National Human Rights Institutions and the SDGs

Opening statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Trine Heimerback in the event "Where do we stand halfway to 2030? How national human rights institutions accelerate progress toward the SDGs", 25 May 2023.

Good morning, dear colleagues and friends,

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this meeting where our distinguished speakers and panelists will help us understand better how national human rights institutions accelerate progress towards the sustainable development goals.

Promoting human rights and sustainable development is at the core of Norway’s foreign and development policy. We see the promotion of human rights and sustainable development not as separate goals, but as mutually reinforcing objectives.

It is therefore a privilege for Norway to host this event and for me moderate our discussion. I trust that it will serve to highlight the centrality of human rights for sustainable development, and in particular the important and unique role played by national human rights institutions in this regard.

Norway has for quite a while provided support to National Human Rights Institutions and to the joint work in the UN system to support them.

We are pleased to have been in a position to join forces with the Tri-Partite Partnership to Support NHRIs jointly established and developed by the United Nations Development Programme, the Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.

It is the Tri-Partite partners that are organizing this morning’s event, and I wish at the outset to recognize the participation of Maryam Abullah Al Attiyah, the Chairperson of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Asako Okai, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Crisis Bureau at UNDP, and Ilze Brands-Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

I’m certain that you all agree that much could be said about progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In brief but stark terms: Only 12 percent of the 169 targets are on track. Progress on 50 percent of the targets is weak and insufficient. Progress has either stalled or even reversed on over 30 percent.

Against this backdrop, and in a context marked by a complex set of simultaneous and inter-woven crises, the SDG Summit in September and the mid-term review will be particularly important. It is absolutely necessary to bring renewed, positive momentum to the 2030 Agenda.

By adopting the 2030 Agenda, the international community agreed on the kind of future we want. The 2030 Agenda is an agenda for sustainable development, but it is also, in essence, a human rights agenda.

Which brings me right to the heart of our discussion this morning.

By now, it is a well-established fact that over 90 % of the Sustainable Development Goals are linked to human rights and labour standards.

The Secretary-General points this out in his Our Common Agenda report. But I believe that the Danish Institute for Human Rights was – in fact – among the very first to study and highlight these linkages.

The frameworks provided by the SDGs and the international human rights instruments may be different in nature, but they are similar in spirit. And the central premise of the SDGs – the cross-cutting principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ – is also founded on the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Indeed, Norway decided to scale up our support to the Tri-Partite Partnership and National Human Rights Institutions in no small part due to the vital role they play in promoting and protecting human rights which are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In his Call to Action on Human Rights from 2020, the Secretary-General highlighted the role of national human rights institutions in contributing to SDG implementation.

The presence of national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles is itself an indicator of progress under SDG 16 of the 2030 Agenda. Their role in the Voluntary National Review process can also be highlighted, as well as their efforts to utilize the Universal Periodic Review process in the Human Rights Council to support sustainable development.

National human rights institutions are uniquely positioned both when it comes to linking the local, national and global levels and when it comes to understanding why and how promoting and protecting individual human rights serves the whole of society and underpins progress on the sustainable development goals.

I very much look forward to hearing from our speakers and panelists, and then to an open and frank discussion.