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Statement delivered by Minister for Justice at Ministerial Plenary Debate at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights in New York

14.07.2016  17:43

(Check against delivery)

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Human rights cannot and must not be taken for granted. In his opening speech at the recent session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights raised an important concern. “Do we really still have an international community when the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling”, he asked.

I understand the frustration of the High Commissioner and I share his concern. Undeniable progress has been made in the last 70 years. Fellow human beings have been granted increased access to the enjoyment of their universal human rights in all parts of the world. But progress has slowed down. Human rights are under threat in many parts of the world. Governments and the interna-tional community have too often done too little, too late.

So the world as it is gathered here these days for the High Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights will have to reconfirm our commitments and reinforce our efforts. We will have to stand by our pledges to ensure that the rights and freedoms encapsulated in our human rights obligations are not for the few, but for the world.

And looking back at the great achievements on major international agendas just this last year, I am reassured that the international community is in fact advancing the human rights agenda.

Last September we all came together to adopt the 17 sustainable development goals. They set a universal agenda, addressing a universal concern. They also brought about an important change; building bridges between human rights and sustainable development, underlining how they are mutually reinforcing.

As such, the sustainable development goals are now providing the building blocks needed to build a future based on our development efforts and on our human rights obligations.

We have also seen other important developments in the field of human rights. This year the UN Human Rights Council celebrates its 10th anniversary. The Universal Periodic Review is met with universal support. And the Secretary General has with the Human Rights Up Front launch taken a very important initiative to improve the UNs ability to take early and effective action to prevent or respond to large-scale violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

These advancements are promising developments. And they should lead us to believe that we – individually and as the UN - can do more.

Mr. President,

So the question is;  what can we – the member states - and the UN do to further advance human rights?

We need to deliver political will – not only within our own borders, but also internationally. In this regard a key element will be to provide sufficient funding for human rights within the UN system. The UN organisation can only do as much as the funding allows. We must reiterate our political commitment and act accordingly.

As one of the three pillars of the UN, human rights should be mainstreamed throughout the entire organization. This can be achieved by strengthening the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative. When human rights and the protection of civilians are seen as a system-wide core responsibility, then we will have come far.

Furthermore, as proposed as part of his Change Initiative a stronger presence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office on the ground must be supported. Promoting and protecting human rights require more than conventions and commitments. It requires an insight into the realities on the ground and the ability to assist when there is need.

If you look around at the major hot spots of today, gross violations of human rights are often one of the main precursors of conflicts. It generates insecurity and instability and can create economic, political and social turmoil. Protecting and promoting human rights is consequently not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. There is a clear cut business case in the promotion of the human rights agenda. Human rights, good governance and rule of law are pillars of peace, stability and progress – and their upholding is in the interest of all.  

Mr. President,

In Denmark we remain fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at all levels. We stand by our international obligations as set out in the international and regional conventions. Respect for the rule of law and high human rights standards are at the core of the Danish society. These are values on which we have built our democratic society. These values are the lenses through which we see our international commitments.

Through our 50 years as a partner in international development assistance, we have supported the protection of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in collaboration with many partner countries. Recognizing that the full implementation of human rights obligations can be challenged by limited capacity, human rights and good governance remain main priorities in our new development strategy. 

In Denmark we build bridges. Literally across the sea, but also across divergent opinions. Dialogue is an important element of this – also in international affairs. We must speak our mind freely while listening to each other, learning from each other and ultimately building bridges to reach each other.

Mr. President,

We are eager to take our human rights commitment to the next level in the Human Rights Council and have announced our candidacy for the period 2019-2021. Our candidature will be driven by Dignity, Development and Dialogue, and with the help of friends and partners we look forward to an opportunity to play an even more pro-found part in the important work of the Council in the years to come.

I thank you Mr. President.