I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and my own country, Norway.
Appalled by the atrocities of the Second World War, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make sure that such atrocities would never happen again.
The Declaration’s 70th anniversary year offers an opportunity to celebrate the substantial progress that has been made to date towards human rights for all and to reinforce our commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of universal human rights.
Human rights are now an integral part of all governments’ obligations towards their population through conventions and norms that have been developed over the past 70 years.
We must work tirelessly to ensure that these obligations are respected around the world, and that perpetrators are held to account.
Progress has been made to ensure that women and girls are able to fully enjoy all human rights. Yet, despite the momentum provided by the #MeToo movement, much remains to be done. In particular we must work harder to promote, protect, and fulfil sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women and girls everywhere should have the right to make decisions regarding their own lives and bodies, free from coercion, harassment and violence.
In many countries the respect for the rule of law and human rights are under attack. Institutions we have built up and promoted for decades are at risk of being undermined and weakened. The multilateral system, of which the Declaration form a cornerstone, is under pressure from a multitude of directions.
Human rights defenders play an essential role in holding governments to account. Civil society actors are catalyst for change and contribute to development. It is deeply concerning when Governments commit reprisals and limit civil society space. This is a symptom of a highly troubling opposition towards transparency and accountability toward their own citizens.
A free press is also essential in ensuring that human rights are respected. We must take seriously the threats to press freedom seen across the world, and escalating intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists and media workers.
In recent years, we have witnessed youth crying out demanding more democracy, more transparency, more respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Demanding to be heard.
Today’s youth are the future leaders of our societies.
In some states, the youth are losing hope. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are essential elements in sustainable societies where youth are enabled and given opportunities to influence decision-making and to shape their own destiny.
It is our shared responsibility to advance the human rights agenda in the next 70 years.
The three pillars of the UN – human rights, peace and security, and development – are closely linked and mutually reinforcing.
However, the human rights pillar is not getting the attention it deserves.
We need to ensure a better balance between the three pillars of the organisation.
Human rights are fundamental to achieving sustainable development in all its dimensions. In line with the 2030 credo “Leaving no one behind”, the rights of those in poor and marginalized situations, should be promoted and protected. As should the rights of indigenous peoples.
Stability cannot be secured through deterrence and military capacity alone. Investment in the human rights pillar may in the long run lead to reduced demands within the other two.
We must continue to do all we can to promote, protect and fulfil human rights. We cannot afford to be complacent.