Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us for a moment look back to 1948.
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 towards very ambitious goals.
How would the members of the Commission on Human Rights, and those who drafted the Declaration, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Renee Cassin, Charles Malik and P.C Chang, judge the progress we have made? What would the UN’s first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, say?
Human rights are now an integral part of all governments’ obligations towards their citizens, through conventions that have been developed and ratified over the past 70 years.
We should be proud that extreme poverty has been halved since 1990, and that most regions are suffering fewer wars than before.
The Sustainable Development Goals are our benchmark for the next decade, and human rights are fundamental to the 2030 Agenda. In order to achieve the SDGs, governments, civil society and the private sector must work together. The growing support for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is also very encouraging.
Women’s rights is another area where a great deal of progress has been made. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted, Eleanor Roosevelt was the only woman at the table.
(And as far as I know, women were not overly represented at the General Assembly when the Declaration was adopted, either.)
Over the last 70 years, small and large steps in all regions have gradually strengthened women’s position in society.
But we must work harder to promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Women should be given more recognition for the important contribution they make to sustainable development and economic growth.
Substantial progress has also been made in relation to the death penalty.
Despite worryingly high numbers of death sentences and executions in several countries, more than two thirds of all countries have now abolished the death penalty by law or in practice.
We are closer than ever before to achieving the long-term goal of global abolition. We are not there yet, but the goal is by no means out of reach.
Over time, many small gains can lead to big victories.
We have worked hard over the last 70 years to put our words into action, but we need to work even harder on implementation and on closing the gap between agreed norms and the realities on the ground.
Yes, the founders of the declaration would say, the world has come a long way.
But, much remains to be done.
And they would be right.
In many countries, liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights are under pressure.
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.
We must continue to do all we can to promote them. We cannot afford to be complacent.
At the same time, we should never underestimate the power of knowledge.
Over the last 70 years, the Universal Declaration has taught us all to demand the rights to which we are all entitled.
Every day, human right defenders all over the world show impressive courage as they know and demand respect for human rights.
They are an inspiration to us all and they give us hope. They deserve our wholehearted support.
It is unacceptable that human rights defenders and journalists face great dangers on a daily basis in many countries.
Promoting freedom of expression and protecting human rights defenders are key priorities for the Norwegian Government.
Norway has been the main sponsor of the UN resolutions on human rights defenders, which are important tools in this context.
The 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders this year will be marked by a High-level Panel discussion at the UN General Assembly in New York this autumn.
I urge all states to intensify their efforts, nationally and internationally, to protect those who are on the frontlines in the fight to protect the rights of others.
I would also like to say a few words about the worrying situation for religious and sexual minorities.
In many countries, religious and sexual minorities are increasingly subjected to prejudice, discrimination and grave acts of violence. This is simply unacceptable.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief is non-negotiable.
Governments must ensure free and open debates without imposing limitations or restraints. We need free exchanges of opinion and access to information if we are to choose the best policy options, find innovative solutions and drive development forward.
We need to focus more on addressing situations before they escalate, and we must increase the resources available for doing so.
In order to promote the prevention agenda, we need to enhance technical cooperation on the ground and improve the relevance and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council.
Norway welcomes Secretary General Guterres’ offer today to engage with the Council on its role in prevention of human rights violations. We look forward to shaping this partnership with him.
Later today, I will sign a multi-year agreement with the High Commissioner on strengthening Norway’s cooperation with his Office. Norway’s financial contribution for 2018 will be up to 150 million Norwegian kroner, approximately 18 million US dollars. The objective is to contribute to the financial predictability and flexibility of the OHCHR and strengthen its ability to deliver on its mandate.
Strengthening the OHCHR is an important investment in human rights, development and peace and security.
I would like to thank the High Commissioner, Mr Al-Hussein, for his unwavering commitment to human rights and for his principled stance on their protection and promotion.
The world needs the OHCHR to show strong leadership in its defence of human rights.
71 years ago, Secretary-General Lie gave the Commission on Human Rights the monumental task of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly adopted the result of their vision.
It is our shared responsibility to advance the human rights agenda in the next 70 years.