconciliation.

The findings of the Joint Economic Assessment highlight the increased burden that has been placed on the Government’s financial resources due to the communal violence.  As with many countries facing such a situation, the Kyrgyz Republic should place emphasis on the reform of key state institutions, including the judiciary, the police and the penitentiary system – time and again such reforms can be seen as a central component to the overall development of a country.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Kyrgyz Republic is in a unique position to contribute to human rights protection on the international stage, but even more important is how it applies human rights standards within the country for its own people to ensure the values of fairness, equality, respect for diversity, due process and access to justice. The Kyrgyz Republic is also fortunate to have a diverse and energetic civil society that includes many experienced NGOs. Responsiveness to the sentiment and needs of the communities they come from and serve is vital

While the mandate to protect and promote human rights lies directly with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as with UNICEF and UNHCR, all UN entities have a duty to promote human rights in their work.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will continue to support, advise and provide technical assistance to the Kyrgyz Government so that it is able to put into practice the standards set out by the many international human rights treaties that it has ratified. To respond to the current situation, and in addition to the support provided by the OHCHR regional office for Central Asia based in Bishkek, OHCHR is strengthening its presence in the Kyrgyz Republic with a temporary emergency operation for the south of the country.  This is being done in the framework of the UN emergency response as well as the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 23 June 2010, which calls on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to brief regularly and report in June 2011 to the Council on how the Kyrgyz Republic is fulfilling it human rights obligations.  We hope that our core human rights activities will help strengthen the respect for, and protection of, all human rights in the Kyrgyz Republic, thereby firming the foundation for its reconciliation, recovery and reconstruction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us all join and harmonise our efforts to support the President, the Kyrgyz Government and its people, in particular, in their efforts to address and overcome the causes of the communal violence, the scars and insecurity that remain, the breakdown in trust that now prevails and to devise effective mechanisms that will rebuild lives, homes, businesses and communal harmony in the south, as well as to realise the long term democratic, sustained development of the country through participatory, judicious and non discriminatory ways and means.  Thank you.