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Statement made at the GA's High-level Thematic Debate on Human Rights, 12 July 2016

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12 July 2016

12 July 2016
Trustee Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York

Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address all of you this morning as President of the Human Rights Council. I commend the President of the General Assembly for taking this initiative, and thank him for inviting me to participate in this timely and important High-level Debate on Human Rights.

Human Rights at the Centre of the global agenda

We meet at a challenging time. The world is plagued by alarming levels of unrest and conflicts-- terrorists attacks are claiming large numbers of victims around the globe; humanitarian disasters are destroying lives; and human rights violations strike at the heart of societies near and far. We realize everyday that peace and security will not exist and development is not possible until all members of society are afforded all of their fundamental human rights.

Human rights is not just one of three pillars of the United Nations – human rightssit squarely at the centre of the global agenda and permeate all of the issues that we face.

There is not one aspect of the work of the United Nations that does not have a human rights dimension to it. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a case in point. Human rights principles resonate throughout the Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. As we proceed with follow-up and implementation, we must ensure that human rights remain at the core of this process.

HRC achievements and room for improvement

This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the HRC, as well as the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development and the 50th anniversary of the International Human Rights Covenants.

Over the past ten years, the Human Rights Council has successfully established itself as the premier forum on human rights, where a wide range of voices from all stakeholders are heard, and human rights violations are addressed. The Council has addressed difficult issues that other bodies cannot or will not address, and has demonstrated great flexibility in doing so.

The Council’s Universal Periodic Review has broken paradigms and set new human rights standards, illuminating human rights issues in all 193 member States. And the Council’s Special Procedures constitute one of the main sources of reliable information on crucial situations and issues around the globe, providing a solid basis for our discussions and debates.

There is no doubt that the Council’s actions and decisions have led to more meaningful results for countless victims of human rights violations worldwide, but there is much room for improvement.

Impact on the ground

Our discussions and decisions on human rights issues must lead to tangible actions and impact on the ground. While implementation of commitments and obligations is the responsibility of each State, the international community must support States in their efforts. The international community must continue to remind States of their commitments and obligations, provide them with recommendations and guidance, and monitor the status of implementation.

Better and coordinated response to conflicts and HR violations

The Human Rights Council should remain more attentive and more responsive to the emerging crises. Last month, the Human Rights Council held a high-level panel discussion to mark its 10th anniversary. One prominent issue that was voiced repeatedly is the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council’s relationship with the Security Council, the General Assembly and other key UN organs. Enhanced sharing of information and increased coordination would certainly assist the United Nations in improving its response to human rights violations and escalating conflicts.

The importance of civil society participation

The same panel discussion also highlighted the value of civil society’s participation in the Human Rights Council. Indeed, our work in the area of human rights would not be complete without the participation of civil society. These grass roots activists help shape our discussions with a wealth of information from the ground and flag emerging patterns of violations and potential crises when prevention is still an option.

Conclusion

The ‘Rights Up Front’ action plan announced by the Secretary General in 2014 centered on ‘integrating human rights into the lifeblood of the UN’. As diverse as these challenges are, it is essential to inject human rights perspectives into every international issue that we are tasked to address. Mainstreaming human rights in the work and discourse of the entire UN System, as well as in follow-up and implementation efforts, is key. We must work to turn our words into concrete actions that truly improve lives. If we fail in this regard, we risk undermining the very purpose of the United Nations.

Thank you.      

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