HomeFront pageHuman Rights Council Hears From 17 Dignitaries As It Continues Its High-level Segment

Human Rights Council Hears From 17 Dignitaries As It Continues Its High-level Segment

Human Rights Council Hears From 17 Dignitaries As It Continues Its High-level Segment

26 February 2019

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting continued with its high-level segment, hearing addresses from 17 dignitaries who spoke about the shrinking space for civil society human rights violations across the world, and underlined the responsibility of the international community to protect universal rights and to hold Governments to account.

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and Defence of Belgium, said that for the past 70 years, sustainable peace had been achieved in numerous countries thanks to the efforts of the international community.  However, too many people nowadays were victims of violence, injustice and discrimination. 

Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, voiced concern about repeated attacks on human rights defenders, and the rise of hate speech and authoritarian policies, which reduced civic space.  It was the duty of the international community to protect all persons, regardless of their migratory status.

Miroslav Lajčák, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, recalled that the Council had been founded to remind the international community of the responsibility to protect universal rights and to hold countries accountable when they failed to meet them.  He stressed that three key points were important in that endeavour: prevention, credibility and multilateralism. 

Nourredine Ayadi, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, noted that the Human Rights Council had to hear the voice of the voiceless and impose no hierarchy on rights.  Politicization undermined the credibility of the Council, whereas dialogue could unite everyone.  Groups and nations had a plurality in their diversity, but everyone was eligible to emancipation, peace and security.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, underlined that respect for human rights was an important prerequisite for stability, growth, trade and wellbeing.  The choice between interests and values was a false dichotomy; they were mutually reinforcing.

Shireen M. Mazari, Minster of Human Rights of Pakistan, stressed that as a founding member of the Council, Pakistan played an active role in promoting human rights.  Unlike some European counties that did not allow mosques and minarets, Pakistan saw modernist churches built.  With Islamophobia on the rise, Pakistan was concerned about the rights of Muslims. 

Josep Borrell Fontelles, Minister for Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation of Spain, pointed to gender equality, new technologies, climate change, the rise in identity-based politics, xenophobia, chauvinism, and populist and exclusionary nationalism as some of the most important challenges for the protection of human rights. 

Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that Poland saw an undisputed link between human rights and global security.  Human rights promotion was key to conflict prevention, as was interreligious dialogue.  Poland was concerned about the increasing discrimination and persecution of Christians and other minorities in many part of the world.

Frankie A. Campbell, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of the Bahamas, noted the clear connection between climate change and human rights, as the threat posed by that phenomenon was an existential one.  He also added that there could be no economic and social development without the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

Maminata Ouattara, Minister for Human Rights and Civic Promotion of Burkina Faso, said that with violent extremism and terrorism on the rise, security challenges were of major concern.  Burkina Faso had been fighting terrorism since 2015, so it was fully aware of its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights, as civilians suffered abuses carried out by armed groups.

Elmar Maharram oglu Mammadyarov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, expressed his country’s firm belief in the importance of multilateral institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.  Azerbaijan attached great importance to the Council’s mandate to promote and protect all human rights through cooperation and genuine dialogue. 

Palamagamba Kabudi, Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs of Tanzania, reiterated Tanzania’s commitment to human rights obligations and stated that its primary objective was the welfare of its people.  The Government was continuing to implement the national action plan on the eradication of violence against women and children, as well as legislation aligned with objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Francisco Ribeiro Telles, Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, stressed that human rights were a central point reference in the agenda of the Community and that they were enshrined in its founding Declaration.  As challenges to human rights did not know borders, the Community was strengthening relations with the United Nations and its agencies.

Manuel Domingos Augusto, Minister of External Relations of Angola, emphasized that multilateralism was one of the main principles of Angola’s foreign policy due to its incorporation in different legal dispositions of the Constitution.  Angola advocated promoting multilateralism to its fullest by deepening cooperation and sharing responsibilities. 

Mohammed Mohammed, Minister of Justice of Libya, stressed that violations occurring in Libya were not of a systematic nature, and affirmed that Libya continued to cooperate with the Human Rights Council, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Simona Leskovar, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, applauded the Council’s preventive role and looked forward to exploring it more.  She also expressed appreciation to civil society representatives and applauded their difficult work, stating that any attack made on them should be strongly condemned.

