Thank you, Mr. President,
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia[*], Montenegro*, 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 and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this statement.
This year, we are engaged in a number of celebrations to commemorate the adoptions of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights 70 years ago as well as of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 25 years ago.
Yet, as the High Commissioner, human rights advocates and others keep reminding us, this is not the time for complacency or self-congratulatory statements. It is true that many things have been achieved over the past 25 years, including through the highly important work of an independent OHCHR – the groundwork for which was laid at the World Conference in Vienna – and we thank the High Commissioner and his staff for their tireless efforts. However, the common approach that was confirmed in the VDPA and which is encapsulated in its Preamble’s first sentence, namely that “…the promotion and protection of human rights is a matter of priority for the international community”, must be reiterated and realized.
High Commissioner Zeid at an international conference which took place last month in Vienna to mark the 25th anniversary of the VDPA provided a clear call on us all to step up our efforts when he was saying that “human rights are sorely under pressure around the world – no longer a priority: a pariah. The legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. The practice of human rights norms is in retreat.”
The Human Rights Council, without doubt, needs to play its role in countering negative global trends and ensuring that the human rights commitments we are commemorating are something tangible and real in everybody’s life, and not only nice rhetoric. Members of the Human Rights Council should therefore lead by example, as stipulated in GA resolution 60/251.
Civil society, human rights defenders and journalists continue to play the crucial role that was recognized in the VDPA, for promoting and protecting human rights, including in our work in the Council. Therefore the Council needs to oppose ongoing attempts to shrink the space for human rights defenders and civil society and defend their ability to freely communicate about human rights issues to all relevant stakeholders.
The EU unequivocally condemns any direct and indirect restrictions to their legitimate work and reiterates that any intimidation or reprisal against persons who cooperate with the UN human rights system, including the Council’s own mechanisms, are unacceptable. We would like to thank the President and Bureau of the Council for their efforts in this regard.
I thank you.
[*] The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.