11 December 1998


Press Release
GA/9536



GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES COMMEMORATION OF FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

19981211
Hears 125 Speakers Over Two Days Praise Declaration, While Expressing Concern at Continued Worldwide Rights Violations

The General Assembly this afternoon concluded its commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In five sessions over two days, beginning on 10 December, the Assembly heard statements from 120 Member States and five Permanent Observers, as well as the Secretary-General, the General Assembly President and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Assembly also presented six United Nations Human Rights Prizes, adopted a resolution on implementation of the Declaration and a decision concerning observance of the fifty-fifth anniversary.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948, represents a common statement of the goals and aspirations regarding human rights and other fundamental freedoms. It recognizes among other things: the fundamental rights of all people to life, liberty and the security of person; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to own property; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to education, freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment.

The Assembly this afternoon adopted without a vote a decision, introduced by Assembly President Didier Opertti, (Uruguay), recalling its resolution 53/168, adopted yesterday and including in the provisional agenda of its fifty-eighth session an item entitled "Fifty-fifth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

By the resolution adopted yesterday, the Assembly, concerned that human rights and fundamental freedoms continued to be violated in all parts of the world, reaffirmed the need for the international community to continue to assess progress made in the field of human rights since the adoption of the Declaration and to identify obstacles and ways in which they could be overcome.


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The human rights prizes are awarded every five years to recipients who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms embodied in the Declaration and other relevant United Nations instruments. The Prize was established in 1966 by the Assembly. This year's recipients are: Sunila Abeyesekera of Sri Lanka; Angelina Acheng Atyam of Uganda; Jimmy Carter of the United States; Jose Gregori of Brazil; and Anna Sabatova of the Czech Republic. A general prize was also given to Human Rights Defenders throughout the world. (For details on the awardees, see Press Release HR/4395 issued 10 December.)

Over the course of two days, while the Assembly heard overwhelming support for the achievements of the Declaration since its inception, and the many other conventions that had followed it, such as the Statute of the International Criminal Court, many speakers stressed that at the threshold of the new millennium, much still remained to be done to achieve the objectives and ideals originally sought.

Several cited the neglect of economic, social and cultural rights as key issues to be addressed. Others identified United Nations-imposed sanctions and the proliferation of ethnic conflicts, genocide, racial discrimination, discrimination against women and children, persecution of minorities, imprisonment without due process, poverty, education on human rights, terrorism and the endangerment of human rights defenders as areas where serious shortcomings prevailed and that required urgent attention.

In the closing session this afternoon, the representative of Sierra Leone said that for human rights to be fully enjoyed, poverty must be eradicated. The gap between rich and poor needed to be closed. The onerous conditions imposed on poor countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should be re-examined, because very often they were the causes of internal conflicts.

"We cannot remain silent on the close link between conflict and human rights", the representative of Gabon said. Many conflicts in the world, especially in Africa, had given rise to human rights violations committed against civilians and refugees. Human rights was a long-term undertaking, which must not ignore the socio-economic needs of the individual. The international community must ensure that the new millennium was free from such ravages as genocide and apartheid.

"When the fifth of humanity that controls the world's resources in a selfish way speaks about human rights, the other four-fifths of humanity are horrified by this hypocrisy", said the representative of Iraq. Human rights had become a political weapon in the hands of some States, subject to a double-standard criteria used to achieve the interests and purposes of those States.

Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of Italy, Jamaica, Maldives, Azerbaijan, Panama, Mali, Eritrea,


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Lao People's Democratic Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Mauritius, Sudan, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Kuwait, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Slovakia. Other statements were made by the observers of Switzerland, the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The Assembly will meet again on Tuesday, 15 December, to take up the reports of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).


Statements

F. PAOLO FULCI (Italy): The International Criminal Court is now a reality. Rome, with its millennial legal tradition, provided the ideal setting for this milestone towards defeating the culture of impunity for the most heinous violations of human rights and human dignity. Borders must no longer exist for such crimes. While the text of the Court's Statute reflects compromise solutions on a number of crucial aspects, the Court is still a strong, effective and independent institution, capable of responding to the demand for justice in today's international society. What is essential now is to make the new tribunal start its work as soon as possible.