Teresa Ribeiro, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, underscored the importance of the multilateral nature of the Human Rights Council, and drew attention to the crucial role of the Universal Periodic Review in promoting and protecting human rights. 

The Human Rights Council at 2 p.m. will continue its high-level segment until 6 p.m.

High-Level Segment

DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and Defence of Belgium, said that for the past 70 years, sustainable peace had been achieved in numerous countries thanks to the efforts of the international community.  Today, too many people were victims of violence, injustice and discrimination based on religion, race, ethnic origin, colour of their skin, and gender or sexual orientation.  Belgium had striven over the past three decades to promote the rights of persons who could not count on the protection of their State.  Belgium would continue advocating for universal abolition of the death penalty and was hosting, together with the European Union, the Seventh World Congress against the death penalty this week in Brussels.  From 1 January, Belgium had been a member of the Security Council with the ambition of working for peace.  Human rights could not be considered as the third or last pillar of the United Nations.  On the contrary, it was by advancing human rights that peace and development could be achieved, as the three pillars were mutually reinforcing.  Belgium would work within the Security Council to strengthen the bond between New York and Geneva, and would focus on the women, peace and security agenda.  The Council should continue its pioneering work in protecting human rights in all regions and across all societies.  The Council of Europe remained a beacon of hope in the protection of human rights, and continued to guarantee peace in Europe.  Belgium would present its candidacy for membership in the Council for the period 2023-2025

JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, said that Luxembourg’s priority was the promotion and protection of human rights, gender equality, and respect for the state of law and good governance, and that the Government was motivated to strengthen the international human rights framework.  Luxembourg was concerned about repeated attacks on human rights defenders, the rise of hate speech, and authoritarian policies which reduced civic space.  Gender based violence was increasingly being used as a weapon of terror and although women and girls suffered disproportionately, men were also victims.  In Afghanistan, peace keeping efforts should be upheld and support should be given during the upcoming presidential elections.  On Yemen and Syria, he flagged the unacceptable number of civilian deaths, many of which were children, that had been carried out with impunity, and reiterated Luxembourg’s support for the Council mechanisms.  Protests in Nicaragua had been brutally repressed, and only dialogue with civil society would ensure a peaceful reconciliation.  Mr. Asselborn highlighted the humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela and condemned the violence seen last Saturday along the Brazilian border, calling for regular democratic presidential elections.  

Concerning the Rohingya in Myanmar, it was important for an enquiry against the perpetrators of violations to be put in place.  Luxembourg supported a two-State solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The Minister welcomed the reconciliation of Ethiopia and Eritrea and encouraged Eritrea to put an end to its unlimited military service.  Luxembourg believed that it was the international community’s duty to protect all persons, regardless of their migratory status, and it had signed the Marrakesh pact to that effect.  Luxemburg had adopted a programme to ensure that the private sector supported and promoted human rights and another to promote and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons and intersex persons’ rights.  Finally, Mr. Asselborn thanked the Council for its recommendations to Luxembourg during the Universal Periodic Review, and informed of Luxembourg’s intention to stand for election to the Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024.

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, recalled that the Council had been founded to remind the international community of the responsibility to protect universal rights and to hold countries accountable when they failed to meet their commitments, both in fast-breaking emergencies, as well as in slow-motion, chronic tragedies.  Slovakia wanted to reconfirm its clear stance of not wanting to be only a passive consumer of human rights guarantees, but to stand ready to contribute actively to human rights promotion within the Council and Slovakia’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  The Minister focused on three key points: prevention, credibility and multilateralism.  There was no doubt that prevention started with the protection of human rights.  It was the Council that could help shed light into every dim corner of the planet; it had the potential to make everyone see and shape a response in order to elevate human rights.  Stressing the need for credibility, Mr. Lajčák said that the Council had to live up to the standards upon which it had been created.  It had to assist and advise, not point fingers or punish.  It was important to name problems clearly, and then engage and communicate, and offer constructive and meaningful criticism.  Finally, underlining the importance of multilateralism, Mr. Lajčák concluded by saying that the international community needed to stand up for the essence of global governance in human rights promotion and for the future that rested on multilateral pillars. 

