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'We need to protect each other and stand up for what we believe in'

Festival du Film et Forum International des Droits de l'Homme

Remarks by the High Commissioner - Video statement

10 March 2017

I am very sorry that I can't be with you to enjoy a few hours with a community of people who understand the full importance of human rights. This festival of films is the occasion for all of us to come together and seek out inspiration and meaning.

We are living through a time of great turmoil, when the actions of leaders challenge the bedrock commitments which have been made by their States. The universality of human rights. The bedrock pledges of international humanitarian law, which preserve, even in time of war, the barest minimum of life. The commitment to work together, to find solutions for the common good.

We need to resist this trend – for the sake of each other, ourselves, and our children. Respect for human rights, and the universality of human rights, are fundamental. Because if rights are not universal – if some people deserve more rights than others do, by accident of birth or skin or gender – or geography, then we are in trouble. If our nations do not work together, they will work against each other. These are roads the world has travelled many times, and they lead to great evil. Human rights are too important to be cast aside.

And at times such as these, they are too important to be left to governments alone. When rights are rolled back, or when they are under assault, our relevance and our responsibility to act grows. We need to protect each other and stand up for what we believe in.

Every government is responsible for protecting and upholding human rights. They have committed to do so by treaty and law – and we must do what we can to hold them accountable. By voting. By advocating. By assisting, where it's possible. And by acting on our own account, in our own lives. Because all of us – each of us – can stand up for basic decency and mutual understanding. Wherever we are: at work, in the street. We can step forward to help safeguard someone's right to live free from fear and abuse. We can build bridges, act to uphold someone's fundamental rights.

During this festival, you will watch stories unfold. Stories which communicate that rights are important. That everyone, deep down, is equal. That all of us deserve understanding, respect and justice. And that we need to fight inequality, misery and injustice, wherever they are.

I wish you a good evening.