"We trust that the Preparatory Commission will promptly elaborate the instruments needed for the Statute". More importantly, the signatures and the ratifications of the Statute must lead to its entry into force in the year 2000. Italy reaffirms its belief that children must remain our priority of priorities. This conviction stems not only from humanitarian concerns, but also from the fact that children represent the future of humanity. "If we wish to meet and win the challenges and uncertainties of the future, then today's children must be granted the right to become healthy, educated and mature adults."

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica): Jamaica reaffirms its commitment to promoting and protecting the individual and collective rights of all, particularly the most vulnerable among us. We are cognizant of the fact that respect for human rights is central to the work of the United Nations. This has motivated our adherence to several human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

It must be acknowledged, however, that while the State bears primary responsibility for ensuring human rights and for creating the necessary conducive environment, people, individually or in groups, must also take responsibility for the realization and effective protection of human rights and for building the social harmony and order in which these rights can best be advanced. A social partnership of government, civil society and private interests, in which each person is respectful of the rights of the other and of his or her responsibility to the community, is the best guarantee for the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of each citizen. This is the basis of the Caribbean Charter of Civil Society, to which Jamaica fully subscribes.

HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives): Half-a-century after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there are still many people suffering


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worldwide. In the past five decades, the world has seen a disturbing trend of countries committing heinous crimes against humanity of the kind that had galvanized States into action in the aftermath of the second world war. Today, the international community must reflect upon ways to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.

The plight of the poor may make less sensational headlines, but it deserves the Organization's serious attention. It has been estimated that more people have died of hunger in the first two years of the last decade than were killed as a result of both world wars. During the same period, hunger caused as many deaths every two days as all the people killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Those numbers have only increased in the 1990s. It is therefore obvious that the goals of the Universal Declaration cannot be realized without addressing the silent crises of underdevelopment, poverty, population pressures, and the degradation of the environment that continue to impose untold suffering and misery on millions.

ELDAR KOULIEV (Azerbaijan): Since the first days of the restoration of its independence, Azerbaijan has experienced the tragedy of grave violations of human rights. As a result of continuing aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan, 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory is currently occupied. Ethnic cleansing, conducted by Armenia in the occupied territories, has forcibly displaced one million people from their homes. However, despite all the difficulties it faces, Azerbaijan is consistently building a democratic society. The death penalty was abolished in January, among other acts, and in February the President issued an act on measures to ensure the freedoms and rights of citizens.

The granting of "Special Status" in the Council of Europe had an important effect on the development of democratic reforms in Azerbaijan, creating the opportunity to integrate deeply into European legal structures and to receive expert assistance in implementing reforms. The Constitution ensures the basic rights and freedoms of citizens, and Azerbaijan has adopted bills on various freedoms. It has also acceded to more than a hundred international legal instruments covering different areas of life, more than 30 of which deal with human rights.

JUAN ANTONIO STAGG (Panama): Although it is far from perfect, the Declaration collates the ideals that the world was seeking in order to move forward from the Second World War. The fundamental rights of mankind, embodied for the first time in such a Declaration, had the support of millions of people. Last September, the Government of Panama articulated the common standard that it wished to attain, expressing the profound aspiration of its people to build a modern and effective judicial system and opposition to racism in all its forms. Panama has always been ready to champion the cause of human rights in the world.


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In modernizing its own economy, Panama has always striven to minimize the trauma associated with such changes and seeks at all times to protect the most vulnerable sectors of its society. In 1990, Panama signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has always been especially committed to the physical and psychological recovery of children who have been victims of trauma. The Convention against Genocide draws attention to another area of great distress, because there are still many areas of the world in which genocide is rife. The establishment of the International Criminal Court is another important tool against genocide.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali): Following the darkest pages of mankind, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was not just an act of faith, but a founding act. The Declaration achieves an ideal for all humankind by providing a framework for the field of human rights. This is an opportunity to take a look at the message of the Declaration, which has not lost its strength or timeliness.

