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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA) recognises democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law as key principles for the protection and full enjoyment of human rights. Societies with strong rule of law and respect for human rights are more likely to be peaceful and resilient; and more likely to be stable and prosperous.
The promotion and protection of human rights of course also requires a strong accountability framework that provides effective remedies to victims. This is particularly true in situations where we see gross violations and abuses of human rights on a systemic scale.
The European Union remains firmly committed to the fight against impunity and the promotion of international criminal justice. Since the very beginning, the EU has supported a strong and effective International Criminal Court. It will continue to work towards the universal ratification of the Rome Statute and calls on all countries to prioritise this.
The VDPA also emphasises the indispensable role played by civil society, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists, to remind governments of their human rights obligations, to claim protection and redress for victims and to support governments in their implementation.
The European Union is gravely concerned about reprisals against civil society organisations and human rights defenders cooperating with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. The EU will continue to support civil society and human rights defenders through all means available, wherever they are in danger.
The European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Bachelet share a common vision that in addition to the important work of denouncing human rights violations and holding States to account, we also need to identify and promote positive human rights stories that inspire political commitment to continued implementation of human rights-based policies. The Good Human Rights Story Initiative is a coalition of 15+ countries from across the globe working towards this end. At the Ministerial Week, the Initiative marked human rights progress on economic, social and cultural rights and identified those stories that paved the way for more decent living conditions for all. From women's economic empowerment to ensuring healthy lives for all, the stories recognised that access to public health, inclusive education, respectful social security and a safe environment are vital for the dignity and wellbeing of people. We believe that cross fertilisation of these stories is an essential addition to the important but challenging work of the UN human rights system.
The European Union is fully committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, all of which are universal, inalienable, interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. This commitment includes a constant effort to continue improving the realization of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, within our own countries.
This year the EU adopted Guidelines in the field of water and sanitation, which underline the EU's commitment to help realising access to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide, and define priorities for EU external action. The EU and EU Member States also remain fully committed to fulfilling the human right to health.
These guidelines are one of the many steps that the EU is taking towards the progressive realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 to "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" and SDG 13 on "taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact".
Both the Universal Declaration, with which the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) form the indivisible cornerstone of human rights, and the VDPA claim that all human rights are to be realized, whether they are civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights. There is no hierarchy among those rights, no subordination of one to the other. The VDPA reaffirms the duty of all States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, or their development status, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.