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International Film festival and Forum on Human Rights

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

8 March 2019

Good evening, 

Thank you for inviting me to be here.  I have been in Geneva for six months now, and it is a great pleasure to get to know this deeply international city -- the home of the Human Rights Council, my Office, and so many vital humanitarian bodies. This Film Festival, too, has become an institution – a living institution that embodies the humanity and vibrancy of Geneva’s commitment to human rights. 

Dear friends,

We live a time of great challenges: conflict, climate change, displacement, inequality. One can feel disheartened at policies, which choose to respond to those challenges by denying the universality of human rights. I prefer to be hopeful, and to be inspired by the great energy and strength of civic movements around the world which, with passion and intelligence, are driving change and showing the path to a better world. 

Today we mark International Women’s Day. The world has made enormous progress towards women’s equality, but great challenges remain. 

We are seeing the resurgence of a narrative that, in the name of culture, tradition or religion, openly questions the concept of gender equality and opposes women’s autonomy and choice.

But on the other hand, we are also experiencing tremendous mobilization: from the Women’s March, to Me Too to Ni Una Menos, to Time’s Up the movement for women’s rights is strong, vibrant and diverse.  

To witness this gives me great hope. People around the world do share our values. They are convinced of each others’ fundamental equality, and equal dignity. They know that human rights principles are the fabric that can bind us together, when hate tries to drive us apart. 

And all over the world, even in the face of great hardship and oppression, they are standing up for those principles. 

This Film Festival is a powerful cry of rebellion against discrimination, injustice and oppression. It is a call to join up with others who believe in human rights, to work for justice. We reach out and connect with other people’s stories and lives -- often very far away from our own – and it inspires us to come together and act. This is what the Film Festival is about. It makes us stand up for each other, in our common humanity, for our shared destiny. 

I look forward to a wonderful evening, and wish you a happy International Women’s Day.