Ambassador Nickson Deng, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, fellow members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends
I am delighted to welcome you to this event that the EU Delegation has organised in association with the British Embassy and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the occasion of International Human Rights Day 2018 and to mark the end of the 16 Days of Action against Gender Based Violence.
On this day, 70 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration consists of 30 articles which affirm the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. We should not forget that adoption of this important document in 1948 came in the aftermath of the Second World War one of the greatest tragedies in human history, not just for Europe but the entire world. Since then the Universal Declaration has been the cornerstone of human rights upon which many countries have built a strong and resilient human rights architecture. Today, we should acknowledge that the numbers of people living with good human rights conditions are higher than ever. This gives us hope and optimism.
Today, we also commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and pay tribute to those courageous individuals who promote and protect human rights at grave personal risk to themselves and their families. Unfortunately, while there is reason for hope and optimism, we also recognise that around the world, pressure is increasing against freedom of speech and against civic space through violent attacks, forced disappearances and punitive registration regimes. The European Union remains a staunch supporter of the promotion and protection of human rights and as the EU High Representative Frederica Mogherini pledged today ‘we will continue our efforts to act and speak out against harassment and intimidation of civil society including women and youth.’ In South Sudan, as in other countries, it is critical that the space for human rights defenders and journalists be guaranteed across the country.
We also remind ourselves of the universality of human rights which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration. I take this opportunity to reaffirm the EU's commitment to protect and promote the universality of human rights whenever or wherever they are violated or questioned. This means that as 28 member states of the European Union we hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect of our partners across the world, including here in South Sudan.
The signing of the peace agreement on 12 September this year is a new opportunity for the parties and people of South Sudan. The EU is encouraged by initial steps taken towards its implementation which are going in the right direction and should be followed by others. This revitalised agreement offers hope for peace and for a safe, inclusive and just society where the human rights of all are protected and guaranteed.
The conflict in South Sudan has had devastating consequences for its people. They have suffered grave violations of their human rights; including recruitment and use of children during conflict and sexual and gender-based violence. We have recently seen in Bentiu a horrific example of the crime of sexual and gender-based violence. The EU and its member states are deeply concerned about these incidents. The perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account and effective remedies must be put in place for survivors.
The EU strongly supports the implementation of transitional justice institutions in South Sudan and urges all the parties to make progress on the mechanisms provided for in chapter five of the revitalised agreement.
The theme of this year's 16 Days of Activism has been #HearMeToo and I would like to say:
To the people of South Sudan – that we hear you when you say that you are tired of conflict and want peace and we will continue to stand with you and encourage the parties to ensure that the peace and protection of your human rights becomes a reality.
To the parties to the agreement- we hear you when you say you have signed the Revitalised Agreement in good faith and that you are willing to implement. We will continue to encourage you in your efforts to implement the agreement in letter and spirit.
To the women and girls of South Sudan who have suffered the most from gender and sexual based violence, we hear you when you say you need access to services and support. We will strive to ensure that you get the assistance you need and that the perpetrators who committed these crimes are held to account. We will also continue to work to eliminate gender and sexual based violence by ensuring our programmes address the root causes both in South Sudan and at the global level.
To conclude my remarks, I would like to quote Eleanor Roosevelt who was the first chair of the UN Commission of Human Rights and instrumental to the drafting of the Universal Declaration. 'It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work on it.' Let us continue to work on peace in South Sudan together.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the organisers of the Juba Film Festival who are represented by Mr. Simon Bingo this evening. If the screenings of the films we have been shown this evening are anything to go by we can expect a very stimulating and entertaining programme. I am proud that we will continue our partnership with you through our sponsorship of the Human Rights Award. Not only that but I have the pleasure to pledge this evening 1,000 Euro in support to next years' film festival. The vibrant arts and creative industry in any society must be supported and is essential in ensuring that freedom of expression flourishes.
Delegation of the European Union to South Sudan Postal address: Block 3K- South, Plot 82A, European Compound North of Government of South Sudan Ministry Complex, JUBA – South Sudan Phone number: +211920010431 or +211920010432
Juba, South Sudan Delegation