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Mr. President of the General Assembly,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The European Union has strongly welcomed the Call to Action for Human Rights when you delivered it, Mr. Secretary-General, one year ago before the Human Rights Council, and supports the effective implementation of its concrete steps for each of the seven guiding principles. Therefore, we highly appreciate today’s meeting, which offers the opportunity to take stock of progress made and of what remains to be done.
The Call to Action has the potential to create the right conditions for a paradigm shift for mainstreaming human rights at the UN, and to strengthen the human rights pillar.
The comprehensive implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights requires consistent and adequate funding of the human rights pillar. The Office of the High Commissioner only accounts for 4% of the UN regular budget, while we allocate 4 times as much for development and 7 times as much to peace and security. We cannot and must not simply rely on voluntary funding to compensate for the shortfall. The EU will therefore continue to engage actively against the systematic underfunding for human rights. We strongly support your call, Mr. Secretary-General, to develop a funding strategy to provide financial stability for the international human rights system, including the human rights treaty bodies.
States cannot pick and choose among human rights. Fulfilling humanity’s highest aspiration implies promoting and protecting all human rights without any discrimination. The EU firmly believes that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated, interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and that there can be no development and no security without respect for human rights.
The EU attaches great importance to the full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and indeed, we support many initiatives in that regard.
In these trying pandemic times, upholding the right to health, including mental health, is obviously a priority, which includes ensuring fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to people in all countries. With the Team Europe initiative, the EU has committed 2.2 billion Euros to the global vaccine initiative COVAX.
At the same time, civil and political rights must be fully respected by all Member States. The UN has an important role in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and abuse and to bring facts and evidence to public attention. By doing so violations can be both prevented and people can be protected from human rights violations.
In the spirit of the Call to Action, the European Union calls on the UN System, including its leadership, to consistently speak out against human rights violations and abuses wherever they are committed.
We also see a need to reinforce the UN prevention agenda, including prevention of atrocity crimes in general, and of genocide. We remind the important role of the Security Council in that regard, and call on more frequent briefings by the High Commissioner on Human rights. We further call on the Security Council to make better use of the information provided by the UN Human Rights System.
We recall the need to ensure that prevention and protection are emphasised in the programming and decision-making throughout the UN system at the headquarters and field level.
The Call to Action rightly underlines the need to deepen work on human rights in the field, and announces the rollout of a common agenda for protection applying to the United Nations family. UN Country Teams play a central role in that respect, and therefore the EU strongly supports reinforcing them through the deployment of more Human Rights Advisors. We underline the importance of human rights expertise and capacity in the UN peace missions.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the economic and social crisis it has aggravated, have confirmed the urgency of the actions identified last February, and the appropriateness of the analysis made by the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and of the tracks identified.
For instance, the pandemic has confirmed the importance to work on the human rights dimension of new technologies, with the view to facilitate their human rights-based utilization in all countries, thus sustaining the objective of leaving no one behind, but also to prevent the violations and abuses of human rights that these technologies can enable. In that context too, the EU will continue to engage in the implementation of the Roadmap on Digital Cooperation. We will as well continue to fight, including at the UN, against information censorship, actions of disinformation, and the rollout by States of systems of surveillance and repression of their own citizens or targeting persons belonging to certain groups.
The devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have also shed light on the importance of engaging for the protection of the human rights of new and future generations, starting with the right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the right to education. The European Union is also proud to be among those prioritising youth participation in the work of the General Assembly and of ECOSOC. In the spirit of the Call to Action, the EU sees the need to strengthen cooperation between the UN youth delegates and UN services, reinforcing their meaningful and effective participation.
The EU is fully supportive of the objectives for gender equality and equal rights set out in the Call. The COVID-19 pandemic came with regressive consequences for gender equality and women empowerment, with a significant rise of the already disproportionate burden of unpaid care work, a despicable spike in sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, and the loss of income and livelihood for many women. At the same time, women, who represent the majority of health and social workers, have been at the forefront of the response and will be the backbone of recovery in communities. We have a collective duty to ensure that women and girls partake in all recovery efforts and at all levels.
As you have pointed out last February, the UN cannot do its work without the active engagement of civil society. However, we see a number of States opposing the participation of civil society in key UN events; we see a number of States using the NGO Committee to deny accreditation without any valid ground; we see reprisals against human rights defenders engaging with the UN. The European Union believes that much more needs to be done by the UN System to listen and to protect civil society representatives and human rights defenders, at home and when at the UN. This also includes promoting and defending multilingualism as a core value to ensure broader participation and inclusivity. We also reiterate our call on the Bureau of the Third Committee to organise a meeting with civil society in order to exchange on the outcome of the last session.
It is the shared responsibility of all Member States and the UN System to live up to the hopes and expectations generated by the Call to Action. The European Union will continue to support its effective implementation.
I thank you.