As delivered by Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Permanent representative of Norway.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr Michel Forst, to the Council, and we thank him for his report.
The full statement can be found on the Extranet of the Council.
At this session – the first session of the Council in the anniversary year 2018 – let me begin by commending the Special Rapporteur for all the efforts to promote and advance the mandate. We encourage the mandate holder to continue moving forward and to capitalize fully on the opportunities that this anniversary year provides. We encourage all partners in the international community to engage and show support for human rights defenders.
Defenders work to make our societies better. Let’s use the anniversary events this year and the high-level meeting on defenders in New York at year-end to energize and focus our efforts.
Human rights defenders contribute to the promotion and protection of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all persons. Importantly, this includes human rights defenders in solidarity with people on the move and who seek to promote and strive for the protection of their rights – be they internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and/or migrants.
Never in human history have so many people been on the move, some by choice, but many out of necessity. The special rapporteur has very rightly highlighted this situation. We are deeply concerned that people on the move experience multiple abuses such as extortion, sexual violence and torture. Women and children are particularly vulnerable.
The Government of Norway continues to provide humanitarian assistance and protection in line with the humanitarian imperative and in a comprehensive manner, including by honoring our obligations under international law related to providing protection in our own country for those in need.
We remain deeply committed to continue to do our part and to promote the joint international efforts in this area. All migrants are entitled to enjoy their basic human rights. At the same time, we underline the need to uphold the clear definition of ‘refugees’ in international law. Muddling the concepts ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ would ultimately erode the protection to which refugees are entitled under the refugee convention and protocol.
The findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur will be followed up in our policy work in this area. We will take them into account during the negotiations on the global compact for migration. The recommendations are a useful input to this process.
Essentially, this concerns fundamental freedoms in society – such as the rights to freedom of opinion and expression – in striving peacefully for the protection of the rights of others.
As governments we should not curtail universal rights and fundamental freedoms, rather the authorities at all levels have an obligation to create a safe enabling environment for the defense thereof.
This is a basic premise. It does not, of course, mean that governments always need to agree with everything human rights defenders say. But, governments must always allow for open debate and discourse in society, where the views, opinions and arguments from all corners and sectors of society are heard and duly considered.
Such openness must be a fundamental objective of any society – it generates better, more informed decision-making, in turn making society better.
Let me conclude my statement by recognizing the important role played by defenders of people on the move and the legitimacy of their work; we condemn unequivocally all instances of violence, discrimination, intimidation or reprisals against them; such practices can never be justified.
Thank you, Mr President.