Since its adoption, the international community has created various international conventions on political, civic, social and economic rights. The struggle for human rights must take also into account the areas of inequality and exclusion. Mali is committed to promoting the right to development. This human right implies that all human beings have the right to development and prosperity, to prevent hunger and disease. We must now look at the new threats to human rights and, to that end Mali welcomes the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. In conclusion, Mali reiterates its commitment to the protection of human rights, especially through its full support of the draft resolution.

TESFA ALEM SEYOUM (Eritrea): The human rights records of most governments, and the responses of others to those records, remain far short of what is necessary to ensure a human existence for peoples throughout the world. With respect to many governments, human rights are often raised as a mere slogan, or used as a political instrument to be applied against enemies. They are glossed over with friends and neglected when it concerns their direct national interest. It is deplorable that certain governments openly and flagrantly abuse human rights in the most heinous way, and such crimes are allowed to continue without the appropriate response from the international community.

A case in point is the continuing deportation, detention, expropriation and inhuman treatment of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin by the Ethiopian Government. This has led not only to the suffering of tens of thousands, but also to many deaths. To date, the number of those unjustly deported and arbitrarily detained has reached more than 40,000, and the witch-hunt and round-up of those still remaining in the country continues. Ethiopia's crimes against these Eritrean civilians has been verified by independent observers and condemned. Yet, the regime continues these crimes


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with impunity, because there has not been an appropriate international reaction. "Unless action is taken where human rights crimes are perpetrated, the gap between our declared ideals and actions will widen, thus nullifying the meaning of the very ideals we purport to uphold".

ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic): This historic Declaration is a significant reference for defining what mankind needs for its development. The Declaration serves the hopes and aspirations for the peoples of the world to live in peace and dignity and to secure full enjoyment of human rights. Fifty years have elapsed, but those ideals have not been achieved. Destitution, disease and hunger continue to haunt us, and are an impediment to the enjoyment of human rights. It is vital for the international community to pool its efforts to embark on more vigorous action to secure the common objectives ahead.

The Lao people have been victim of various aggressions. In a spirit of tireless struggle they have resisted foreign intervention. In 1975 the entire Lao people exercised their rights to self-determination. Since the establishment of a people's regime, the Government has been unstinting in its efforts to rebuild the State in the aftermath of war, while ensuring social and political stability. In 1991, the first constitution set forth the conditions for the Lao people to enact their rights and duties. Subsequently, many other laws have been adopted to promote the rule of law. Human rights should never be used as a pretext for interfering in the affairs of others; the international community should work together to achieve its goals through dialogue and cooperation.

ANDRE MWAMBA KAPANGA (Democratic Republic of the Congo): Despite the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been the victim of armed aggression, which threatened its territory and its citizens, and despite the violations of human rights that it suffered in the occupied territories, the Government remains committed to human rights and the dignity of all members of the human family. That is a basis for peace, justice and freedom throughout the world. The Government has established human rights programmes and, in spite of the difficulties of the war, it has managed to institute improvements of human rights and the effective democratization of its entire political territory.

On 1 June, a Ministry of Human Rights was established in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and through that the Government attempts to disseminate and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also been given permission to have access to prisoners of war in the country. The establishment of an interdepartmental Commission for Humanitarian Issues is another achievement of the Government. Regarding the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is pursuing the implementation of a plan of action for education in human rights. The


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Minister of Human Rights has just announced the foundation of a programme to involve the police and the army in human rights issues, and to distribute the Declaration in the four national languages.

CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon): Gabon associates itself with the statement made yesterday by Burkina Faso, on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). By adopting the Universal Declaration, the United Nations set out to respond to the many attacks directed at the dignity of human beings. From its inception, the Organization embarked on the debate on human rights, culminating in the adoption of the Declaration. This ceremony gives us an opportunity to gauge the distance we have come. 1948 was a key year, as was 1978, which was the year of the World Conference on Racism and the implementation of the Vienna Declaration. That marked the beginning of the process of the International Criminal Court, the statute of which was adopted this year.

