United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres came to Geneva on Monday, 27 February, for the opening session of the high-level segment of the Human Rights Council.
Addressing the top United Nations human rights body for the first time since becoming Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres appealed to world Governments to speak up for human rights in an “impartial way”. “Disregard for human rights is a disease, and it is a disease that is spreading — North, South, East and West,” the Secretary-General told the high-level segment of the thirty-fourth regular session of the Human Rights Council, alongside United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “The Human Rights Council must be part of the cure.” Calling today’s world “more dangerous, less predictable, more chaotic”, the Secretary-General called for making prevention a priority, tackling root causes of conflict and reacting early and more effectively to human rights violations. (See Press Release SG/SM/18456.)
“We are increasingly seeing the perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other in a frenzy of growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance,” Mr. Guterres said. “Minorities, indigenous communities and others face discriminations and abuse across the world,” he added, noting abuse targeting refugees and migrants, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Among other issues raised, Mr. Guterres also called for protection of the human rights defenders and of journalists who are “essential” to the checks and balances of any society.
While in Geneva, Mr. Guterres also held bilateral meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine; Faiez Mustafa Serraj, President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya; General Taban Deng Gai, First Vice-President of the Republic of South Sudan; Maria Angela Holguin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia; Mangala Samaraweera, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka; Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council and Permanent Representative of El Salvador in Geneva; Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria; and Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.
He then visited the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, where he met its President, Peter Maurer.
The Secretary-General left Geneva for New York on Monday evening.