NOURREDINE AYADI, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said that 2030 Agenda was an ambitious road map with promising goals and it had to be firmly grounded in multilateralism, ensuring that more people benefitted from globalization.  The Council must hear the voice of the voiceless and impose no hierarchy for rights.  Politicization undermined the credibility of the Council while dialogue could unite everyone.  Groups and nations had a plurality in their diversity, but everyone was eligible to emancipation, peace and security.  The protection of human rights had been a priority in Algeria since its independence.  In 2018, Algeria had submitted a report on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the respective Committee.  Last March, an international conference on the position of women in public affairs was organized in Algeria, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, and it had been an opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the recently adopted law on the representation of women.  There was an organic law in place to reform the electoral process and look at all aspects of procedure, including vote counting, and additional scrutiny, all to ensure that elections were credible.  The Palestinian question had been a constant item on the Council’s agenda, testifying to the importance of the principle of self-determination.  The Saharawi people in Western Sahara were suffering in occupied territories, as confirmed by international observers and the Office of the High Commissioner, so the Council was asked to look into this issue. 

SIGRID KAAG, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, recalled the importance of the power of principles over the principles of power.  Since Hugo Grotius, the Netherlands had stood for a world in which right, and not might, had the final say; a world in which the law answered when humanity made a plea.  As a medium-size trading nation, the Netherlands had an interest in a rules-based world.  Respect for human rights was an important prerequisite for stability, growth, trade and wellbeing.  The choice between interests and values was a false dichotomy.  They were mutually reinforcing.  The system of protections developed after the Second World War and founded on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was something to be proud of and cherished because it was centred on human dignity.  In the past several years, there had been a downward trend in the area of freedom, human rights and democracy; a crisis that extended from climate to disarmament, and from trade to human rights.  The Netherlands was committed to making the system better and stronger.  It was committed to be a reliable partner, respecting human rights at home and practicing what it preached.  It was pressing for more representative and universal participation.  Every country should have the chance to serve on the Human Rights Council.  At a time when security and stability often served as pretexts for restricting human rights, the Netherlands would do its part to pursue an active policy on human rights.  It had contributed funds to promote freedom of religion, and equal rights for women and girls, and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, as well as to enhance the safety of journalists and human rights defenders.  The Dutch Government also engaged with Dutch companies in order to ensure their respect for human rights.

SHIREEN M. MAZARI, Minster of Human Rights of Pakistan, stressed that as a founding member of the Council, Pakistan played an active role in promoting human rights within its country and internationally.  The Government had placed human rights as a central pillar of its agenda and the party.  Despite suffering the scourge of terrorism and regional upheavals, Pakistan today had a stable parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society, and an independent media.  The Ministry of Human Rights had drafted some extremely progressive laws, including a Juvenile Justice Act and a Transgender Law which allowed the mainstreaming of the transgender community.  Pakistan had suffered a great human loss of 70,000 lives while combatting terrorism.  While there had been a moratorium on the death penalty, the devastating terrorist massacre in a school in Peshawar in 2014 had led to Parliament’s democratic decision to lift the moratorium, however, in line with international obligations, it was only imposed for the most heinous of crimes.  Unlike some European counties that did not allow mosques and minarets, Pakistan saw modernist churches built.  Pakistan allowed its non-Muslim citizens their own personal laws of marriage and divorce, including the Hindu Marriage Law and the Christian Marriage and Divorce bill which was in the final stages of preparation.  Pakistan had ratified seven of the nine core human rights conventions.  With Islamophobia on the rise, Pakistan was concerned about the rights of Muslims.  Pakistan was also concerned about the treatment of refugees in Europe and Australia, being a country hosting refugees.  Pakistan echoed the High Commissioner’s call for the Council to implement the Office of the High Commissioner’s report on Kashmir, and the Security Council was called on to take cognizance of the breach of international law.

