Thank you so much Sherine for your kind introduction.
And excellencies, dear colleagues, thank you for joining us.
It is an honour for Norway to host this event together with Amnesty and ISHR.
The numbers are shocking.
431 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were killed, in 41 countries, in 2017 and 2018. Simply for doing their job.
That is at least 8 per week.
And these are just the recorded cases.
These 8 lives lost a week, only represents the tip of the iceberg of attacks against Human Rights Defenders.
Countless thousands of others have been harassed, stalked and threated.
If we are going to stop these attacks, we must end impunity.
It is unacceptable that human rights defenders are targeted in order to silence the vital work they do.
It should not be risky to advocate for human rights. The promotion and protection of which is an obligation we as Member States have all undertaken to fulfil.
Through their work, human rights defenders are not only advocating for individual victims or one category of rights.
They advocate for all of us.
Strengthening public discourse and norms around human rights.
They are defending our rights and we must defend them.
Ending impunity is vital component in preventing future attacks.
As the Special Rapporteur, (who we are pleased could join our panel today) has described in their report:
Progress towards justice and truth will make it possible to break the cycles of violence, strengthening confidence in institutions and in democracy itself.
Impunity for these crimes too often comes from a lack of political will on behalf of State authorities.
However, many instances can also be traced back to weak national governance structures or a lack of resources.
Which is why for Norway, strengthening human rights includes capacity building and technical support at the country level.
To implement human rights standards, and prevent abuses and violations in the first instance.
Alongside boosting capacity to investigate and prosecute past crimes to end impunity.
This is why as OHCHRs largest voluntary donor, we support their capacity building and technical assistance work with Member States, and national human rights institutions across the globe.
We are also strong supporters of the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in shining a light on cases of reprisals against human rights defenders for their cooperation with the UN system.
The protection of human rights defenders is a key priority in Norwegian foreign policy. As I am sure you know we facilitate the biennial Third Committee resolution on human rights defenders.
In this regard, it is our pleasure to co-host this event and provide a platform at the UN for these defenders. The shrinking of civil society space, and the reduction of opportunities to hear directly from defenders at the UN in recent years is of great concern.
While we do not necessarily endorse all the views they express, we will stand up for their right to be heard.
We are pleased to help provide this forum for human rights defenders today, and look forward to learning from their experiences.