19 October 2010
Secretary-General
SG/SM/13189
HR/5035

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Hailing Council of Europe as Key Partner in Effort to Universalize Fundamental


Rights, Secretary-General Says ‘Human Rights for All Not an Impossible Dream’


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg today, 19 October:


It is a great honour to join you in celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Let me begin by stating a very obvious fact:


I am not here to speak to you, but with you — to draw strength from our dialogue that stretches through the decades and that has improved lives and enlarged freedom.


The Council of Europe is a key partner of the United Nations in our shared global quest, united behind the principle of all human rights, for all people.


From your founding in 1949, through the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council has been a steadfast champion; a beacon of democracy in a divided Europe.


In the past 20 years, you have guided new democracies along the path of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Europe’s example of peaceful change through ever-closer integration has been a source of global inspiration.


Yet in too many parts of the world, similar progress remains a distant dream.


One of the cardinal missions of the United Nations is to shine the light of human rights everywhere, including the darkest corners of the world.


We do so as a matter of principle.


As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims, and I quote:  “Recognition of the inherent dignity … and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”


That is our base line.  That is our standard.  There are no exceptions.  In a complicated and connected world, this mission is essentially simple and simply essential.


La Déclaration de Vienne, adoptée en 1993 à la Conférence mondiale sur les droits de l’homme, fut un des événements marquants de l’après-guerre froide.


L’Est et l’Ouest, longtemps en opposition au sujet des droits de l’homme et de tant d’autres choses, s’étaient mis d’accord sur un plan d’action ambitieux.


La Déclaration réaffirmait l’interdépendance de la démocratie, du développement et des droits de l’homme.


Elle constatait l’importance cruciale des ONG et de la société civile.


Et elle demandait aux Etats de réaliser un rêve déjà ancien:  la création par les Nations Unies d’une nouvelle entité, le Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme.


Aujourd’hui, l’héritage de Vienne est assuré.


Et pourtant près d’une génération plus tard, nous devons admettre un fait moins encourageant.


Les droits de centaines de milliers de personnes continuent d’être ignorés ou bafoués.


De nouvelles forces font apparaître de nouvelles difficultés.


Le schisme entre l’Est et l’Ouest a été remplacé par une fracture de plus en plus marquée entre le Nord et le Sud.


Les droits civils et politiques reculent l’engagement en faveur du droit au développement social et économique manque de vigueur.


Dans bien des pays développés, immigration et récession économique suscitent une anxiété croissante; une anxiété qui, de plus en plus, sert de prétexte à des politiques de discrimination et d’exclusion.


Et dans certaines parties du monde en développement, on crie au « deux poids deux mesures »:  on affirme que les pays puissants ont beau prêcher les droits de l’homme quand cela les arrange, ils en font fi dès que c’est ça qui fait mieux leur affaire.


The danger is clear:


Our universal compact on human rights needs to be reinforced.


I see two ways to strengthen it, indeed, to build on it, for future generations, our future generations.


First, by seizing every opportunity to reaffirm the universality and indivisibility of human rights.


Universality is the beating heart of the body of international human rights law as it has developed over the past six decades.


When it comes to human rights, there should be no selectivity.


Human rights are not a menu from which we just can pick and choose.


Yet, we see precisely this, when bona fide advances are made in overcoming poverty or hunger, at the same time that other freedoms are downplayed as if they are merely “icing on the cake” and not central to development itself.


And we see it in democratic countries that choose not to ratify certain international conventions, or reinterpret conventions to which they have subscribed.


Of course, there is no human rights paradise on earth.


Here in Europe, ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families has been disappointing.


Twenty years after it was adopted, none of Europe’s largest and most wealthy Powers have signed or ratified it.


In some of the world’s most advanced democracies, among nations that take just pride in their long history of social progressiveness, migrants are being denied their basic human rights.


The Council of Europe has spoken out strongly and is taking new initiatives.


The United Nations welcomes your convening of tomorrow’s meeting to discuss the integration of Roma people in Europe.


Let this be the moment when Governments reaffirm their commitment to the highest human rights standards for all.


The universality of human rights is also central to the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, aimed at ensuring that all members of the Council, not just some, would be subject to scrutiny.


One hundred twelve countries have been reviewed to date under the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.


I look forward to the Council taking further steps towards universality, consistency and credibility.


