13 June 2011

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

Secretary-General, Addressing Colombian Civil Society Representatives, Pledges

Continuing United Nations Support in Tackling Human Rights Challenges


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks as prepared for delivery to civil society representatives in Bogota, on 10 June:

I am honoured to meet you.

As you know, I will shortly go to the Presidential Palace to witness the signing of the Victims’ Rights and Land Restitution Law.  You have worked hard to get this law drafted and passed.

I feel it is appropriate that I should be meeting with you before the ceremony.  After all, you represent the beneficiaries of this law -- Colombia’s most vulnerable people.

The law prepares the ground for justice for some 3.5 million displaced people and some 500,000 victims of human rights abuses.  The task now, for the Government and State institutions of Colombia, is to implement it — and to implement it with the needs and rights of victims always at the forefront.

The United Nations system will continue to work with you, and I am keen to hear today how you think we can best provide our support.  I am also keen to hear how we can work with you on the broader issue of promoting and protecting human rights in Colombia.

You play an essential role in ensuring a functional democracy.  I welcome the participation of civil society in organizing the National Human Rights Conference that will take place in December 2011, and I am interested in hearing your expectations.

There is still a significant gap between the progressive national policies adopted by the Government and the reality.  I am aware of the challenges that many members of civil society organizations face — including threats and violence.  I am very concerned about continued threats, attacks and murders that human rights defenders are enduring.

Many of your colleagues, friends and family have lost lives.  Just this week, Ana Fabricia Córdoba was gunned down in cold blood.  I will urge the authorities to take measures to provide adequate protection for human rights defenders and community leaders who are claiming their land back.  I will urge further steps against impunity.

I am also very concerned about the prosecution and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders on the basis of uncorroborated information, and I would like to hear your views about what the United Nations can do in addition to what we are already doing.

This is a problem not just in this country, but in many countries around the world.  As we meet, people in the Middle East and North Africa are demanding that their Governments respect and defend their rights and give them a genuine democratic voice.

These demands — these rights — are fundamental to the mandate of the United Nations.  They are the substance of my daily discussions with world leaders.  They are the ingredients for peaceful, stable and thriving societies.

With those short remarks, I would now like to say again what an honour it is to be here.  I look forward to hearing your statements.

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For information media • not an official record