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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, President of the Human Rights Council: Policy Dialogue on “Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: National Experiences and Best Practices” GCSP, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, 3 December 2015

Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honored to be with you today as President of the Human Rights Council to open the Policy Dialogue on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism. I would like to extend my gratitude to Ambassador Auajjar of the Permanent Mission of Morocco, Ambassador Harper of the Permanent Mission of the United States and Ambassador Dussey, Director of the Geneva Center for Security Policy for inviting me to address you today.

The many violent extremist attacks, all over the world, demonstrate and underline the importance and timeliness of this issue and this gathering today.

The Human Rights Council has repeatedly expressed grave concerns regarding the increasing and serious human rights abuses by violent extremist groups through joint statements, discussions and resolutions. As President of the Council I share these concerns.

Violent extremism poses a direct threat to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the values on which our Human Rights Council was founded.

Acts, methods and practices of violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations undeniably also threaten to destroy the basis of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy. At the same time, human rights, or -better said- the violation or abuse of human rights, can be among the very causes for individuals to turn to violent extremist ideologies and be recruited by terrorists. And indeed, when States do not respect human rights in the fight against terrorism, they are likely to breed more violent extremism.

Addressing root causes that lead to the spread of extremist groups, in all of our societies, and at the same time fighting against abuse, oppression and repression goes to the heart of the mission of the Human Rights Council. And in this fight, the respect, the protection and the promotion of human rights are among our most powerful ‘weapons’.

Our objective must be focused on resilience and prevention, by ensuring lives of dignity. Calling upon the responsibility of States in preventing and countering violent extremism is one facet. Safeguarding freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the rule of law and strengthening civil societies are equally essential tools for countering violent extremism, wherever it may occur. And in addition, we must also recognize that sustainable development, including addressing poverty, inequalities, lack of access to education and employment, is of great importance to our endeavour. And our efforts will only succeed if citizens can express themselves through strong civil societies and reject the premise that violence is the only way to achieve change.

For these reasons, and to quote the Secretary-General, “human rights must be at the forefront of our response, to avoid breeding the very problems we are trying to solve”. And this response must be a unified one.

Faced with such affronts to human dignity as these, every State individually is responsible for protecting its citizens, but we also share a common responsibility to protect and uphold human rights against violent extremism universally. This is why events such as todays carry a special significance. They are opportunities for us to come together to learn from each other and to share our experience and our vision on how to address this growing challenge together.

We may come from different contexts and we may often have different positions on issues, but we must show extremist groups that on this issue what unites us can be stronger than our differences; and that we can act as one when it comes to combating violent extremism.

With these thoughts I invite you to have a fruitful exchange on this important occasion.

I thank you.