Joint Statement for Human Rights Day

1348th Permanent Council of the OSCE, 9 December 2021.

Madam Chair,

I am speaking on behalf of Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and my own country Switzerland.

We are speaking to the International Human Rights Day and are ready to speak on this important milestone again next week should it be raised. And we focus on the HR Day in our statement.

Over 70 years ago, the international community came together to declare that all humans have certain equal and inalienable rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, this common baseline has been steadily built upon. Within the OSCE, human rights and fundamental freedoms have been at the core of the organization and its commitments since its very beginnings in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. The history of human rights, celebrated on the Human Rights Day on the 10th of December, is one of slow but steady progress.

Our countries are deeply committed to human rights and their universality and indivisibility. Human rights are indispensable to ensure that the benefits of development reach those most vulnerable. This has become particularly evident over the last two years. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic were disproportionate upon those who were already most vulnerable, such as women and girls as well as minority groups. Overall, preexisting inequalities have been exacerbated. Once again this has evidenced the importance of a human rights based and inclusive approach to public policy and decision-making.

Madam Chair,

Civil society and the media play a crucial role in safeguarding human rights and keeping states and other relevant actors accountable. In many states, including within the OSCE-region, the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has been used as a pretext to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the media. Often, this has had the effect of silencing human right defenders or other critical voices. A vibrant civil society and a pluralistic media landscape are vital for democratic processes and are crucial pillars of sustainable development. The shrinking space for civil society worldwide is deeply concerning and our countries call upon all states to duly respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to secure peace and stability in the region.

Thank you, Madam Chair.