Video message by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
13 July 2021
Greetings to all of you. I welcome this event, which bears witness to the commitment of the people of Guinea to the right to development and all other human rights. As Chair of the Group of 77+China, Guinea has an opportunity to amplify important human rights messages at a crucial time for human rights around the world.
Human rights work together in synergy. The right to development places human beings at the centre of development and calls for fair distribution of the benefits of development, as well as free, active and meaningful participation by everyone. Alongside development that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable, this holistic vision promotes cooperation and solidarity; an open civic space; fundamental freedoms; and justice.
As such, it can help to unlock the transformation of African economies and advance people's human rights ensuring the Continent's sound recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
The past 18 months have seen a cascade of human rights setbacks across the world. Across the African continent, the crisis has hit hardest among the poorest and most vulnerable communities, and it has exposed the lack of protection that results from inadequate health-care and education, the inequality of women, limited social protection and obstacles to accessing basic services.
Globally, tens of millions of people have been pushed back into poverty and hunger. Progress in advancing the equality of women and girls has been halted and reversed. Children have gone without education. Health systems and entire business sectors have been broken. Progress towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda has been halted, particularly with respect to those left furthest behind.
Overall, these overlapping trends have exacerbated suffering, grievances, and the possibility of violence and conflict.
But recovery is possible – and as Chair of the G77, Guinea has an opportunity to showcase fair policies that are focused on people and our planet, in partnership.
In recent years, Guinea has strengthened its cooperation with my Office, and interesting work is being done in terms of the right to development and economic, social and cultural rights. This includes the economic empowerment of women and youth; combatting corruption; the advancement of a responsible private sector, through partnership with the Chamber of Mining; and the upcoming national development plan.
I hope that this positive engagement will extend also to the struggle against impunity – including with respect to members of the security forces – and to strong guarantees of civil and political rights. The wealth of recommendations addressed to Guinea by the UN's human rights experts constitute a strong foundation for such work.
In the environmental context, like every other field of action, access to information, meaningful participation and justice are essential rights, and they pave the way for more sustainable and effective action. I commend the inclusion of the right to a healthy environment in the Constitution of Guinea, and I encourage measures to effectively promote that right as a key factor in fulfilling the promise of sustainable development. And effective implementation of laws and regulations that are grounded in human rights can help to address challenges resulting from climate change, soil erosion and extractive industries.
The pandemic has important lessons to teach all of us. In every country and region, it has demonstrated that advancing the right to development, and fixing the root causes of poverty, inequalities, health and social crises and environmental degradation will promote the broader goals of peace, justice and sustainable development. These measures can be supported with steps to expand fiscal space, including by combatting corruption. By ensuring a just transition to a sustainable economy, such policies invest in the well-being and dignity of the people – surely the best investment of them all.
Many great jurists of this Continent – such as Mohammed Bedjaoui of Algeria, Georges Abi-Saab of Egypt and Judge Keba Mbaye of Senegal – knew this when they helped to shape the right to development. They were working very much in the spirit of Hernán Santa Cruz, who was instrumental in ensuring that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave proper emphasis to economic and social rights.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the African Union's Agenda 2063, are commitments by States to leave no person, and no country, behind. Like those two great promises to the world's peoples, the Declaration on the Right to Development is also premised on international cooperation. Increasingly, Governments and people are dealing with issues that are complex, urgent – and global. On topics such as growing environmental disasters; COVID-19 and the need for universal and equitable access to vaccines; transfer of technology; illicit financial flows; debt relief; sustainable finance – and more – it is crucial to work together, in solidarity and guided by the effective and powerful principles of human rights. Various forms of partnership, including South-South cooperation, can ensure positive outcomes for all.
The people of Guinea have demonstrated again and again their resilience; their capacity for innovation and problem-solving; their sense of solidarity; and their profound attachment to human dignity. Others can learn a great deal from the experiences of this country. My Office will do our utmost to support you in your continuing work to uphold human rights.