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International Human Rights Day, which we celebrate each December 10th, commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, but is also marking the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that began on November 25th with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. We look to this landmark declaration not just as a reminder of values, but as a set of principles underpinning all of our actions, whether in Europe or beyond.
The recent global #metoo movement has continued to grab everyone's attention regarding the issue of sexual assault and harassment in Europe and beyond. This spontaneous demonstration has encouraged victims, be they male or female, to speak out and stand up for their rights and their dignity.
As gender-based violence poses serious health and human rights hurdles in our societies, it must be made clear that human development is undermined so long as women and girls continue to suffer from violence or live in fear of it. No region in the world is immune from this daunting problem and the fight to combat is worth the effort. Eliminating violence against women and girls is a first step towards global peace and security and is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. When girls are educated and entitled to participate on an equal footing in society, everyone benefits. In this regard, the European Union and its Member states commend the Lao PDR for its unswerving commitment to address this issue, as recently reaffirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone.
Lao PDR, with its diverse peoples and reputation for social tolerance, recognizes the importance of these values for all, and represents a source of inspiration for us as Europeans, especially given the value that the European Union places on the importance of Human Rights protection.
The Universal Declaration enshrines and states that human beings are, by virtue of their birth, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that these serve as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Central to this is our desire to engage more with Lao society, in particular in tackling – and eradicating - any form of discrimination. It can also help us reap huge social and economic benefits in our fast-flowing and changing world. Prominent economists note that investing in universal education may be the highest return-on-investment available.
To eliminate any kind of discrimination once and for all, we, therefore dearly need to improve education delivery and offer equal opportunity for all Lao people to fulfil their potential. This would represent a boon to wider society and a vehicle to carry out root and branch reforms. Educational access, therefore, should not be constrained but should help fulfil the Agenda 2030 pledge for “no-one to be left behind”. . Indeed, it must be inclusive and open to all, including children or young people suffering from disability. Let there be no doubt about our common commitment to this goal.
In that long struggle, Europe needs Laos as much as Laos needs Europe, as we shoulder collectively this heavy responsibility. Only together can we preserve, protect and defend human dignity, not only for ourselves but also for future generations. .
Signed by: The European Union Delegation to the Lao PDR and the Embassies of the United Kingdom, Germany, Luxemburg and France to the Lao PDR