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Introductory remarks by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to a side event on the post-2015 Agenda and Human Rights

16 September 2015

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

It is a pleasure to join you today for a side event on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

These are exciting times for all of us who seek to advance human rights. With its 17 Goals and 169 targets, the new Agenda for “people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership” provides a new and transformative vision of universal, human rights-based, gender-sensitive, integrated, environmentally sound, and people-centred sustainable development, applicable to all countries. It is grounded in international human rights standards, and it offers important new opportunities to ensure a life of dignity for all.

In 2011, we saw countries that had been named success stories of the Millennium Development Goals become, one after another, the scenes of massive social unrest and upheaval. Drawing on those lessons, the 2030 Agenda offers a new development paradigm that goes beyond a narrow set of socio-economic issues. It embraces a more balanced vision of development that recognises that freedom from want and freedom from fear must be pursued together.

The inclusion of dedicated goals on civil and political rights constitutes a strong step forward for human rights, and they should retain their central role as we now move towards implementation. Goal 10 firmly anchors equality at the heart of development, with a commitment to leave no one behind, and to target as a first priority those who have been left furthest behind. Goal 16, on peaceful, just and inclusive societies, covers many dimensions of civil and political rights.

The Agenda also recognises the need for a revitalised global partnership for development that goes beyond the mobilisation of financial resources. The goals address a range of issues related to the right to development, including the removal of obstacles to development; policy coherence; policy space (despite some strong opposition); debt relief and restructuring; and the voice and participation of all countries in the institutions of global governance.

The primary responsibility for implementation of the new Agenda lies with Member States. But given the broader scope of this Agenda and its higher level of ambition, Member States alone will need help. Implementation will be a shared responsibility – a respectful and committed partnership.

This event explores the contributions that each of us can make. We will hear from my fellow panellists how NHRIs and civil society envisage their contributions to the implementation of the Agenda. I regret that the private sector has yet to contribute many ideas, but I believe that discussions such as this one can spark focused thinking by business leaders and others.

All of us will need to step up to the plate. And robust accountability systems will be critical to keep all actors on track. Without them, the human rights gains of the post-2015 development agenda will ring hollow. I am therefore rather worried by the recent scaling back of the Agenda`s ambitious monitoring and review framework. As the details of the framework continue to be worked out, we count on you to advocate for a framework that is guided by the human rights principles of universality, participation, transparency, equality and non-discrimination. This should include efforts to close the private-sector accountability gap. Here the Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights, which have been recognised in the outcome document, should serve as a guide for translating commitments into action.

I am glad to note that we will also be discussing how the Human Rights Council can help to ensure that implementation of the Agenda is fully grounded in human rights. You may, for example, wish to discuss suggestions that the Council review existing mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, in order to contribute to the annual global country and thematic reviews of the High Level Political Forum under the auspices of ECOSOC.

One final point, on another topic of your discussions today: indicators. We at OHCHR are deeply encouraged by the Agenda’s commitment to equality, but as we all know, we cannot fix what we cannot see. To dismantle the barriers thrown up by discrimination, we must be able to monitor progress for all, including the most marginalized and vulnerable. As the work on the global indicators is being carried forward, we will count on you to support us in our call for a global indicator framework underpinned by accurate data that is disaggregated in terms of all grounds of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law.

The Agenda has been a long time in the making. It has emerged from a consultative process which has been unprecedented in scale and scope. The unequivocal message that emerged from these consultations was that human rights concerns must be its heart. Together, we have secured that rightful place for human rights in the framework. We must now bring that framework to life with action to improve human rights in the lives of billions of people.

Thank you