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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Integrating human rights into governance unlocks more effective policy, Türk tells parliamentarians

“Parliamentary action for peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16)"

24 October 2023

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


147th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly Luanda, Angola

Honourable members of parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to address you at the start of your General Debate on the theme of parliamentary action for peace, justice and strong institutions.

Your focus on SDG Goal No. 16 is timely. A recent report by my Office with UNDP and other partners shows little to no progress towards the realization of SDG 16 since 2015. I am convinced that failure to achieve progress on SDG 16 is a key reason why the entire 2030 Agenda is flagging.

Integration of human rights into governance is key to more effective laws and policies, and to inclusive, participatory and sustainable development. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 75th anniversary of which we commemorate this year, provides an important blueprint.

Human rights are the connecting thread that cuts through silos and across every sector, mirroring the full spectrum of national governance – clarifying priorities and helping to advance social and economic stability, inclusion, trust and justice. They are also the most transversal prevention tool that we have.

Every State has an interest in promoting a strong core of human rights at the centre of policy and governance to achieve SDG 16 – not least in light of the current turbulence the world is facing.

Parliaments have a crucial role to play. You are key to upholding the rule of law, to safeguarding institutional independence, to conflict prevention, mediation, reconciliation and peacemaking through constructive dialogue.

You are also key in standard setting and in holding Governments to account for the human rights impact of policies, practices and legislation. We know from experience that establishing standing parliamentary committees on human rights is particularly effective.

My Office appreciates the direct work and links between parliamentarians, grassroots civil society organizations and national human rights institutions. These links strengthen trust between people, and the institutions and decision-makers that serve them. They ensure that human rights developments and concerns are taken into account in legislative and oversight functions.

More formally, parliaments are key to transforming recommendations made by international and regional human rights mechanisms into practice at the national level, in particular through your legislative, budgetary and oversight roles.

I encourage you to strengthen your involvement in the work of the UN Human Rights Council, including importantly the Universal Periodic Review, the treaty bodies, including as part of State delegations, and to facilitate implementation of the recommendations adopted for your countries.

Dear Colleagues,

One of the key aims of the Human Rights 75 initiative which is being convened by my Office in this milestone year is to collect concrete, transformative pledges to advance human rights, by States but also by other stakeholders including parliamentarians.

The roundtable held by the IPU and my Office in June focused on the role of parliament in advancing women’s rights to political participation, decent work and education – and valuable pledges were then endorsed by participants. They were the first pledges to be made as part of this Human Rights 75 Initiative of which I was talking earlier.

I encourage you to endorse these important commitments, as we approach our Human Rights 75 high-level event in December, and invite you to consider making additional pledges for human rights-related action in your parliaments. Your voice is needed.

I thank you and wish you fruitful discussions.