State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen’s statement

On 2 March 2015, State Secretary of Norway Bård Glad Pedersen held a statement during the high-level segment of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council. The full statement is posted below

Mr President,

2014 was a bleak year for human rights world-wide. Many look to this Council for concrete action.

While great progress has been made since the United Nations was founded 70 years ago, we are deeply concerned that – in many parts of the world – human rights are coming under increasing pressure.

Faced with violence and extremism, we must stand by the values that extremists are seeking to destroy: diversity, openness and participation. We must uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. 

We must protect minorities and fight against all discrimination, whether it is based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other grounds.

We must oppose any attempts to invoke so-called traditional or religious values to justify discrimination.

We must increase awareness of the universality of human rights. All over the world, people are demanding strengthened democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development.

We must make sure that civil society is heard in the Human Rights Council and in all member states.

Mr President,

Freedom of expression is the foundation on which all other democratic rights and freedoms rest. We must react and respond when freedom of expression is challenged.

The brutal attacks in Paris and Copenhagen remind us again that we must stand up for fundamental freedoms. We need to confront extremism, prejudice and negative stereotypes in the public debate, and we must present sound counter-arguments.

In Oslo, young Muslims gathered thousands to form a symbolic human shield around the synagogue. A tremendous gesture of solidarity in the wake of the recent senseless killings.

Such initiatives should inspire us all to take action: to promote peace and build inclusive societies.

Mr President, 

We face an unacceptable implementation gap between established norms and realities on the ground.

We must stand up against coordinated efforts by some states to undermine the work of the Human Rights Council.

The resolutions adopted by this Council addressing the grave and ongoing human rights violations in the DPRK, Iran, Belarus, Syria and Eritrea bear strong witness to the scope of the challenge.

Using the death penalty against juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law. Norway condemns the death sentence against Saman Naseem in Iran, and call on the Government of Iran to provide information about his status.

The meaningless sentence against human rights activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia is a violation of internationally recognised legal norms and must be revoked.

We are deeply concerned by the continued harassment and imprisonment of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

We urge the Egyptian Government to stop harassment, and to release those who have been arrested for exercising their civil and political rights. 

We are concerned by the increasing number of states, such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Ethiopia, that are introducing national legislation to restrict the legitimate activities of civil society.

Mr President,

The Human Rights Council has a number of tools at its disposal, but not all are as strong or as sharp as we need them to be.

The UPR has proved highly effective in calling attention to human rights concerns. But the follow up of accepted UPR recommendations could be much more effective.

We see a clear need to strengthen the capacity and ability of the UN human rights machinery to ensure better implementation on the ground.

The Special Procedures system can have a strong positive impact, but has insufficient capacity and support. We urge all states and members of the Council have a special responsibility in this regard to issue standing invitations and cooperate with all UN special rapporteurs.

Millions of people are innocent victims of brutal armed conflicts. Each one of us have a responsibility to protect civilians, and we need a strengthened humanitarian system to do so.

Putting human rights up front will help to reduce conflict and prevent appalling suffering and abuse. 

Mr President,

The Office of the High Commissioner is severely under-resourced. The world needs a UN Human Rights Office that is independent, robust and relevant. It is essential that the Office of the High Commissioner gets a greater share of UN’s regular budget. 

Mr President,

The UN Charter was built on the hard-won knowledge that without respect for human rights, peace will not be stable; without inclusion and equal opportunities, development will not be sustainable.

As UN Member States we must all step up to our responsibility to fulfil universal human rights for all.