JOSEP BORRELL FONTELLES, Minister for Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation of Spain, said that he was addressing the Council at a time of global uncertainty and change, which meant that everyone had to be more committed to the defence of human rights for all.  Gender equality was one of the challenges of the modern era.  The effective participation of women in all social spheres was a prerequisite for achieving peaceful and prosperous societies.  The second challenge was new technologies, which offered extraordinary opportunities for human development, but which also constituted a challenge from the perspective of human rights.  The third challenge was climate change, which would create a new kind of refugees.  And the last challenge was the spike in identity-based politics, xenophobia, chauvinism, and populist and exclusionary nationalism.  Spain was committed to extending the guarantee of human rights even to those combatting them.  The voice of civil society had to be heard in the Human Right Council because its work contributed to the achievement of the common goal.  Threats and repression of human rights defenders should not be tolerated.  In the same vein of defending human dignity, Spain opposed the use of the death penalty.  Finally, Spain worked to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals in its national and international actions.  It promoted economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the theme of businesses and human rights.   

JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that as a member of the Security Council, Poland saw an undisputed link between human rights and global security.  The promotion of human rights was key to conflict prevention.  As a continuation of its active involvement in the United Nations system, Poland would seek to join the Council for the 2020-2022 period, and countries were called upon to support the Polish candidature in the upcoming elections in the General Assembly in October this year.  Poland was concerned about the increasing discrimination and persecution of Christians and other minorities in many part of the world.  Interreligious dialogue should be promoted to prevent human rights violations.  Poland had been involved in drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its cornerstone ideas were first formulated by Doctor Janusz Korczak, a Polish national of Jewish descent.  The attention of the international community had to be drawn to the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups, as well as persons with disabilities, including persons with Down syndrome and afflicted with autism.  Poland had been involved in climate change negotiations for a long time and had hosted COP24 in Katowice.  One of the shortcomings of the Council was the lack of participation of least developed countries and small island developing States in its work, due to financial restraints.  Thus, in 2018, Poland had contributed to the Voluntary Trust Fund to support their participation.  Several country situations were raising concern.  Ongoing human rights violations in Crimea and in occupied territories of Ukraine were profoundly concerning, and the issue should remain high on the United Nations agenda.  Crises in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar, and violations in Venezuela were also alarming. 

FRANKIE A. CAMPBELL, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of the Bahamas, noted the clear connection between climate change and human rights, as the threat posed by this phenomenon was an existential one.  The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters due to hurricanes, accelerating sea-level rise and other life-threatening impacts brought the magnitude of the challenge represented by climate change into sharp focus.  The Bahamas drew attention to the fact that, between 2015 and 2017, major hurricanes had cost the country some $678 million dollars.  The Bahamas also noted that there could be no economic and social development without the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.  The Bahamas had made major strides in this area, including the development of a comprehensive National Strategic Plan for Ending Gender-Based Violence.  The Bahamas highlighted the complex human rights implications of unsafe migration, and committed itself to address trans-border criminal activities such as smuggling and trafficking.  It called for transparency and inclusivity by the global community in determining the standards for international tax cooperation.  The many challenges facing the Council were also noted, including the increasing threats to the rule of law, to the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, to civil society, and to the multilateral system as a whole.  The Bahamas also called on the Council to demonstrate efficacy and effectiveness in addressing the challenges of the present and in preparing for those of the future.

MAMINATA OUATTARA, Minister for Human Rights and Civic Promotion of Burkina Faso, noted the progress achieved in promoting human rights around the world, however, she was alarmed by serious human rights abuses and the massive scale of displacement caused by continuing armed conflicts.  With violent extremism and terrorism on the raise, security challenges were another major concern.  Burkina Faso had been fighting terrorism since 2015, so it was fully aware of its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights, as civilians suffered abuses carried out by armed groups.  In January 2018, Burkina Faso had declared a state of emergency in 14 of its 45 provinces and it had developed an emergency plan in 2019.  This was the dynamic that had led five countries of the Sahel to establish the G5 Sahel to fight terrorism and promote development.  Burkina Faso was chairing the G5 for 2019 and ensuring compliance with international obligations.  Under the leadership of its President, Burkina Faso had put in place the national plan for economic and social development 2016-2020, while institutional and legal frameworks had been developed to implement international recommendations.  Accordingly, new institutions had been established, including the High Council for Reconciliation and National Unity, the National Observatory for Religious Affairs, and the Supreme Council for Social Dialogue.  In May 2018, Burkina Faso had submitted its Universal Periodic Review for the third time and had taken the recommendations as an inspiration.  In 2017, a law protecting human rights defenders had been adopted, while the adoption of a new Criminal Code represented major progress.  In conclusion, the Minister reiterated that the Human Rights Council remained the appropriate forum for discussing human rights situations across the world and discussing outstanding challenges.

