"Human rights are our common heritage and their realization depends on the contributions
that each and every one of us is willing to make, individually and collectively, now and in the future."

Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2004 - Statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia

Your Majesty, friends and colleagues

First of all, I wish to thank your Majesty for receiving myself and my colleagues on this important occasion and to pay tribute to the non-governmental and civil society organisations that are working so hard to secure the observance and enjoyment of human rights in Cambodia today.

Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 56 years ago, and brings an opportunity for international organisations and all governments and citizens around the world to renew their efforts to secure the effective recognition and observance of human rights at and abroad.

The Universal Declaration provides that everyone shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for the rights and freedoms it proclaims. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO are dedicating today to human rights education and encouraging other agencies and programmes of the United Nations System and relevant governmental and non-governmental actors to do the same. The General Assembly of the United Nations is also expected to proclaim a World Programme for Human Rights Education, starting January 1 2005.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in her statement today that Human Rights Day is always a bittersweet occasion. 

It is an opportunity to review the progress made in putting the protection of the individual at the heart of affairs of States.  But it is also a reminder that there are many people all over the world who continue to be denied their human rights.  Ultimately, it is a call to action in the face of the enormous effort needed to make human rights a reality for everyone. One strategy to achieve that reality is human rights education.

Human rights education is an area of particular interest and concern for UNESCO which considers the right to education to be a key right because it unlocks the enjoyment of other human rights. Without education of good quality people have very limited opportunities to create a better life. My colleague from Unesco may wish to say more about UNESCO's perspective and plans.

Peter Leuprecht, the Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia is signatory to a Global Appeal issued today. I will quote extracts:

All people must know their human rights in order to live together in justice and dignity.

Humanity aspires to live in a world of human dignity, freedom, and social and economic justice.

In defining the values for the Millennium Declaration, the world's leaders affirmed, "Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice." Human rights are the articulation of these universal human values.

Human rights define a shared moral and legal framework for living in dignity within our varied communities.

Learning together also means unlearning the inhumanity, violence and injustice that plague the human condition. Learning from the experiences of people is as valuable as traditional teaching to embed the qualities of humility, empathy and mutual respect that underlie human rights. The voices of people deprived of human rights-and thus of their human dignity-are indispensable guides to learning our shared duties to the community.

The challenge is how we can work to make the enjoyment of human rights a reality for all men, women and children in Cambodia, all the more so since Cambodia has legally binding obligations to do so through its Constitution and the human rights treaties it has accepted. Human rights are not luxuries. They are imperatives and they constitute the foundations of genuine democracy.

What can each of us do as individuals, citizens and within our own organisations and together to ensure that human rights are enjoyed by all Cambodians without discrimination? That the right to life, liberty and security of person is respected, that all Cambodian citizens are treated as equal before the law, that they can exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to peaceful assembly and association, and can meaningfully participate in the conduct of public life and contribute to efforts to secure the well being of all Cambodians through enjoyment of the right to education, and an adequate standard of living which means having enough food, and adequate medical care and housing and land.

The UN Country Team in Cambodia has decided to place the promotion and protection of human rights at the heart of its framework for development assistance in the coming five years to achieve the Cambodian Millenium Development Goals. I and my colleagues from other UN agencies look forward to supporting and working with Your Majesty, the Royal Government of Cambodia and with Cambodia's citizens in a common effort to secure the enjoyment of human rights for all in Cambodia.

Thank you.