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Human Rights Up Front: Preventing Human Rights Crises Worldwide

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Ministers, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends.

These are turbulent times. We are dealing with more crises now than we have done for decades. We are seeing violence that is beyond belief. Great suffering. Far-reaching consequences.

And human rights are under pressure.

This is not a different story. It is part of the same story. Where there is conflict, human rights come under pressure. And where human rights are under pressure, trouble is bound to be brewing.

A worsening human rights situation is often a telling sign of an impending crisis. We must learn to respond to these signs.

To prevent armed conflict and mass atrocities.

To create a conducive climate for economic growth and development.

Governments have the primary responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights.

We have the obligation to build inclusive and open societies, where conflicts of interests are resolved peacefully.

Many fail to do this.

The prevention of grave human rights violations and emergencies must be an immediate and urgent priority for the international community.

The UN has a key role to play. This is why the human rights pillar of the UN must be strengthened.

It is time to protect and promote human rights up front.

Therefore, we warmly welcome the initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of November last year.

There have been significant improvements over the past decades in the United Nations human rights system. But we are facing large gaps in implementation.

The UN must be more confident, more coherent and more assertive about the importance of its human rights pillar.

Promoting respect for human rights is a core purpose of the United Nations. Even though this can at times be a difficult and delicate issue.

The UN must integrate human rights across the board.

It is about multiplying the impact of the limited resources of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It is about strengthening the UN’s ability to respond adequately to complex challenges in the field.

The UN strives to protect human rights in a smart and cost-effective manner. Still, the human rights pillar of the UN is chronically underfunded.

I call for an increase of the share of the UN’s regular budget that is allocated to human rights. This is needed more than ever.

A lot is at stake as we gather for the seventh annual Trygve Lie Symposium on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Journalists are being harassed and silenced.

Women and children – and men – are being sexually abused. Rape is being used as a weapon of war.

Sexual minorities are under attack. Because of who they are.

Religious minorities of all faiths are suffering violence and discrimination. Because of their beliefs.

We are witnessing political repression. Absence of fundamental freedoms is widespread.

New laws are restricting freedom of expression and the work of civil society. In all parts of the world. In blatant disregard of human rights obligations.

We are deeply concerned by incidents of reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms.

Intimidation, attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders are on the increase. Men and women are showing great courage, risking their own safety. Their families’ safety. To fight for their – and our – human rights.

Calls for protection, calls for fulfilment of human rights are resounding across the world. We cannot ignore these calls.

Today is about putting Human Rights up Front. It is about Preventing Human Rights Crises Worldwide. It is a tall order.

The effective implementation of the Human Rights Up Front action plan depends on the willingness of UN agencies and personnel to put human rights at the forefront of their agenda.

It depends on the active support of Member States.

It depends on pressure from civil society.

More than anything, Human Rights Up Front depends on a change of mindsets and priorities throughout the entire international community. This is the huge challenge – and it is our challenge.

Today we will discuss and explore ideas on how Human Rights Up Front can lead to the necessary changes.

I am pleased to introduce a highly competent and distinguished panel. We are looking forward to a stimulating conversation about this very topical matter. Welcome everyone.


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