Posts Tagged ‘speech’

Children as Human Rights Defenders: UN Committee has discussion

September 29, 2018

On 28 September the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Day of General Discussion on the topic “Children as Human Rights Defenders”. United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, gave the opening speech; here some excerpts:

….It is my great pleasure to join in welcoming you all to this Day of General Discussion on Children Human Rights Defenders..I am most excited of course to be welcoming the members of the Child Advisory Team. You make this such a very special moment for us all – for us personally who work here and for the human rights work we try to do here. This year is the 20th birthday of the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration and the 70th birthday of the UDHR. ….

Today, we will talk with you, about you. We will listen to you, …….

….We older people have failed you – have failed children. In so many places, in so many ways – older people are still failing children…….

Yet, the strange thing about this, is that it was older people – even older people – including some working 70 years ago – who made those laws and standards that recognise you have those rights, and yet it is older people who are breaking those promises.

……………If young age is no barrier to experiencing the worst consequences of older people’s decisions, then why use young age as an excuse to leave you out, to lock you out, from the places where those decisions could be changed. As human rights defenders, you know far better than I do why it is so important that we rethink the power relationship between older and young people.  If we would just change how we older people relate to children, make more room for you, listen to you more respectfully, value your experiences more, keep our promises to you then maybe we too would grow up and with you, just get on with changing the world for better.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23654&LangID=E

 

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, speaks very freely at the United Nations Association of the USA

June 21, 2017

In a little-noted speech at the Leadership Summit of the United Nations Association of the USA (Washington, D.C., 12 June 2017) Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, tackles populism and does not mince his words.  After viewing a Chaeli video [see e.g. https://www.worldofchildren.org/honoree/michaela-chaeli-mycroft/] to illustrate the message that “we can all make a difference for human rights. Every day, everywhere, at school or the workplace, commuting, or on holiday. It starts with each of us taking concrete steps to exercise our rights and our responsibility to protect and defend the rights of others“, Gilmour describes how after 3 decades of progress for human rights we have come up against a serious backlash, one that takes many forms but all of them counter to the values of rights, freedoms and tolerance. The text is worth reproducing as a whole: Read the rest of this entry »

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on what has to change in the UN Human Rights Council

June 7, 2017

On 6 June 2017 the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,  Nikki Haley, made a speech at the the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council”.  The full text you can find in the link below. Here some of the most relevant parts concerning changes desired by the USA ……
When the Human Rights Council has acted with clarity and integrity, it has advanced the cause of human rights. It has brought the names of prisoners of conscience to international prominence and given voice to the voiceless. At times, the Council has placed a spotlight on individual country violators and spurred action, including convening emergency sessions to address the war crimes being committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The Council’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea led to the Security Council action on human rights abuses there. The Council is at its best when it is calling out human rights violators and abuses, and provoking positive action. It changes lives. It pushes back against the tide of cynicism that is building in our world. And it reassures us that it deserves our continued investment of time and treasure.

But there is a truth that must be acknowledged by anyone who cares about human rights: When the Council fails to act properly – when it fails to act at all – it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights. ……These problems were supposed to have been fixed when the new Council was formed. Sadly, the case against the Human Rights Council today looks an awful lot like the case against the discredited Human Rights Commission over a decade ago. Once again, over half the current member countries fail to meet basic human rights standards as measured by Freedom House. Countries like Venezuela, Cuba, China, Burundi, and Saudi Arabia occupy positions that obligate them to, in the words of the resolution that created the Human Rights Council, “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. They clearly do not uphold those highest standards.

…….

I dedicated the U.S. presidency of the Security Council in April to making the connection between human rights and peace and security. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/20/us-pushes-for-historic-human-rights-debate-at-security-council-but-achieves-little/]

This is a cause that is bigger than any one organization. If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change. If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the Council.America does not seek to leave the Human Rights Council. We seek to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy.

There are a couple of critically necessary changes.

First, the UN must act to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats on the Council. As it stands, elections for membership to the Council are over before the voting even begins. Regional blocs nominate slates of pre-determined candidates that never face any competition for votes……Selection of members must occur out in the open for all to see. The secret ballot must be replaced with open voting. Countries that are willing to support human rights violators to serve on the Human Rights Council must be willing to show their faces. They know who they are. It’s time for the world to know who they are.

Second, the Council’s Agenda Item Seven must be removed. This, of course, is the scandalous provision that singles out Israel for automatic criticism. There is no legitimate human rights reason for this agenda item to exist….Since its creation, the Council has passed more than 70 resolutions targeting Israel. It has passed just seven on Iran. ….Getting rid of Agenda Item Seven would not give Israel preferential treatment. Claims against Israel could still be brought under Agenda Item Four, just as claims can be brought there against any other country. Rather, removal of Item Seven would put all countries on equal footing.

These changes are the minimum necessary to resuscitate the Council as a respected advocate of universal human rights……

Source: Ambassador Nikki Haley: Remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva » US Mission Geneva

Another memorable speech by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

March 5, 2015

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

On 5 March 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Member States to uphold the human rights principles underlying their communities in their fight against radicalism.

Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council earlier he warned of the “real danger” that opinion-leaders and decision-makers would “lose their grasp” of the values that States built 70 years ago “to ward off the horror of war.”

The fight against terror is a struggle to uphold the values of democracy and human rights – not undermine them,” Mr. Zeid declared. “Counter-terrorist operations that are non-specific, disproportionate, brutal and inadequately supervised violate the very norms that we seek to defend. They also risk handing the terrorists a propaganda tool – thus making our societies neither free nor safe.”

