46th Session of the Human Rights Council, (22 February - 23 March 2021)
High Level Segment
Statement delivered by Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs Norway
Check against delivery
Ladies and gentlemen
We met in Geneva one year ago, a few short weeks before our world changed.
Since then, the pandemic has altered our way of life and challenged our fundamental freedoms in ways we never imagined.
The health crisis has become a human rights crisis. Over the past year, we have seen governments use the pandemic as an excuse to concentrate power and introduce restrictive and disproportionate measures.
Freedom of the press has deteriorated. In many countries information about the spread of COVID-19 has been curtailed and censored.
Violence and harmful practices against women and children have increased.
All COVID-19 measures, including response and recovery efforts, must be based on human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
They must be gender sensitive and non-discriminatory.
And they must be part of a joint global effort and multilateral cooperation. Only then can we hope to succeed, all of us.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the right to health, the right to education and the right to information.
Economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights are interdependent and are all essential to build back better and fulfil the sustainable development goals.
I am especially concerned about how the pandemic and governments’ mitigating measures have impacted children.
School closures, lockdowns, movement restrictions and a subsequent increase in domestic violence and abuse, have seriously affected children’s rights, health and well-being.
The weakening of protections for ethnic, religious and sexual minorities is deeply concerning.
According to Varieties of democracy, 54% of the world’s population now live in autocracies. I am deeply concerned about the backsliding of democracies around the world.
I am particularly concerned to see that countries on my own continent are going in this direction.
Freedom of expression, of association and of assembly, as well as the rule of law, must be respected.
Since we last met a year ago, we have seen people across the globe courageously defending these essential rights and defend democracy, even defying violent repression. We commend their bravery.
Human rights defenders’ and civil society’s contribution to building free and prosperous societies must be recognised. We call on all states to enable and safeguard their work.
For the third year in a row (kilde: World Justice Project), we see the rule of law deteriorating globally.
Where leaders seek to expand their own power at the expense of their peoples and institutions, they often first seek to undermine the judiciary and the media.
An independent judiciary is an absolute prerequisite to safeguard fundamental human rights.
Vibrant civil societies and a free and independent media uphold democracy and the rule of law.
However, journalists and media workers are at risk of violence and persecution. Judges and lawyers are also experiencing reprisals and violence for defending and promoting the rule of law and respect for human rights.
These are individuals that continue to take great risks, even to their own lives, to uphold the norms that we as states have agreed on. I am alarmed by this development and its consequences. For the individuals that are attacked and threatened. And for our societies at large. These are attacks on the norms that underpin free and democratic societies.
It is regrettable that the past year we have spent more time defending existing human rights standards, rather than developing and strengthening the normative framework.
We must step up the national implementation and adherence to our human rights commitments.
Norway will continue to build cross-regional alliances with other countries to prevent backsliding and the erosion of rights.
The dedicated work and independence of the High Commissioner and her office is as important as ever. We have a common responsibility to make sure that the Human Rights pillar is sufficiently empowered and financed.
Norway maintains our commitment to universal human rights, and those who defend them.