All around the world there are still complaints about human rights violations. Full implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms remains one of the priorities of the international community. We have acceded to many international legal instruments, including the African Charter on Human Rights. Many conflicts in the world, especially in Africa, have given rise to human rights violations committed against civilians and refugees. We call for an end to be put to the flow of weapons to that part of the world. Human rights is a long-term undertaking, which must not ignore the social and economic needs of the individual. The international community must ensure that the new millennium is free from the ravages that mankind has been victim to, such as genocide and apartheid.

AHMED SNOUSSI Morocco: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be regarded as one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations. It does not, however, mean that all mankind's objectives have been achieved. There are still a number of areas to be addressed, such as the proliferation of ethnic conflicts, genocide, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, persecution of minorities, imprisonment without due process, poverty, terrorism and the endangerment of human rights defenders. Insufficient attention has also been given to economic, social and cultural rights.

Morocco takes an active part in the building of a fair, just and democratic world order and reaffirms its commitment to establishing the rule of law. It has strengthened its legal, judicial and administrative institutions, and has created a human rights Ministry. It also actively promotes education on the principles of human rights and the various international conventions on those rights to which Morocco is party.

TAYE WAH WAN CHAT KWONG Mauritius: Debates on human rights have too often been polarised between those who are perceived as laying greater stress on civil and political rights, while others hold that economic and social


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rights are pre-eminent. They are in fact the two sides of the same coin. Any model of society which does not simultaneously embrace and advance both sets of rights, will sooner or later find its limits.

A National Human Rights Commission is to be established in Mauritius, empowered to investigate any complaint of violation of human rights. In setting up this Commission, Mauritius hopes to reinforce the effective protection of the fundamental rights of its citizens already afforded to them under the Constitution. Current judicial recourse against breaches or alleged violations of human rights can be time-consuming and costly. The new body will enable citizens to seek redress more easily.

ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan): Sudan takes the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to renew its commitment to all international covenants on human rights. Respect of human rights has been set out for centuries by the religion of Islam. The holy Koran notes the honouring of the sons of Adam, who are provided with the sustenance of things good and pure. It seems proper, also, to recall tolerance and objectivity when dealing with human rights issues and the need to steer them away from selectivity and a lack of respect for cultural diversity. It is important, as well, to focus on the right to development, as poverty contradicts the enjoyment of human rights.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration coincides with the 50 years that have passed since the start of the plight of the Palestinian people. They should be given the opportunity to establish their own State on their own soil. Let us all pray for a world where the values of liberty, equality and justice prevail, without any discrimination regarding race, gender or religion.

DURI MOHAMMED (Ethiopia): The Universal Declaration has made an enduring impact on the national legislations of many States in ensuring the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Still, the manifold misery that it sought to eradicate 50 years ago remains prevalent throughout the world, with 1 billion people deprived of their basic daily needs. Concrete steps must be taken to ensure the universal enjoyment of human rights, in particular the right to development.

In today's Ethiopia, the promotion and respect of human rights has become the foundation upon which the political and democratic transformation and economic development of the country firmly rests. Following the collapse of the military regime in 1991, the Declaration's provisions were incorporated into the transitional Charter of Ethiopia and, subsequently, reaffirmed in the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. It also stipulates that all human rights provisions shall be interpreted in accordance with the Declaration's principles and other human rights instruments accepted by Ethiopia. At present, Ethiopia is party to all major such instruments.


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Additional measures, ranging from the general review of the legal system to the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman Office, have also been undertaken.

With reluctance, it is necessary to address the accusations of the delegation of Eritrea. The Eritrean regime began an act of aggression on the territory of Ethiopia in May and has targeted civilian targets, such as schools and hospitals in Ethiopia. It has also expelled Ethiopians from Eritrea and has organized subversive elements within Ethiopia. The statements made by the Eritrean delegation were simply an effort to deflect attention from the truth.

MOSES M. DLAMINI (Swaziland): International cooperation is important in ensuring the promotion of all human rights, bearing in mind that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Political rights must be considered at an equal level with the right to development. We believe that recognition, promotion and realization of the right to development is a major step towards the goal of providing a comprehensive and integrated approach to human rights.