At the same time, the UN human rights chief said he was “appalled” by the “rising tide of attacks” around the world targeting people on account of their beliefs. Such “horrific acts of racial and religious hatred,” he said, spanned countries in Western Europe and North America, where “unfair policing, daily insults, and exclusion” affected large swathes of the population. Meanwhile, he added, “the tentacles of the extremist takfiri movement” – an ideology where one believer apostasies another and then condemns them as impure – had reached into a wide range of countries, from Iraq and Syria to Nigeria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Zeid voiced deep concern at the tendency of States to clamp down on the most basic of human rights, including the adoption of measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space.

When powerful leaders feel threatened by a tweet, a blog, or a high-school student’s speech, this speaks of profound underlying weakness,” he continued. “And when writers are abducted, jailed, whipped, or put to death; when journalists are assaulted, subjected to sexual violence, tortured and killed; when peaceful protestors are gunned down by thugs; when human rights lawyers, human rights defenders and land activists are arrested and jailed on spurious charges of sedition; when newspapers are attacked or shut down – such cases attack and undermine the foundations of stable governance.”

It is the people who sustain government, create prosperity, heal and educate others and pay for governmental and other services with their labour,” Mr. Zeid concluded. “It is their struggles that have created and sustain States. Governments exist to serve the people – not the other way round.

United Nations News Centre – Member States must enforce human rights amid rising tide of extremism – UN rights chief.

Another passionate plea by UN High Commissioner for better education and global leadership

February 6, 2015


High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein delivers his speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Credit: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum | Photo: Miriam Lomaskin

In an impressive speech on 5 February 2015 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. – one week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein emphasized that education devoid of a strong universal human rights component can be next to worthless, especially in a crisis. “What good was it to humanity that…eight out of 15 people who planned the Holocaust at Wannsee in 1942 held PhDs?” he asked. “In the years after the Holocaust, specific treaties were negotiated to cement into law obligations to protect human rights. Countries the world over accepted them – and now alas, all too frequently, they ignore them in practice.” While it has been 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp, some of the processes used by the Nazis to carry out humanity’s largest organized destruction are being implemented again today by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), explained Mr. Zeid.

This logic is abundant around the world today: I torture because a war justifies it. I spy on my citizens because terrorism, repulsive as it is, requires it. I don’t want new immigrants, or I discriminate against minorities, because our communal identity or my way of life is being threatened as never before. I kill others, because others will kill me – and so it goes, on and on.

Since the world cannot afford “sinking into a state of paralyzing shock…the task is to strengthen our ethics, clarity, openness of thought, and moral courage,” calling for new battle lines to combat extremism – based on the struggle for minds.

Children need to learn what bigotry and chauvinism are…they need to learn that blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends. They should learn that they are not an exception because of where they were born, how they look, what passport they carry, or the social class, caste or creed of their parents; they should learn that no one is intrinsically superior to her or his fellow human beings,” said Mr. Zeid.

The world needs “profound and inspiring” leaders who fully observe human rights and humanitarian law and all the treaties drafted to end discrimination, poverty, war, “with no excuses.”

It is obvious, Mr. Zeid continued, that forceful reprisals against atrocities – including “the savage burning of my compatriot the pilot Mu’ath al Kassassbeh” by ISIL – have had limited impact. Leaders must adopt a “battle-line based on ideas,” to speak out against Takfiri ideology (when one believer apostasies another believer and condemns them as impure). The movement to end that dangerous ideology must be waged by Muslim leaders and Muslim countries, he said.

Just bombing them or choking off their financing has clearly not worked…for these groups have only proliferated and grown in strength,” he said. “The space for dissent in many countries is collapsing under the weight of either poorly-thought out, or indeed, exploitative, counter-terrorism strategies.”

Few crises erupt without warning, he continued. Extremist ideas and violence manifest from years of tyranny, inequalities, fear and bad governance. They build up over years – even decades – of human rights grievances and the denial of basic economic and social rights. He insisted that atrocities can be prevented and extremism curbed through better, human rights-based global leadership and a fundamental rethink of education. “Surely we now know, from bitter experience, that human rights are the only meaningful rampart against barbarity.”

United Nations News Centre – In Washington, UN rights chief says atrocities can be prevented through better global leadership.

Don’t miss the High Commissioner’s words at MEA 2014 ceremony

October 10, 2014

The ceremony of the Martin Ennals Award 2014 is over (7 October 2014). It was again very impressive to hear and see 3 courageous Human Rights Defenders being honored. Some 450 people (my estimate) gave standing ovations to the 3 nominees whose work was shown in impressive films produced for the occasion. The film portraits are already available on the website: http://www.martinennalsaward.org where there is also a short summary of the whole evening.

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

Especially the film on Chinese HRD Cao Shunli is a masterpiece given that the film makers had almost no images to work with due to the modesty of the human rights defender as well as her untimely death in detention only 2 days after her nomination in March 2014.

The internet has buzzed with congratulations and encouragements to the other two nominees, Adilur from Bangladesh and Alejandra Ancheita from Mexico. The latter became ultimately the Laureate [see https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/breaking-news-alejandra-ancheita-is-the-2014-mea-laureate/#more-5648 ].

One of the nicest surprises was the address by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at one of his first public appearances outside the UN. UN HCHR Al Hussein The High Commissioner gave a moving and almost poetic description of the sorry state of affairs left to human rights defenders to correct: He said inter alia: Read the rest of this entry »