ELMAR MAHARRAM OGLU MAMMADYAROV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, expressed his country’s firm belief in the importance of multilateral institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.  As such, Azerbaijan attached great importance to the mandate of the Human Rights Council to promote and protect all human rights through cooperation and genuine dialogue.  The Minister drew attention to Azerbaijan’s work as an observer on the Council, noting its cooperation last year with Georgia, Kenya, Thailand, and Turkey to submit a draft resolution on promoting human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals through transparent, accountable and efficient public services delivery, which had been unanimously adopted by the Council.  In line with this resolution, Azerbaijan, in cooperation with the Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, would host an international conference where countries could share their best practices and effective models of public services later this year.  Mr. Mammadyarov stressed that the Government of Azerbaijan continued to carry out large-scale programmes to ensure its citizens fully enjoyed all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The ongoing armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan represented a major threat to international and regional peace and security, human rights and development, and Armenia continued to violate the basic human rights of Azerbaijani internally displaced persons and refugees.  Azerbaijan thus urged the Council to take a principled stand for the administration of justice and restoration of human rights for these groups. 

PALAMAGAMBA KABUDI, Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs of Tanzania, reiterated his country’s commitment to its human rights obligations and stated that its primary objective was the welfare of its people.  Tanzania’s Vision 2025, to transform the country from a low income country to a middle income country by 2025, was being implemented through five-year plans hinged on strengthening human rights, good governance and the rule of law.  Tanzania had redoubled its efforts to ensure that the right to education, health and safe drinking water were enjoyed by all, and was continuing to implement the national action plan for the eradication of violence against women and children.  In order to significantly broaden the scope of legal aid and access to justice, the country had passed the Legal Aid Act.  Mr. Kabudi reaffirmed that Tanzania remained allied to the spirit and objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals; in that vein, two landmark pieces of legislation had been enacted to guarantee that natural resources and natural wealth were safeguarded and utilized to benefit Tanzanians and contracts negotiated for a win-win solution.  He spoke about the Government’s concerted efforts to combat corruption, including the establishment of a corruption and economics crimes division of the High Court, while the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance had adopted regulations in 2018 to improve transparency in the appointment of its Chairman and Commissioner.  Finally, Tanzania continued to put in place mechanisms that enabled media pluralism to flourish.

FRANCISCO RIBEIRO TELLES, Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, stressed that human rights were a central point reference in the agenda of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries and they were enshrined in its founding Declaration, permeated the work of the organization, and constituted a basis for political and diplomatic actions.  In 2018, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries had joined the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by organizing a high-level event that had gathered their representatives and representatives of Ibero-America and the Francophonie youths in order to reflect on the Declaration’s relevance in today’s world.  Challenges to human rights did not know borders, he said, so the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries was strengthening relations with the United Nations and its agencies, including by securing the General Assembly’s approval for a biennial resolution that would further foster cooperation.  A Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, allowing for the organization of seminars in Brazil and Cabo Verde on the Universal Periodic Review.  The Community was strongly committed to youth, given the importance they presented in defending the ideals of citizens, and 2019 had been proclaimed as the “year for youth”.  It was critical that youth were active in defining and implementing public polices which were designed for them and involved them. 

