Sommaire: 18 September 2009, Geneva - Statement by H.E. Ambassador Hans Dahlgren, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations Office in Geneva, on behalf of the European Union, UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 12th Session (14 September - 2 October 2009), Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Allow me to start by reiterating the importance of upholding human rights, and their universality, interdependence and indivisibility. I would also like to reaffirm that civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are all equal in status and it is important that these are protected for all individuals. This is the focus of our work here in this Council, and we strive for this to be achieved around the world.
International human rights mechanisms, such as treaty bodies and special procedures and other international and regional monitoring bodies, are essential tools to support the safeguarding of human rights worldwide. The EU attaches the highest importance to these mechanisms. Notably the Special Rapporteurs require our attention. Their independence and autonomy in how they exercise their mandates, needs to be safeguarded and the tasks given to them need to be focused, in order not to take up valuable resources unnecessarily. In order for the special procedures to be effective it is vital that States cooperate with them and allow them to visit.
To be able to express one's views freely is a basis for democracy. The advancement of new technologies, including new media, holds tremendous potential for the advancement of freedom of expression. These technologies liberate communication and further understanding among people. We need to be vigilant against undue restrictions being imposed on new technologies, in order to uphold existing norms on freedom of expression. Without free speech, freedom doesn't stand a chance. It is imperative that the State does everything to protect the rights of journalists and those who lead public debate, and takes measures to combat impunity for those who would seek to intimidate journalists or do them harm.
To safeguard the rights for all to lead a life free from all forms of discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation or gender identity is imperative. The European Union calls on all states to decriminalise same sex relationships, and to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people. Furthermore the European Union rejects and condemns any manifestation of homophobia since this phenomenon is a blatant violation of human dignity. Discrimination based on work and descent also deserves our attention since those affected still constitute one of the largest socially segregated groups. The EU acknowledges the legal protection and positive policy measures taken by different national governments.
The EU is a longstanding supporter and promoter of the rights of the child. Although the promotion and protection of the rights of the child is of ever present relevance, 2009 constitutes a particularly important year as the international community celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This landmark document, in addition to its two Optional Protocols, should never be compromised, especially not in times of crises, including in conflict situations or in economic downturns, as children are among the most vulnerable groups. Hence, to continue to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the child is an absolute must. To educate children about their rights is also of utmost importance, as awareness of human rights among all individuals - young and old - is a precondition for obtaining universal respect for these rights.
No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable, as the author of the UN Study on Violence against Children, professor Pinheiro, concluded. The EU warmly welcomes Marta Santos Pais as the newly appointed Special Representative to the Secretary General on violence against children and looks forward to cooperating with her and other agencies in implementing the recommendations in the study.
Europe is one of the regions in the world which welcomes the largest number of migrants each year. Migration when effectively managed brings positive effects to EU countries and countries of origin alike. Cooperation is necessary, between countries and involving all relevant stakeholders, in order to realise the potential benefits of migration. The exploitation of migrants and their vulnerability through illegal routes of transit, and through smuggling and trafficking in human beings, is of serious concern. The EU cooperates with neighbouring countries on these important issues. The Stockholm programme to be adopted by the Council of the European Union before the end of the year will provide a framework for EU action on questions of Justice and Home Affairs, covering Civil protection, Police and Customs cooperation, Judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, Asylum, Migration, Visa and Border control.
Last year, we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 18, thirty years will have passed since the adoption by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. In the time which has passed since this landmark convention came into being, advancements have been made, and the situation of women has improved in many parts of the world. However, this work must continue. Violence against women and girls prevails in all parts of the world, both in conflict situations and in situations of relative social stability. Women on all continents are subjected to domestic violence as well as to sexual violence, a clear violation of their dignity, security and human rights. We welcome the new special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo. The decision to create a new UN agency for women represents an important step in ensuring effective UN action to empower women, our attention should now turn to finalising the details as soon as possible.
Women are also discriminated against in areas of citizenship, public life and political decision-making, participation in work and economic life, hereditary and property rights, education among many other areas. The fact that 500 000 women die each year as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth is a disgrace. We need to support women to be able to exercise their right to life and health including to bear their children without risking death as a consequence. This is a human rights issue with wide implications. Realising the human rights of women is key to achieving MDG5 on reducing maternal mortality and the other MDGs which world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.
The responsibility for protecting human rights lies with states. The cause of human rights is strengthened by the tireless efforts of human rights defenders - often in very difficult conditions. The continued violence and harassment suffered by human rights defenders in all regions of the world, including in reprisal for engaging with the UN human rights system, is very disturbing. Let us constantly remind ourselves, that individuals who are ready to speak up for human rights will always deserve our strongest protection and support.
Thank you, Mr President.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.