The Kingdom of Swaziland is fully committed to promoting and protecting the full enjoyment of human rights by all of its people. Continuous efforts are being undertaken to eradicate poverty, improve health conditions, substantially reduce unemployment, ensure the implementation of policies of education for all, including the policy of equality between women and men and other social and economic policies aimed at promoting the living conditions of all citizens. The political rights of Swazi citizens are promoted and protected, and programmes to this end are in place.

MOHAMMAD A. ABULHASAN (Kuwait): Today's observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights the importance accorded by the United Nations and the international community to the issue of human rights, for the sake of finding a world secure for our generation and future generations. Kuwait attaches great importance to human rights and its society is based on the principles of justice, freedom, equality, the rule of law, and the provision of all guarantees of human rights. Those guarantees are enshrined in Kuwait's Constitution. Kuwait is guided by the words of God in his holy book and the traditions of the Prophet.

The Kuwaiti people are in the forefront of people who are sensitive to the issue of human rights. For example, the Kuwaiti Assembly has set up a permanent Committee on Human Rights, to ensure respect by all of human rights. Perhaps the Kuwaiti people have suffered more than others from violations of human rights. Since the Iraqi invasion, the return of Kuwaitis is the primary humanitarian issue. We will never rest until Iraq discloses that information. Hopefully, this occasion will motivate the Iraqi Government to cooperate to end the suffering of those innocent hostages. Kuwait hopes that the world in


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its entirety will benefit from the further future protection of human rights.

MARIO CASTELLON DUARTE (Nicaragua): The Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies age-old wisdom and marks the birth of human civilization. The Declaration is against arbitrary power. That is a most important achievement. When it was adopted, it was the first document with universal applicability. Economic and social rights were also put on equal footing with civil and political rights, which was at that time revolutionary. Since then, thousands have resorted to this document for guidance. The validity of the Declaration since 1948 has not diminished.

All nations are urged to abide by the principles so that every citizen can enjoy all rights. In that regard, the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action is the goal of all peoples, representing the foundation of all rights. Colonialism has been overcome, but new challenges have appeared, such as drug trafficking, ethnic cleansing, discrimination against women, the exploitation of children, xenophobia and extreme poverty, among others. Millions of human beings live in total destitution, which results in armed struggle. In Nicaragua, many problems were the result of a lack of respect for human rights. Since 1948, it has suffered devastating civil wars, although that has been overcome. Nicaragua is now building peace and democracy on the basis of human rights and the guarantee of individual freedom, at the same time securing a higher level of economic development and better social equity.

FODE M. DABOR (Sierra Leone): Since 1991, a gruelling war has been going on in my country, with the most horrible violations of rights inflicted on innocent civilians by the rebels. The limbs of innocent civilians have been amputated and women have been raped for no other reason than their support of democracy. It is the fundamental right of the citizens of every country to elect and support a government of their choice. The international community must not allow this right to be thwarted by the violence of a group of rebels who do not believe in democracy.

Although much has been achieved in the area of civil and political rights, much remains to be done to enhance economic and social rights in the world. For human rights to be fully enjoyed, poverty must be eradicated. The gap between rich and poor needs to be closed. The onerous conditions imposed on poor countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should be re-examined, because very often they have led to internal conflicts. The right to education, health and decent standards of living are no less a right than that of freedom of expression.

MOHAMMED AL-HUMAIMIDI (Iraq): In an environment where some cannot increase their wealth unless all other people become poorer, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When the fifth of humanity that controls the resources in a selfish way speaks about


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human rights, the other four-fifths of humanity are horrified by this hypocrisy. Human rights have become a political weapon in the hands of some States, subject to a double-standard criteria used to achieve the interests and purposes of those States. They have also become a means of blackmail and political pressure on other particular States.

What arouses the concerns of developing countries, in particular, is the deliberate negligence and indifference to the fundamental rights established by the United Nations, such as the right to self-determination, respect for sovereignty, and the right to development. Iraq has severely suffered from the embargo imposed on it since 1990, which is unprecedented in human history. During the past eight years, this unjust embargo has constituted a flagrant violation of the collective and individual human rights of Iraqis.

