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Muchas gracias Michelle [Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights]. Thank you to the 14 countries. We started this journey together a year ago. Today, we have new members that join the group.
I want to thank both because the quantity and the quality of the countries around this room and the stories that we will hear tell us of the changes we can have and the good developments we can build together. This gives hope and inspiration for many others in the world.
Countries from all around the world are now part of this project, because there are good news for human rights happening everywhere.
None of us here is perfect – no place in the world is. We all have something to contribute and something to learn.
I know that we do not only have governments with us, but representatives of civil society. I am glad you are here – because progress on human rights usually starts from the grassroots, and the best thing governments can do is to support you and give you the space to work freely and autonomously, and also to listen the recommendations you formulate.
In our daily work, we experience something very basic about human rights. Human rights matter to every single person in our societies. They are not a niche issue. They are not something that only relates to a selected group of people. Human rights are important to all of us, and when they progress, then everyone is better off.
This is evident in the stories that we present today. When more people have access to education, when children are given the opportunity to get off the streets, the whole of society is better off. More people can fulfil their potential, and the benefits are perceived by everyone, not just by those who are directly impacted. The benefits are also felt by the institutions themselves.
This year we have collectively decided to focus on economic and social rights. The stories that we will be sharing are not just heart-warming: they help re-establish a truth that too many people are forgetting.
There is no true and sustainable development without human rights. Economic growth is built on fragile foundations, if it is unequal and it is not rooted in a free and inclusive society.
Education. Fair opportunities for all, beyond gender, ethnicity and social background. These are basic human rights, and they are also key drivers for a truly sustainable economic development.
Likewise, there can be no sustainable development when societies are fundamentally unequal and discrimination prevents talented people from achieving their potential.
Today we reaffirm together the simple principle that progress on human rights is also essential to economic development.
We Europeans have chosen the theme of work-life balance for working mothers and fathers. This is something that is really close to my heart. I have always said that if we want to really address inequalities based on gender in the work place, we must have equal rights and obligations for both parents.
We must underline to employers that hiring a woman is just as convenient as hiring a man. And the way to do so is equal parental leave for mothers and fathers alike.
The Work-Life Balance Directive is a step in the right direction – and yet it is only a first step. We are still far from creating a society that is truly and fully equal for all of us.
The Good Human Rights Stories Initiative is not a club to showcase perfect countries. But it can be an incentive to aim higher, and to learn, first and foremost, that it is possible to make step forwards and that advancing and creating more equal and inclusive societies is possible in every kind of condition.
This is an innovative coalition of countries that seek to promote a proactive stance on Human Rights – in New York, in Geneva, but most importantly in our daily work back home.
There are good news in this world. There are human rights defenders who are making their societies a better place. There are governments and NGOs who are showing the way. There are millions of people whose life has changed for the better thanks to progress on human rights.
The Good Human Rights Stories are a reason to hope. But most importantly, they are a call to action.
Thank you all for your contribution, and I hope these stories can inspire you, all of us, just as they have inspired myself. I hope this can give us courage, energy, determination, perseverance and stubbornness to continue even when the conditions seem to be very difficult.