Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

HRC 40 - EU Statement - Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Geneva, 18/03/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190319_6
Statements on behalf of the EU

40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 25 February – 22 March 2019 EU Statement - Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Thank you, Mr. President,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Montenegro[1], Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

With the adoption of the VDPA, all States reaffirmed that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The VDPA calls upon States not to create a hierarchy of rights or to use cultural particularities to justify human rights violations. The European Union is committed to strengthening the universality of human rights and rejects the use of cultural relativism as a pretext to divert from the standards the international community has set itself in the VDPA, the UDHR, the Human Rights Covenants and other treaties.

The Vienna World Conference unequivocally placed the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights on States. The European Union fully endorses the VDPA’s emphasis on the indispensable role played by civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists, as well as NHRIs and other stakeholders, to remind governments of their human rights obligations, highlight violations of human rights and to support them in their implementation.

The European Union therefore condemns any attempts to outlaw NGOs, by way of legislation that runs counter to international human rights standards, or by way of arbitrary judicial proceedings, that undermine the rule of law and human rights. We equally condemn all attempts by States to prevent their citizens from cooperating with the UN human rights mechanisms, or to intimidate or punish them. We reiterate the VDPA’s call on States to fully cooperate with special procedures and mechanisms in order to enable them to fully carry out their mandates.

The World Conference on Human Rights noted – already in 1993 – that certain advances, notably in the biomedical and life sciences as well as in information technology, may present challenges to the integrity, dignity and human rights of the individual.

New and emerging technologies are key to addressing many of the major challenges facing the world, such as global health and wellbeing, climate change, reliable legal and democratic systems, dignified workplaces and others expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, if not properly managed, technological developments can give rise to new risks, including challenges for the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for human dignity. They open the door to new types of discrimination, such as ”algorithmic” discrimination by Artificial Intelligence, and bear the risk of further exacerbating inequalities.

We believe that the Human Rights Council needs to address the interface between human rights and new and emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, in a holistic, rights-based manner.

I thank you.


[1]  Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.


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