– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

5 November 2020

 

Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

It is my pleasure to welcome Her Excellency Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Human Rights Council, to the General Assembly. Due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the President couldn’t be here in person. 

However, the link between the United Nations campuses in Geneva and New York remains indestructible. We are one United Nations. The annual presentation of the report of the Human Rights Council to the General Assembly is important evidence of this bond.

We are all working in the image of the founders of our Organization, who seventy-five years ago declared,

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined…

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and

worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women,

and of nations large and small…”

These words were drafted to safeguard humanity against future challenges. As we tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, they remain profoundly relevant.

For the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis. It is a human rights crisis. In an era of inequalities, this challenge is even more acute for the most vulnerable people around the world. The coronavirus pandemic is revealing structural inequalities and obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights.

Thus, I commend Madam President for her leadership in swiftly reconvening the Human Rights Council. Indeed, the Council was the first intergovernmental body to resume its work in-person; and exercised flexibility in procedure by adopting a new hybrid model of in-person meetings with remote participation. This allowed the Council to hold three sessions and meetings enabling the membership to deal with a large volume of thematic and country issues which are of critical importance.

Excellencies,

In order to uphold our collective dignity, it is essential that our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic promote protection and do not exceed necessary limitations. Indeed, human rights can assist States in responding to the pandemic and limiting adverse ramifications.

Public services must always be delivered with human rights at the forefront.

Our response to this crisis must be shaped by, and uphold respect for, human rights. Responses must be universal, open, transparent, accountable, and inclusive.

Civil society, the private sector, and all stakeholders must be able to participate and provide feedback. This is essential not only for protecting our population today, but also for identifying: who is suffering the most; why that has transpired; and how we can protect these communities now; and when we face the next global challenge.

Because another crisis of this magnitude will come. And we will have to meet it when it does.

For the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis. It is a human rights crisis. In an era of inequalities, this challenge is even more acute for the most vulnerable people around the world. The coronavirus pandemic is revealing structural inequalities and obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights.

.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

None of us are safe from COVID-19 until we are all safe.

None of us are free until we can all fully enjoy the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We cannot neglect our duties to the people we serve at this time of crisis when it is even more important. We must work towards lasting peace, sustainable development and the protection of human rights, if we are to create the future we want.

Parties to conflict must facilitate rapid, safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance, including for the most vulnerable groups.

The Decade of Action and Delivery to implement sustainable development must become the Decade of Recovery.

The gains we have made on gender equality cannot become derailed by the pandemic. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, more girls were in school than ever before. We must ensure that these girls return to education and are equipped to live a life of their choosing, free from fear and violence.

Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, it is simply unconscionable that there has been a rise in gender-based violence during this period.

It is up to all of us – as the membership of the General Assembly, in particular as those who are the members of the Human Rights Council, and as all individuals – to ensure gender equality is at the fore of our work and our lives.

Gender equality is a key priority of mine for the 75th session of the General Assembly and I trust that Madam President – as only the second ever female President of the Human Rights Council – you will continue to champion gender equality for the remainder of your term in Geneva.

We simply cannot allow for discrimination or intolerance to prevail, in any form. Looking ahead to the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2021, I welcome the work of the Human Rights Council towards the elimination of racial discrimination and xenophobia.

Excellencies,

This meeting offers us an opportunity to listen to Madam President, and learn from our sisters and brothers across the Atlantic who, like us, are working tirelessly to create a better world for the people we serve.

I thank you.