Thank you Chair, and congratulations on your assumption of this important role. You have our full support, and my delegation very much looks forward to working with you and the Bureau during this important session.
As Norway’s Prime Minister, and many of our leaders underscored in the General Assembly a week ago - the COVID-19 pandemic is not over anywhere, and will not be until it’s over everywhere.
COVID has on one hand revealed a disconnected world, marked by unacceptable and dangerous inequalities. And on the other, it has reminded us what we can achieve by striving together for global solutions to global problems.
The consequences of the pandemic on the protection and promotion of human rights continues to be dramatic, and will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects:
Millions of children and youth have been prevented from pursuing their education- which in turn has increased their risk of poverty, violence, and abuse. An uptick in child marriage has had a devastating impact on girls. And the pressure on our health systems has affected access to vital services.
Moreover, democratic norms continue to be challenged; with targeted measures used by governments to: silence critical voices, restrict access to information, limit space for civil society, clamp down on peaceful protest, and undermine the rights of minorities.
Nevertheless, we continue to see individuals and groups stand up for human rights, democracy, and equality, and speak out against discrimination and intolerance- even under these difficult circumstances.
Norway commends these efforts and echoes their calls for a better, more inclusive response.
It is reprehensible that in defending the rights of others, many have become targets of threats, harassment, surveillance, and violent reprisals.
It is clear that human rights, the rule of law, and democracy should be at the center of our recovery efforts. This includes ensuring adequate protection of human rights defenders. That’s why we will again make our facilitation of the resolution on the situation of human rights defenders a priority this session.
The Generation Equality Forum earlier this year was a stark reminder that our work to end discrimination against women and girls is far from over. During the pandemic we’ve seen an explosive increase in gender-based violence and a lack of access to health care services - not least sexual and reproductive health and rights. This will have serious, and long-lasting effects for women and girls.
Our recovery efforts therefore must also have a gender perspective - including women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation.
We have also seen that persons with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted due to barriers being reproduced in COVID-19 responses. Raising awareness of the pandemic’s impact on persons with disabilities and their rights is an important part of building back better, and more inclusively.
This will be high on Norway’s agenda as we prepare to host the Global Disability Summit in February, together with Ghana, and the Global Disability Alliance.
Norway firmly believes that the global response and recovery must be based on human rights, the rule of law and democracy - with a strong and efficient UN at the heart of our efforts. We see this reflected in the Secretary-General’s recommendations in ‘Our Common Agenda’ with his call that we should embrace a comprehensive vision of human rights. We agree. This is not only the right way - but also the most effective - to continue to fight the pandemic, and to build a better future for all.