December 10th this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is a monumental achievement in the history of human rights. It is a monumental achievement because of its universality – the human rights enshrined in the declaration can be traced back to all cultures and traditions. Today its universality is founded on endorsement by all 192 member states.
The Declaration continues to serve as the basis for subsequent international human rights laws and treaties.
The equal status, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights have been affirmed unanimously and repeatedly by the community of states.
Since the adoption of the Declaration we have achieved an impressive normative framework and a set of institutions at the international level, as well as increased popular human rights awareness at the national level.
It is unacceptable, then, that a vast majority of people across the globe are unable to realize their rights, or may not even realize that they have human rights.
Our great challenge 60 years after the adoption of the Declaration is to live up its promise of making human rights a reality for all. The absence of human rights is not only a denial of human dignity, it is also the root of the suffering and hatred that breeds political violence and inhibits economic development.
To ensure that the principles enshrined in the Declaration are acted upon is first and foremost a national responsibility. States’ performance must be judged against commitments. States are accountable both to their own people and to their peers in the international community.
To realize the promise of the Declaration we need to draw on all forces in society to foster respect for dignity and rights. We need dedicated individuals and dynamic human right defenders to make sure governments live up to the universal standards they are bound by.
Human rights defenders and civil society in general are essential partners in any effort to implement the overall human rights framework. My government has given priority to the cause of human rights defenders for many years. Ten years ago this autumn the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was adopted.
Human rights defenders put into practice what we are discussing in theory. They deserve our special attention. Implementing the Declaration enables human rights defenders to carry out their work.
Human rights defenders shed light on the realities of situations that would otherwise pass unnoticed by both national authorities and the international community. They are not only part of the democratic process, their presence and activity in a state is in itself an indicator of democratisation. Establishing, promoting and sustaining democracy, maintaining international peace and security and providing or advancing a people oriented agenda for development cannot be accomplished without the contribution of civil society actors. They defend civil and political rights and contribute to poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction. The defence of social and economic rights is the cornerstone of the work of many defenders.
The report before us submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/63/288), states that it is obvious that woman defenders are more at risk of certain forms of violence and that they are targeted by various parts of the social and political establishment with forms of prejudice, exclusion and repudiation, in particular when they work in the area of women’s rights. We must do everything to protect them from harassment, intimidation and reprisal, so they can carry out their vital work. It is simply not acceptable that women and girls are more exposed than men to violations of rights.
Norway is deeply concerned about the increasing restrictions imposed by states on the freedom of association, opinion and expression, including freedom of the media. In many countries people are attacked, intimidated or imprisoned because they express their opinion. These rights are essential tools for human rights defenders. They are also the prerequisite for the rule of law and for the realisation of other rights. In order to fight hunger, discrimination, corruption, persecution and suppression, people need to be able to speak without fear.
Freedom of expression faces many challenges today, such as the increasing use of defamation laws and media censorship, new anti-terrorist legislation and state security laws. At the intersection of freedom of expression with other human rights we should focus on the value of constructive and peaceful dialogue. Entering into dialogue is not to give up conflicting principles or values. Dialogue is about finding ways to manage fundamental differences.
In today’s interconnected world the coexistence of religions and the importance of values and tolerance have become increasingly relevant. Globalisation means that people from different cultures and religions meet, that different traditions and values are exposed to each other. Intolerance and extremism occur not only between religions but also within a religion. At the outset - it is not the religion in itself that is the problem. It is the intolerance, exclusion of others, discrimination, prejudice and xenophobia that we must stand up to. It is not the religion – it is us human beings who are responsible for bringing about hatred, fear and violence. There can be no freedom of religion without freedom of expression. They are interdependent, and in our opinion it is wrong at the outset to present them as conflicting rights. How we balanse freedom of expression while respecting the diversity of our multicultural world is a challenge for all of us. Freedom of expression cannot be exercised in isolation without taking other human rights into account.
We must ensure that human rights are genuinely universal. We need to continue our fight for the full implementation of human rights without discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.
In addressing the threat of terrorism, governments face many difficult challenges. We must however ensure that the measures we take are in line with our obligations under international law. This is essential if we are to eradicate terrorism over the longer term.
Last autumn in New York the General Assembly adopted a resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Norway will continue to engage in efforts to strengthen the trend towards the abolition of capital punishment.
Thank you Mr Chair