Joint Statement on International Human Rights Day

1349th Permanent Council of the OSCE, 16 December 2021.

Madam Chair,

I am delivering this statement on behalf of Canada, Andorra, Iceland,
Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland.

On 10th of December, we celebrated that the international community
came together over 70 years ago to declare that all humans have certain
equal and inalienable rights. 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 is one of slow but steady progress.

In recent years, however, the human rights acquis has come under
increasing threat with the rise of populism and authoritarianism.

Civil society, human rights defenders, journalists and other media actors
play a fundamental role in safeguarding human rights, democracy and the
rule of law, and in sounding the alarm should they be violated or
threatened. It is thus crucial that there is sufficient space for civil society
organizations and human rights defenders to operate safely, particularly
in times of crisis. However, in many participating States this civil society
has been facing increasing attacks, reprisals, administrative hurdles,
reporting requirements, and even outright criminalization of their work. Our
delegations wish to reaffirm once again our commitment to human rights and our conviction that the OSCE, through its human dimension, can play
a positive role in combatting these phenomena. In this context we wish to
express our profound disappointment that the Human Dimension
Implementation Meeting was not held in 2021.

Madam Chair,

The internet provides for a great platform for exercising the right to
freedom of expression and access to information, allowing many people’s
voices to be heard and amplified. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated
the shift of activities online, making the importance of a free and accessible
internet for everyone all the more apparent. Our delegations are
concerned by increasing reports of restrictions on freedom of expression
and of the media online, spanning the blocking of online media outlets to
complete internet shutdowns. The prevalence of threats and violence
against women online, particularly against women journalists and human
rights defenders, is also deeply concerning, as it has the effect of silencing
their voices and thus infringing on their right to freedom of expression.
States have the obligation not only to respect but also to protect human
rights. In honor of international human rights day, we therefore call upon
participating States to take all necessary measures to ensure that human
rights are fully respected online as well as offline.

Lastly, let us turn to the importance of human rights in maintaining peace
in the OSCE region. The central role of human rights in conflict prevention
was already recognized by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. It is important to
remember that serious human rights violations can lead to violent conflicts
and that, inversely, the respect of human rights is a key element of
preventing conflicts. We call upon participating States to strengthen their
commitment to the respect of human rights and thus assume their
responsibility for peace and stability in the region.

Thank you, Madam Chair.