While our standards are universal and unchanging, our methods should not remain static.


That is why we must strengthen our compact on human rights through an approach rooted in an awareness of culture, time and place.


We must respect cultural diversity – while never compromising our fundamental principles and never tolerating intolerance.


Lasting social change, including respect for human rights, and particularly women’s rights, cannot be planted from afar.  It must take root within societies.


But we must nurture, encourage and support such steps.


After all, the objective is not simply for Governments to pass laws, but to ensure that those laws are implemented.


We will go further when we include faith-based organizations in our work when we work at the grass roots, and when we support people in fighting for their rights.


We must always be ready to adapt to new circumstances, always focusing on concrete improvements to people’s lives.


Today, awareness is growing about the need to protect the rights of vulnerable groups – people with disabilities, the elderly, those who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation.


We are developing new ways to protect these people and others – more human rights for more people.


Partout où les droits de l’homme sont foulés au pied, partout où ils sont en repli, c’est là que nous devons être présents.


C’est dans ces cas-là que nous devons nous faire entendre.


Nous luttons pour le respect des droits des femmes et des enfants par les moyens les plus pragmatiques possibles.  Les femmes et les enfants sont au centre de notre stratégie mondiale pour la santé et de nos activités de développement.


Nous sommes en train de mettre en place un nouvel organisme, ONU-Femmes, qui aura à sa tête l’ancienne présidente du Chili Madame Michelle Bachelet, une des dirigeantes les plus dynamiques qui soit.


Nous travaillons en étroit partenariat avec les cours et tribunaux nationaux et internationaux du monde entier, y compris la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme et la Cour pénale internationale.


Sans interventions fermes de la justice, nous ne ferons jamais cesser les violations des droits de l’homme qui sont commises dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo, et notamment le recours au viol comme arme de guerre.


Si les tribunaux nationaux ne peuvent s’occuper de ces crimes, alors la communauté internationale doit intervenir, éventuellement par l’intermédiaire de la Cour pénale internationale.


Comme je l’ai dit à la Conférence de révision du Statut de Rome qui s’est tenue en mai en Ouganda, le bras de la justice est long.


Ceux qui commettent des crimes contre l’humanité savent désormais qu’ils doivent le craindre.


La justice est un excellent moyen de dissuasion et de lutte contre l’impunité.


Je vous demande d’apporter tout l’appui que vous pouvez à cette campagne pour la responsabilité.  Nous travaillons aussi sur de nouvelles questions relatives aux droits de l’homme.


La collecte d’immenses quantités de données personnelles, le séquençage du génome humain, la possibilité de prolonger la vie grâce à des traitements médicaux, au péril de la dignité humaine.


Ces avancées de la science et de la technologie, qui ne sont certainement pas les dernières, devront être suivies très attentivement sous l’angle de l’éthique et des droits de l’homme.


Let me close, ladies and gentlemen, with an acknowledgement.


None of our gains in advancing human rights, none of our awareness of new human rights frontiers would be possible without human rights defenders, civil society groups and the media.


These dedicated men and women work, often, at tremendous risk to themselves, their families and their friends.


Around the world, they stand up, speak out and tweet in the name of justice.


Individual activists are growing in number and influence bringing abuses to light exposing wrongdoing and standing up for the vulnerable people.


In the battle for human rights, they are the foot soldiers – and often, the sergeants and generals, too.


We must fight for the freedoms of assembly and of expression that make their work possible.


When their voices are stifled or silenced, we are all diminished.


We are all less secure.


The anniversary we celebrate today is important.


The European Convention, and the Court, has made a tremendous difference in people’s lives.


They have brought human rights to life in tangible and lasting ways.


We are here today to celebrate that progress and more, to push that work forward:


For women in conflict living in daily terror;


For opposition politicians beaten or imprisoned for speaking their minds or demanding a say in power;


For children in need asking why they go hungry while their leaders enrich themselves further.


I have met these victims.  I have heard their stories.


This is why we at the UN do what we do.


Wherever I go, whomever I speak with, whether they are national leaders or ordinary citizens, I try to deliver this basic message loud and clear:


Human rights, human rights for all, is not an impossible dream.


It should not even be spoken of as a “dream”.


Together, let us work to make it a universal reality.


The people of the world deserve nothing less.


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For information media • not an official record