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Annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming Theme: Human rights in light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward

40th session of the Human Rights Council
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

25 February 2019

Distinguished President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished President of the Council,
Colleagues and friends,

It is a pleasure to participate in the Council’s annual high level discussion on human rights mainstreaming. 

Human rights are the values which shape the internal and external functioning of the United Nations.  They are present in the Organization´s approach to issues, the objectives it seeks to establish, and the processes which lead there. 

This afternoon’s panel gives us the opportunity to reflect together about how to better ensure that human rights are at the core of what we do and all decisions we take. We will discuss how the integration of human rights into efforts to address global and regional challenges can strengthen our capacity to achieve more sustainable and effective solutions. 

I am particularly interested in the panellists’ thoughts on how we can best work to integrate human rights principles into digital technologies, in order to advance the participation of civil society into multilateral processes – as well as your thoughts on how we can strengthen the grounding of climate policies in a human rights approach.

Distinguished President, 

In today’s world, multilateralism is increasingly contested. Detractors claim it is a mechanism by which élites – the term is “globalist élites” – rob people of their sovereignty. 

But is there a national solution when your environment is becoming unlivable because of planet-wide climate change?
Is there a national solution to issues which, by definition, overlap borders – like migration? 

Realistically, is there a national solution to terrorism? To human trafficking? To infectious disease? To air traffic safety?
The answer is a simple “no”. Unilateral measures are simply unable to resolve a large and fast-growing range of issues.

To meet today’s challenges we need cohesion and coordination, regionally and globally. And to achieve clarity in this uncertain landscape, we need to remain focused on our greatest asset – human beings – and on our DNA, the code which characterises us:  human rights. 

International human rights standards and principles constitute a solid, global, cross-cutting normative framework, within which we can devise and achieve the most effective solutions.

Let´s consider just one example: climate change. No single country in the world today can solve this on its own. And although the worst affected will be the poor and marginalised,   no one is truly safe from its impacts.

Climate change is a human rights threat. And it requires human rights based, global action, underpinned by international solidarity: it is in the interest of States to share resources, knowledge and technology so these threats can be better addressed. 

Climate policies need to target the people and groups most in need, and they need to be part of strategies, that address not only climate change, but other issues such as climate-related mobility.  

An average of 25.3 million people have been displaced each year since 2008 by sudden-onset environmental disasters, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. In 2016 alone, sudden-onset natural hazards gave rise to 24.2 million new disaster displacements, in 118 countries.

That’s not all. According to World Bank estimates, climate change may push 100 million people back into extreme poverty by 2030. 

Action based on human rights translates into effective measures to boost the ability to adapt. It ensures that people gain adequate access to land, and other fundamental resources and services. It may well be transformative, ensuring comprehensive improvement in their situation in the economy and society.

The result is not only better climate action – it is a better chance at sustainable development, and long-term prosperity and peace, for everyone.

The same is true for most global challenges, many of which are interconnected and require global responses.


The United Nations, this Council and my Office are ready to address an expanding range of challenges with impartiality, independence and integrity. 

Applying human rights norms and standards to complex situations ensures that States’ responses will share a steady focus on the people most affected, and their needs – making them as effective and sustainable as possible, in the long term. 

This Council embodies the UN’s conviction that human rights are a strategic driver in the articulation of the best possible multilateral responses. 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a great multilateral achievement, in the pursuit of the realization of all human rights, including the right to development.  But its implementation also requires international cooperation, and the revitalization of global partnership, in other words effective multilateralism.

My Office will continue its work in support of all parts of the UN system, and to the principles of a rules-based system of respectful discussion, grounded in shared principle. 

Thank you.