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General Debate

President,

War, conflict and militarization of societies continues to cause human suffering in several countries. We address the devastating situation in Syria as well as Libya, Ukraine and the Central African Republic in separately scheduled dialogues.

The humanitarian and human rights situation in South Sudan is of deep concern. 20 months of conflict has killed thousands and has had a devastating effect on the country and its human rights situation. It is of utmost importance that the new peace agreement is respected by both parties. We call on the government to cooperate fully with the Fact Finding Mission to be dispatched shortly by the High Commissioner, and to invite special procedures that can assist in rebuilding the country and improve the dire human rights situation.

We are also concerned that, despite some positive developments, the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains grave. Areas in the east remain in conflict and atrocities are still regularly reported, while reports suggest that civil society is under pressure. We urge the government to exert all efforts to ensure democratic freedoms and a conducive environment for the up-coming elections.

In Eritrea, militarization of society remains one of the main concerns, with between 2000- 4000 people leaving the country every month as a result. We call on the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur. Norway urges Eritrea to ensure that the stated demobilisation next summer be implemented.

Norway is concerned about the human rights situation in Iran, including a disturbing increase in death sentences and executions. We call on Iran to put in place a moratorium on executions.

Norway remains concerned about a worrying global trend of shrinking civil society space. An active, critical and free civil society is a crucial part of any stable and sustainable state. It is also fundamental for securing democracy, accountability and the respect for human rights.

As the High Commissioner so rightly put it in his opening statement during this session: "Civil society – enabled by the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly – is a valuable partner, not a threat." Unfortunately, we continue to witness negative developments in countries in all regions of the world. We reiterate our call on all relevant countries, including Uzbekistan, Russia and Azerbaijan, to reverse these trends and ensure that civil society and human rights defenders are able to operate in a safe and enabling environment