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Threats to human rights are rising – but so are solutions, High Commissioner says

President of the General Assembly,
Madam President of the Human Rights Council,
Ministers, Excellencies,
Colleagues, Friends,

I would like to welcome the Secretary General and thank him for launching a Call to Action – one that will reconfirm and recommit all of us to a shared protection and prevention agenda covering all human rights. 

As the Secretary General has mentioned, many world events call for the attention of this high-level session of the Council. Some are emergencies that demand rapid and decisive action. Others, such as the climate crisis, are longer-term issues that require equally decisive measures, sustained over time, to resolve challenges.

Threats to human rights, to development and peace may be rising – but so are practical, actionable solutions based on sound human rights norms.

Multilateral agreements of recent years bring many such solutions: the 2030 Agenda, the Global Compact on Migration, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, among others. Others stem from the great body of international human rights law and the targeted human rights recommendations of this Council, its Special Procedures, the Universal Periodic Review, the Treaty Bodies, and my Office.

Inventive and resourceful young people must also be seen as part of the solution to the crises we face. Today, many are criticizing inequalities, and calling for more responsive governance, greater equality of opportunity, and respect for human rights.

In this context, I want to draw your attention to a statement made by Jonas Salk, the visionary paediatrician and inventor of the polio vaccine.

Salk said, "Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

To be good ancestors, we must prepare, for our young people – and coming generations – a world that can nourish lives of dignity, freedom and peace. 


Today’s turbulent political landscape requires usable policy tools that are rooted in experience, with a proven track record of success.

These tools exist.

Measures that advance access to education, health-care, universal social protection, and a life of dignity have demonstrated their impact as levers for wider social, economic and individual benefit.

Broad participation by people – including young people – and institutions that are transparent and accountable, can advance social harmony, and economic sustainability and innovation.

Laws and policies that uphold equality have immediate and long-lasting positive impact on political, social and economic structures. To end inequalities and poverty, and boost social stability, we need to dismantle the discrimination that holds so many people back.

My Office is committed to working with States, UN and regional partners and civil society to ensure there is more rapid progress towards social inclusion and achievement of the SDGs. These achievable goals will benefit every country and community.

We are increasing our technical cooperation to help Governments provide greater and more equitable access to fundamental services, while strengthening our practical assistance to meet economic and social challenges. We also will continue to work with business and development financing institutions for greater accountability to the communities where they work; and with trade unions, promoting labour rights.

More informed decision-making, greater justice, more sustainable development, and more peaceful relationships – within nations, and between them – are the goals of the monitoring, assistance and advocacy work of my Office, together with civil society and our partners in the UN.

Madam President,

As fires blazed across parts of Australia in recent months, we saw a phenomenon that inspired horror: the formation of a firestorm.

When multiple smaller blazes intersect, they attain heat of such intensity that it draws the surrounding air inwards and upwards. These stronger winds further fan the blaze, creating walls of flame over 200 metres high. They even generate lightning, which sets off yet more fires that in turn contribute to the conflagration, until it becomes impossible for human beings to beat it back.

Let us not deliver to our young people, and to their children, an uncontrollable firestorm of intersecting and escalating human rights crises. 

The human rights agenda offers guidance to resolve grievances and conflicts, improve lives, and create greater justice, more peace and more sustainable development.

I ask you to harness these solutions, and the power of cooperative action, to ensure a more equitable and sustainable world – for all of us; for today's youth; and for tomorrow.

Thank you Madam President.