– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
24 February 2020
Heads of State and Government
President of the Human Rights Council
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ladies and Gentlemen
I thank the President of the Human Rights Council for the invitation to address the opening of the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council. I am grateful to all that are able to join us to recommit to the promotion of human rights, as well as lend our voices to issues of human rights violations around the world.
There is nothing more urgent excellencies than ensuring that all human beings, no matter their belief, gender, economic condition, or other status, are able to live in dignity. It is in ensuring this that the work of the United Nations is crucial. This involves not only Member States, but also civil society and the private sector.
The institutional relationship between the Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly, especially the Third Committee, has ensured that Member States are constantly engaged on human rights issues, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such engagement is important in strengthening the international human rights system, and safeguarding the most vulnerable populations by addressing situations of human rights violations and ensuring accountability.
There are many people around the world whose survival depends on how well the United Nations system is able to coordinate and align the three main pillars of peace and security, human rights and development. Some of these people live in relatively peaceful societies, while many are trapped in conflict zones and face difficulties. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the human rights situation in these conflict zones, as well as to the hardship faced by many who escaped conflict and are seeking security in other places.
It is important that Member States and other stakeholders continue to pay due attention to all matters dealing with human rights, in particular the following:
The Right of the Child
Thirty years ago, we made progress with the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Lives of millions of children around the world improved through the realization of rights and the implementation of obligations contained in the Convention and its optional protocols.
Despite these, there still exist a huge gap in creating a conducive environment that guarantees the rights of the child. These include a strong sustainable action on educational, humanitarian and climate induced vulnerabilities that threaten the rights of children.
We must, therefore, compel action to put an end to child exploitation in all its forms, protect children in conflict situation, and ensure that they have access to health facilities, nutrition, protection and quality education.
According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, there are about 258 million children, adolescents and youth that are out of school worldwide. This is unacceptable, and to fail to act now in the best interest of the child, is to fail generations. It is to abandon our commitment to the Convention. We must, therefore, engender partnerships that will assist in tackling the learning crisis, and achieve increased enrollment and retention levels in schools.
Education is an equalizer, empowers children to reach their full potential, and has the capacity to extricate them from poverty and generally better prepare them for more meaningful adulthood and citizenship. It is thus important that no matter the situation, a child’s right to education should never be compromised.
To highlight the importance of education, in January this year, my Office organized an event to mark the International Day of Education, with focus on current gaps and what we need to improve quality education. In April this year, I will also hold a High-level Meeting to draw attention to the plight of children in crisis situation. It is my hope that we will agree on mechanisms to prohibit attacks on educational infrastructure, hold perpetrators to account, and mobilize resources for reconstruction, in order to guarantee uninterrupted access to learning opportunities.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right that we must all uphold. The perpetuation of discriminatory practices on the basis of gender disadvantages girls and women, and negatively impacts us all. It is, therefore, essential that we galvanise collective action to ensure equal opportunities and full participation of women in leadership and decision-making positions. This is in line with my priority on inclusion, also involving people with disabilities and other minority groups.
In addition, we have a duty to end all forms of gender based violence, as it undermines overall well-being, and diminishes us all. We must end the culture of silence around attacks on women by creating safe spaces, and holding perpetrators of gender based violence to account as well.
There is nothing more urgent excellencies than ensuring that all human beings, no matter their belief, gender, economic condition, or other status, are able to live in dignity. It is in ensuring this that the work of the United Nations is crucial.
In this Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, we must take a rights-based approach to the implementation and mainstreaming of gender equality. While the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has significantly improved the lives of women in the last forty years, we must seize the opportunity presented by the 25th year commemoration of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to improve on our achievements so far.
Human rights are of critical importance for individuals in conflict zones, especially for those in protracted displacement situations. The efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to remedy the situation are critical, and so is the work of the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms working to prevent and address violations of rights. We must therefore, support this work. The Global Compact on Refugees provides a valuable tool to help advance human rights for the displaced and stateless persons and we must continue to engage to resolve our differences related to refugee issue. As is well documented, among the refugees and internally displaced persons, the most negatively affected are children and women.
In conclusion, when it comes to human rights, there are no exceptions to those whom are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is therefore important to strengthen partnerships to ensure that we can uphold human rights for all and rid the world of abuse, exploitation, marginalisation, racism, torture and all exclusion.
As we prepare to commemorate the 75th anniversary of our Organisation, it is appropriate that above everything else, we make the rights of our children a top priority.
I thank you.