52nd session of the Human Rights Council,
27 February - 4 April 2023.
Opening of session - High-level segment
Statement delivered by Minister of Foreign Affairs Norway
Ms Anniken Huitfeldt, Norway.
Check against delivery
President, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Listening just now to the representative from Iran, I was reminded of the importance of this forum.
Reminded that this forum should not be abused to go against our collective efforts.
Reminded of the importance of holding each other to account.
That is not about interference in internal affairs. It is about upholding the commitments we have made, to obligations and duties under international law to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.
Norway is deeply concerned about the worsening situation for human rights in Iran. Not least the violent response to popular and peaceful demonstrations.
We urge Iran to respond with meaningful reform. And to immediately stop the executions.
I repeat my strong condemnation of the executions that have been carried out.
Globally, these are challenging times.
We face war, climate change, food insecurity and inequality. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 90 per cent of countries saw their human development fall backwards in 2020 or 2021.
And now, the war in Ukraine is having devastating global consequences.
It is an attack on the rules-based international order. Undermining multilateral cooperation when we need it the most.
It is reversing development gains, threatening progress on the 2030 Agenda.
It is compounding the climate crisis. It is amplifying armed conflict elsewhere.
More and more people are affected by humanitarian crises, food insecurity and hunger.
Ordinary people are paying the price. Not least in developing countries.
Norway’s Nansen Support Programme for Ukraine includes assistance for hard-hit countries in the Global South.
One year ago, Russia launched its unprovoked and illegal invasion. It started what we hoped we would never see again – a new large-scale war in Europe.
I wish to reaffirm Norway’s strong support to the Government and people of Ukraine.
We are witnessing massive destruction and suffering in Ukraine. There are many indications of systematic and large-scale war crimes.
The deportations of Ukrainian children are the latest in a string of shocking reports.
The war is a clear breach of the UN Charter. Defending the Charter concerns all of us.
The Human Rights Council has shown leadership and solidarity with Ukraine. Independent monitoring is crucial. Especially to ensure future accountability.
Russia is responsible for this war and its consequences. And Russia is responsible for bringing this war to an end.
The war is also an attack on respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. On democracy and the rule of law.
Democracies are united in responding to the challenges. Democracy is resilient and strong.
At the same time, let us be clear about what we are dealing with.
For some time we have been seeing increasing autocratic rule, shrinking civic space. Disregard for human rights, disregard for women’s rights.
We often hear talk of the rise of the strong man. But how strong are you really, if you cannot even tolerate dissenting voices?
This is a sign of weakness. The actions of leaders who feel threatened by fundamental freedoms. Freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression.
But there is reason to hope.
Human rights defenders continue to speak up. Bravely, persistently, and peacefully.
Human rights defenders continue to be an essential voice.
The progress we have made is in large part thanks to them. The hard work of civil society, activists, journalists, artists, trade unionists lawyers, students and academics, doctors and teachers.
They must not be silenced. They must be included and supported. At home and in the United Nations. This was a priority for Norway on the Security Council.
In this session, Norway will present a resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
Twenty-five years ago, the Human Rights Commission united around the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
I hope that the Council will show the same unity now. I invite all States – and civil society – to support the mandate and its renewal.
Norway will continue to stand up for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Economic, cultural and social rights - as well as civil and political rights.
For everyone. Everywhere.
We will remain a strong supporter of the rights of women and girls. All women should have their right to decide over their own bodies protected.
We need to renew our joint commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recall the consensus we had 75 years ago.
Safeguarding human rights is crucial to ensuring inclusive and sustainable development. And in times of conflict and war, it is crucial for achieving just and lasting peace.