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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Video message by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to warsaw dialogue for democracy 2015

22 October 2015

Good morning. I am very glad to be able to address you at this crucial time. The Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy is an important platform for thought and exchange, and at this meeting you will be focusing on some of the toughest challenges that we face in the struggle to protect and promote human rights.

Here, some twenty-five years ago, the people of Poland rose up to bring down barriers to freedom. And I know that all of you share my concern as we watch fundamental rights and liberties being eroded around the world.

Civil society is increasingly under threat from brutal crackdowns and overly restrictive legislation. Intimidation and harrassment of journalists. Mass surveillance. Unwarranted barriers to the work of NGOs. Specific and brutal attacks targeted at women human rights defenders. Repression of peaceful demonstrations. Such measures, which suppress the voices of the people, are escalating around the world, and the magnitude and breadth of these restrictions are a growing threat to human rights – the foundation of good governance and democracy.

But I have also been shaken in recent months by another kind of threat: the striking inhumanity which meets so many migrants and refugees who flee destitution and war. Push-backs and ill-treatment. Discrimination. Violent attacks. Hostile words, and worse, are flung at these women, men and children, and their dignity and rights are too often trampled.
The quality of a democracy is reflected not only in its service to its voters, but also in its treatment of those who do not vote – people like the Syrian woman who has endured torture, the Eritrean man who flees servitude, the Afghan child who seeks only safety and a school.

Next year, the Human Rights Council will be organising its first Forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Its theme will be the role of youth in public decision-making, and I warmly invite you to contribute your thoughts.
I thank the Government of Poland for organizing this event and I wish you fruitful discussions.

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