Statement High-Level Segment

STATEMENT by H.E. Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2019

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Human Rights are the cornerstone of the UN. Quite literally.

When the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, laid the cornerstone of the UN building in New York in October 1949, it contained, among other things, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And perhaps all we member states should all have done something similar in our capitals. 

Laid a similar cornerstone in our parliaments, or put up a statue in a public square.

Because it us, the member states, that created and adopted the Universal declaration of Human rights.

And it is us member states that must make sure that all human rights are upheld and fulfilled - every day, in every single country.

Looking around the world today, I think it is an understatement to say that we need reminders that all people are entitled to human rights, irrespective of their gender, religion or belief, age, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the roadmap to the future we want.

They remind us that the challenges the world is facing, require us to come together as a global community and find common solutions.

SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions is one example. Where there is conflict, there can be no sustainable development.

Democracy, good governance and the rule of law are vital for development, economic growth and innovation.

It is up to us, as political leaders from around the world, to ensure that these rights are upheld and fulfilled.

Instead of cracking down on political opposition, human rights defenders and independent media, governments should safeguard an open space for expression and the free flow of ideas.

To realize the SDGs, we cannot disregard human rights.

The most valuable asset any country has is its human capital.

Gender equality is about unlocking the full potential of a country, but gender equality is also a human right.

It includes the rights to participate in society, education and work, to be able to choose a life partner, and to choose when or if to have children.

In 2018 we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And 2019 is a significant year for sexual and reproductive health and rights. This year marks 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

It was a ground-breaking document in 1994, and it still is today.

The Cairo-conference recognised that people’s rights, independent choices, and well-being are the best path to sustainable development.


Last year, Norway strengthened our partnership with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We increased our funding to approximately 660 million Norwegian kroner, almost 100 million USD, for the period 2018-2022.

Sufficient resources are crucial for ensuring that we, as member states, are held accountable. And that we have access to the necessary technical assistance and guidance to support and implement human rights in practice.

The UN's ability to help member states comply with their human rights obligations must not be weakened by a lack of funding.

I would like to thank the High Commissioner, Ms Michelle Bachelet, for her leadership.

We are confidence that Ms Bachelet will further advance the human rights agenda. And we look forward to engaging with the High Commissioner herself and with her office.

The world needs the UN to show strong leadership in its defence and promotion of human rights.


In September last year, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the most comprehensive UN resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity to date.

At the same time, reports pointed out that the percentage of journalists killed last year in countries not in conflict for the first time exceeded that of journalists killed in conflict zones.

The fact that the killers go unpunished in 9 out of 10 cases is difficult to understand, and even harder to accept.

This is a clear reminder that we must take action to close the gap between international commitments and realities on the ground.

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the freedom of the press and the protection of journalists across the world.

Threats and attacks must be investigated promptly, effectively and impartially.

We all share the responsibility to work towards ending impunity.

When journalists are silenced by threats, violence or murder, it is not only the freedom of expression that suffers, all of society is worse off.


Norway’s key priority in this Human Rights Council- session is the adoption of a new thematic resolution on human rights defenders.

This year, we wish to address the need for increased recognition and protection of environmental human rights defenders.

This group of human rights defenders is particularly vulnerable to serious violations. Global Witness documented more than 200 killings of environmental human rights defenders in 2017. This is so far the highest number on record, and the number has been increasing each year, which is a deeply worrying trend.

We strongly believe that the resolution should send a strong message by clearly stating that:

We support the positive role played by environmental human rights defenders in society, they should be protected from harm, and perpetrators brought to justice.

We look forward to working closely with all countries, across regions.

Building on our different experiences and priorities, we want to create a strong resolution.

We hope the resolution will gain the support of all UN member states.

Thank you.