Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
2023 ECOSOC Coordination Segment session
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
Ambassador Nasir, thank you for giving me the floor, and also specifically for bringing our attention to the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
This is an opportunity to recall the vision and transformative power of this great and ground-breaking Declaration, which also echoes the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights to reinvigorate our pursuit of its enduring rights and values.
The Declaration does not distinguish between different sets of rights - it says all rights are interrelated, inalienable and the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace.
This vision continues to inspire action to change our world for the better, including the 2030 Agenda, which speaks of a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want. A world with universal access to quality education, health care, social protection, and other human rights.
This world is not beyond our reach. But to make progress, we must change our priorities and how we work together.
One of the ways is which OHCHR works to bridge 2030 Agenda and human rights is through the concept of a human rights-enhancing economy.
This concept speaks to the urgently needed reform of our economies so that they can give meaning to the vision of the Universal Declaration - freedom from want and fear, dignity and well-being for all. Our priority should be to address, not exacerbate inequalities. To uplift people and countries, not push those already furthest behind ever further.
It means intentionally centring people and human rights in policy making and aligning States’ human rights obligations with their priorities on public finance, taxation, budgeting, trade and debt.
At the international level, it means reforming the international financial system to expand fiscal space for human rights and sustainable development.
A few examples of our work:
- We are contributing to human rights-based taxation discussions with regards to revenue collection in Jordan.
- In Kenya, we worked with the Parliamentary Caucus on SDGs to strengthen their capacity on human rights-based approaches to budgeting and social sector allocations.
- We are supporting discussions and furthering an understanding on the impact of foreign-debt-funded development projects on economic, social, and cultural rights in Lao PDR.
- In Serbia, work we supported resulted in almost 2,000 people in 19 substandard settlements gaining access to safe water. We also supported development of a tool for policy makers to operationalize the principle of leaving no one behind - a global pilot.
Working to reverse the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss holds similar potential. Transformative environmental action must be guided by and advance human rights, including the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
For any policy to generate change, meaningful, inclusive, and safe participation is a must. The ECOSOC President leads by example by instituting monthly meetings with major groups and other stakeholders - we congratulate ECOSOC and its President on this initiative.
I also welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Applying human rights approaches to VNRs results in deeper, more granular analysis. It helps identify blind spots, generate better data and address structural causes of inequalities.
We have seen some good progress. Let me highlight the Guidance Note on Human Rights and VNRs, developed under the Call to Action for Human Rights and launched at the 2022 HLPF, which spotlights promising practices, including from Finland, Costa Rica, Guinea Bissau, Jamaica, Mongolia, and Samoa.
In this anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let’s draw on its powerful vision to achieve transformation and accelerate progress.
We welcome very much ECOSOC’s efforts to generate stronger leadership in this regard.