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Human rights and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union

On a two day visit to Sweden, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the IXth International Ombudsman Institute World Conference on current challenges to the protection and promotion of human rights. The event marked the 200th anniversary of the Institution of the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen. Today Ombudsmen in more than 120 countries around the world contribute to the rule of law and to the respect for human rights.

UN Police carrying out a special operation aiming at targerting illegal immigrants, in Dili East Timor - UNMIT Photos/Martine PerretIn her speech, Pillay spoke of the legal obligations Governments have to protect and promote individual rights, particularly during times of crisis; when there are food shortages or during environmental hardship or when there is competition for natural resources. She noted the increasing stigmatization of migrant workers and asylum-seekers. “It is critical,” she said, “to ensure that migration is a choice and an opportunity as well as an empowering experience for all those involved, rather than a survival strategy.”

In discussions with senior Government Ministers, the High Commissioner raised a number of issues of concern in the context of the European Union (EU). She applauded the Swedish Government’s intentions to give a central role to human rights during its six month term in the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Sweden will assume the role, which rotates every six months, from the beginning of July.

Pillay also called on all member States of the EU to give priority to human rights’ considerations in the implementation of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. Adopted late last year, the Pact sets out principles for the EU to manage migration, to combat irregular migration and assist with development in poorer countries. The High Commissioner has identified the promotion of a human rights-based approach to migration as a priority for her Office. She also called on the EU to encourage a coordinated international response to the global financial crisis that takes into account the needs of the most vulnerable.

Pillay met with the Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Development Cooperation, the Minister for Integration and Gender Equality, the Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy. She also visited the International Development Agency and had a working meeting with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

15 June 2009