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Welcome remarks by President of the UN Human Rights Council on Human Rights Day 2013

Human Rights Day 2013: “Human Rights: The Next 20 years”

5 December 2013

Madam High Commissioner
Excellencies,
Distinguished panelists,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to take part in the celebrations of the Human Rights Day here in Geneva and to deliver theses welcome remarks.
Today, we celebrate the adoption, on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration, – as wished by Eleanor Roosevelt – became the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere. And yet many challenges remain ahead of us to ensure that the ideals of the Declaration are a reality for everyone. This is why this Day is a reminder for all of us and the UN community, particularly the Human Rights Council, that still a lot must be done to further advance the human rights cause in all parts of the world. The next 20 years are an opportunity to continue the struggle for the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to strengthen the human rights mechanisms, following the path set forth in the Universal Declaration sixty-five years ago, but which still remains so vivid.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Democratic demands and demands for social justice have particularly marked some regions of the world these last years. We have seen a decisive turn in how the technology of information has been used as a powerful tool by populations to claim their rights. The effective exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression constitutes indeed a fundamental pillar for building a democratic society and strengthening democracy.

In this context let me take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the tireless efforts of civil society, especially human rights defenders, who dared to raise their voices to denounce abuses and injustices. In the years to come, it is of utmost importance to preserve a safe space for the participation of civil society both at national and international level, and that includes condemning, in the strongest terms, all acts of reprisals and intimidation against those cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. As the main intergovernmental United Nations body in charge of human rights, the Human Rights Council and its President have a specific role to play in this regard.

I would also like to emphasize that the respect of all human rights of all, without discrimination on any grounds, and without exclusion and marginalisation is the sine qua non for a democratic society. Therefore, we should spare no efforts to guarantee that the most vulnerable groups, who are also the victims of multiple forms of discrimination, participate fully in the economic and political life.

Last but not least, let me conclude by quoting the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
“We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights”

Madam High Commissioner
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen

Let me wish you very fruitful and enriching discussions today, that I sincerely hope will bring new ideas and future perspectives.

It is an honour for me to give now the floor to Ms. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for an opening address.

I thank you all for your attention.