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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Decades prove that human rights deliver solutions, Türk says

29 September 2023

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna 1993 - Strengthening the Imperatives 30 years after


Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights, Vienna

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Friends,

75 years ago, States adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Shaken by two world wars, by genocide, by the nuclear threat, and by the Great Depression, States committed to protect and advance the rights of every human being.

As the Cold War was thawing and the World Wide Web was beginning to expand, in 1993 the world came together again to adopt the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

These two milestones that we commemorate this year are fundamental.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid the ground for the contemporary human rights regime, spanning the full spectrum of rights.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the indivisibility and universality of these rights, and paved the way for the establishment of my Office.

These texts have inspired real, positive change across the globe.

We see efforts to ensure human rights are at the heart of good governance and effective decision-making.

People have been empowered to claim their rights and to address injustice. Including through movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Fridays for Future, indigenous movements, and women’s protests.

Young people often speak in the language of human rights when voicing their concerns.

Courts in some countries are ensuring accountability for human rights, including the recently recognized right to a healthy environment.

And the idea of a human rights economy is gaining momentum to address the world’s deep inequalities and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

This progress, rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration, is proof that human rights bring us together and provide solutions to our biggest challenges.

We still have a long way to go, though. Violations and abuses of human rights occur daily around the world – too often, with impunity.

Climate change, conflict and violence, hate speech, shrinking civic space, governance of new technologies including artificial intelligence – and other challenges – require human rights-based responses.

We know that the full guarantee of broader freedoms will ensure a more peaceful, sustainable future for people and the planet.

If we are guided by the common language of human rights, and their promise of freedom, equality and justice for all, the seemingly insurmountable may in fact be attainable.

Thank you