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan): It is difficult to say something that has not already been said in the current celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Afghanistan is an Islamic country, and Islam is a religion that respects human rights. In the Koran, God said that the dignity of the children of Adam had been honoured. In this spirit, the Afghan delegation helped to draft the Universal Declaration in 1948. This half century has been the source of a great deal of wisdom for the international community, but there is still a long way to go. Afghanistan has been suffering from conflict over the past 20 years. Armed intervention is among the most atrocious violations of human rights.

We have reaffirmed in the General Assembly resolution adopted unanimously yesterday morning that we should ensure the effective exercise of the rights of women and the girl child, which are inalienable and indivisible, a part of all human rights. But, in the past four years in Afghanistan, the rights of women have been the most violated. The international community should formulate provisions on the right of people and nations to peace as a human right. Our experience in Afghanistan proves that war is the greatest arena for violations of human rights, especially conflict that is caused by foreign intervention.

JAN VARSO (Slovakia): It is a paradox of history that the elaboration of this generous code of fundamental rights and freedoms for the members of the human family should be based on tragic experiences of humankind, particularly those linked to the horrific crimes committed by human beings against other humans during the second world war.

Unfortunately, the current situation is far from satisfactory. We have witnessed violations of human rights in most of the world and, in several cases, on a massive scale. Civil wars and, in general, hate among peoples for different reasons, which are often very difficult to understand, have consequences for other human beings who, while often innocent, are the first


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to be directly affected. We need to ask ourselves what needs to be done to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are not trampled underfoot.

After the last elections, in September, the new Slovak Government set up the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights. Parliament has similarly created a committee charged specially with human rights questions. The Government will play an active role aimed at the consolidation of international human rights standards, including the rights of national minorities.

JENO C.A.STAEHLIN (Switzerland): The adoption this week of the declaration regarding the rights and responsibilities of human rights defenders is a source of pride. It is the best guarantee of the implementation of human rights. Crucial importance must be given to the rights of women and children. Millions are mutilated, do not get an education, or are involved in armed conflict by force. These examples show how the right to development and the right to human rights are interconnected.

In order to meet the growing need for well-trained people to work in human rights offices in the field, Switzerland has created a body of experts, which will work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others. The opening of borders and markets has conferred power that could not be imagined before; thus protagonists should be highly aware of the rights of the individual. The Government of Switzerland has begun a dialogue on the matter; it should take place multilaterally within the framework of international organizations. The common basis of dialogue is made up of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

RENATO MARTINO, observer of the Holy See, read out a message on behalf of POPE JOHN PAUL II: By proclaiming a certain number of fundamental rights that belong to all members of the human family, the Declaration of Human Rights has contributed decisively to the development of international law. It has challenged national laws and permitted millions of men and women to live with greater dignity. Those who watch today's world cannot but realize that those fundamental rights proclaimed, codified and celebrated are still the object of continuous and serious violations. This anniversary is, then, an appeal to all States that adhere to the 1948 text for an examination of conscience.

Too often the tendency of some to choose this or that right over those rights that contradict their transient interests prevails. At the end of 1998, too many brothers and sisters in humanity are overwhelmed by natural calamities, decimated by sickness, and are victims of cruel and endless wars. Next to these, the affluent seem sheltered from instability and enjoy, sometimes with ostentation, both their necessities and their superfluousness. What has become of the right that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this


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Declaration can be fully realized? Dignity, liberty and happiness will never be complete without solidarity. The tormented history of the last 50 years has taught us that.

JOSE ANTONIO LINATI-BOSCH (Sovereign Military Order of Malta): The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes all the items needed to guarantee human rights. Those rights serve as protection against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language or religion, and also for the liberty and security of individuals, the right to life, the abolition of slavery, equality before the law, freedom of residence and the right to family and property. They constitute milestones of humanity's long journey to the present day.

At the same time, all must be conscious these aims have not been fully attained. More than 100 million live in conditions of abject poverty or suffer from hunger. Drugs, prostitution, racism, armed conflict and ignorance are other evils that beset many. For its part, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta knows what its duties are. It declares that human rights come directly from God, yet the idea of human rights has developed very slowly in the human conscience. The last 50 years, however, have seen an important progress, for which much credit goes to the United Nations and its agencies.

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