I am delighted to announce that today we are launching the Arabic version of OHCHR’s website. The Arab Spring, and its aftermath, have underlined the crucial importance of extending our voice to different audiences in different languages, including Arabic. In an increasingly connected world, where the Internet and social media have provided new opportunities to people promoting democratic change and defending human rights in the region, it is important that our voice is heard and that we hear their voices.
The UN Human Rights Arabic website is relevant to the theme of this year's Human Rights Day. Access to information is not only a right in itself, but a tool for exercising other human rights, including the right to participate in public life. Access to information and knowledge is the cornerstone to good governance and meaningful participation.
Since the Arab Spring uprisings, the Middle East and North Africa region has witnessed many positive developments in the field of human rights.
People rose and demanded their rights, including, among others, the right to protest, the right to be heard, and the right to participate in public affairs.
During the last three years, I have myself visited or sent missions to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuweit, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian Territories, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These missions were a good opportunity to engage with many different actors. We realized the urgent need to increase awareness of human rights among government representatives, legislators, judges, lawyers, as well as civil society, academics, and journalists and other rights-holders in the region. I am therefore confident that this website will play a vital role in awareness-raising among the 350 million Arabic-speaking people today and help make a difference for their children and their grandchildren.
This website will, in particular, enable users to learn more about their rights and States’ obligations under international human rights law. They will also be able to learn about our work and activities in the field and discover human rights learning opportunities. This website is a living tool which will be continuously updated. Many more pages will soon be translated into Arabic and made available to users. Therefore, your feedback and comments will enable us to further develop the website, and make it more accessible and user-friendly.
I would also like to highlight that many countries in the region have expressed their interest in the development of the Arabic website and thank those who have demonstrated their support through financial contributions, which – we hope – will Keep coming.
Despite many positive developments, 2013 will undoubtedly bring many challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights, not least in the Middle East and North Africa region. I hope the website will not only help inform, but also guide States, governments, universities, civil society actors and others to enhance the enjoyment of all universally recognized human rights norms in the region.
I am, therefore, sure you will welcome the creation of this website and I hope you will make full use of it as an opportunity to promote a better world.