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Statement of the United Nations Special Procedures Mandate Holders on the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993

Vienna, 26 June 2013

On the occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) on 25 June 1993, the Special Procedures Mandate Holders,

Welcome the opportunity to celebrate the achievements in implementing human rights since 1993, and to identify and address the remaining gaps and new challenges in advancing the protection of human rights;

Recall that the VDPA:

- makes clear that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated and that the international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis;

- recognizes that it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

- states that the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms must be considered a priority objective of the United Nations,and that the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community.

- stresses that women's rights are human rights and calls for the elimination of violence against women.

Further recall that the VDPA is a landmark which provides the framework for the consolidation of a strong and effective system of special procedures as a central part of the United Nations human rights mechanisms and that:

- underlines the importance of preserving and strengthening the system of special procedures to enable them to carry out their mandates in all countries of the world, and providing them with the necessary human and financial resources;

- stresses that the special procedures should be able to harmonize and rationalize their work through periodic meetings; and

- asks States to cooperate fully with special procedures.

Welcome the progress in the achievement of the goals in the VDPA;

Recognize however that some of these goals have not yet been achieved and new challenges for the promotion and protection of human rights have emerged which include among others:
- the undermining of the universality of human rights, including through the resurgence of advocacy for traditional values or cultural relativism;
- the financial crisis and the consequences of austerity measures;
- adverse impact of climate change;
- the impact of privatization on human rights;
- the impact of the increasing use of intellectual property rights in free trade agreements on human rights;
- the impact on human rights of non-governmental actors, such as business enterprises or private military and security companies;
- threats on privacy, including through new information communication technologies and architecture;
- extreme and growing poverty;
- the prevalence and emergence of conflicts; 
- the consequences of counter-terrorism measures on respect for human rights;
- racism, inequality, and all forms of discrimination;
- interferences in the administration of justice;
- limitation of public and democratic space as well as threats, attacks and intimidation on civil society by both States and non-state actors, and
- issues related to the increasing mobility of populations, including non-recognition of migrants as rights holders.

Stress that special procedures mandate holders confront challenges in discharging their mandates which include insufficient implementation and follow-up to their recommendations, the lack of cooperation by States as well as intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with them, and paucity of resources.

Emphasize that these challenges require focused analysis and innovative policy responses.

Reaffirm the continued relevance of the VDPA and its forward-looking agenda for human rights, including important commitments and principles that should not be reopened. The twentieth anniversary must serve as platform for moving forward to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all without discrimination.

Recommend that States:

- Step up their efforts to make human rights a universal reality for all human beings on a basis of equality and without discrimination.

- Ensure, in light of the fact that human rights are one of the three pillars of the United Nations, that human rights mainstreaming is a priority and that the human rights sector receives commensurate support and resources.

- Fully integrate human rights into the post-2015 development agenda, guaranteeing that human rights principles especially equality, non-discrimination, participation and accountability are consistently taken into account in all development measures.

- Cooperate fully with special procedures, in particular by accepting requests for visits, responding in a timely manner to communications, engaging in a constructive dialogue including on all issues and implementing recommendations.

- Refrain from any act of intimidation and reprisal against those who cooperate with the UN in the field of human rights, exercise due diligence to prevent non-state actors from such acts, and ensure adequate protection for those that are subject to such acts.

- Enshrine human rights protection in legislation and ensure that the protection of the law applies equally, and that all people without discrimination have access to justice and remedy.

- Reject any attempt to question the universality of human rights through advocacy of traditional values or cultural relativism.

- Recognize the role of civil society, including human rights defenders, and national human rights institutions as key players for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, including by creating a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.

Call on the UN system as a whole to rely more on the expertise of the special procedures and on their early warning capacity.

Reiterate the VDPA's recommendation for cooperation among human rights bodies in the UN system, including by encouraging on the special procedures, human rights treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism to work together and strengthen their activities towards more effective protection and promotion of human rights.