MANUEL DOMINGOS AUGUSTO, Minister of External Relations of Angola, emphasized that multilateralism was one of the main principles of Angola’s foreign policy due to its incorporation in different legal dispositions of the constitution.  Angola noted that during the seventy-third session of the General Assembly, a series of high-level meetings had been held, including the Session on Financing for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, according to Angola, was an indispensable pillar for the promotion of the right to development.  Angola emphasized a number of issues facing the global community, including armed conflicts that still persisted and had serious consequences for the respect and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms; climate change; disarmament; extreme poverty; and the negative impact on job creation of the slowdown of the international economy, especially for young people.  Angola advocated promoting multilateralism to its fullest by deepening cooperation and sharing responsibilities.  Angola concluded by reaffirming its commitment to multilateralism, and to the universal vision of human rights, their importance and their cross cutting nature, as they were fundamental pillars in the context of the 2030 Agenda and in the promotion of the right to development.

MOHAMMED MOHAMMED, Minister of Justice of Libya, stressed that violations occurring in Libya were not of a systematic nature, and he affirmed that Libya continued to cooperate with the Council, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as envisaged by the resolution under item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.  Libya appreciated the technical assistance that it received.  The Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord had passed legislation concerning detainees, including to establish a hospital containing 50 beds to provide adequate health care to detainees.  The Ministry of Interior had issued a resolution to create the Office of Human Rights in the Ministry of Interior.  Concerning the obligations to guarantee economic and social rights, the Government had implemented a series of measures, which had resulted in improving the exchange rate, reducing inflation, and increasing purchasing power. Measures had been taken to address unemployment.  On the rights of women, the Presidential Council had created the unit to empower women to guarantee their equal participation in political, cultural, social and economic life.  Libya had been cooperating with the Council since 2012 and had extended invitations to all Special Procedures to visit Libya.  An invitation had now also been extended to the High Commissioner.  Migration was a human phenomenon and Libya hosted over two million migrants, providing reception and healthcare but in the current situation, it was difficult to receive more migrants as they were presenting a burden. 

SIMONA LESKOVAR, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, expressed appreciation to civil society representatives and applauded their difficult work, stating that any attack made on them should be strongly condemned.  This was a challenging time for multilateralism but agreed commitments were still essential for ensuring peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.  On the fortieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Slovenia remained committed to promoting the rights of women and girls both at home and abroad.  Environmental degradation should encourage the Council to strengthen its efforts in the global recognition of the right to a safe and healthy environment.  Concerning the rights of older persons, Slovenia encouraged members to consider the valuable contributions of older people in societies and how best to support aging populations.  The thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was an excellent time to further promote the guiding principles of the Convention, particularly the best interests of the child.  The Minister applauded the preventative role of the Human Rights Council, using the Independent Mechanism for Myanmar as an example of the swift mobilisation of the Council.  Slovenia expressed concern about the situation in Venezuela, Yemen, Syria and Sudan.  The Minister announced Slovenia’s candidacy to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2026-2028 period.

TERESA RIBEIRO Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Portugal said it was an honour to deliver her speech in Portuguese, and hoped that Portuguese would soon become an official language of the United Nations.  Last year marked the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Portugal coincided with the fortieth anniversary of Portugal’s’ ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights: to commemorate these anniversaries, Portugal had launched an ambitious programme of celebration through which public and private entities were galvanized into raising the importance of promoting and protecting human rights.  Portugal lamented the alarming erosion of the universality of human rights in many parts of the world, and underscored the importance of the multilateral nature of the Human Rights Council.  Portugal also drew attention to the crucial role of the Universal Periodic Review in promoting and protecting human rights.  Portugal would be holding its third review in May, and reiterated its commitment to this process.  Portugal was a pioneer in the abolition of the death penalty, and promised to continue to fight for universal abolition. However, Ms. Ribeiro noted with concern that the Government of Sri Lanka intended to start imposing the death penalty again.  Migration was noted as one of the main challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century, and Portugal hoped that over time all countries would take part in the dialogue in this area.  Ms. Ribeiro reiterated the remarks made by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that young people were vital for implementing the 2030 Agenda.  She highlighted the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, with repeated human rights violations, and made an appeal that people be given access to the humanitarian aid that was so desperately needed.  Regarding the situation in Yemen, Portugal made an appeal to all parties involved to find a lasting solution. 

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