21 May 2013

Remarks at meeting with members of Mozambique's National Human Rights Commission

Ban Ki-moon

I am delighted to be here.

Human rights are the foundation of free and stable societies.

They are the bedrock of development.

I congratulate you all on your appointment as the first members of the National Human Rights Commission of Mozambique.

I am here to pledge the continued support of the UN system for this Commission as you work to address human rights challenges in Mozambique.

Good governance, justice, human rights and anticorruption are central to the Government’s plans to reduce poverty and accelerate development.

You have an essential role to play.

Mozambique is faced with a number of human rights challenges.

The Universal Periodic Review of Mozambique two years ago highlighted several, including arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings, access to justice and conditions in places of detention.

Another major issue is discrimination and violence against women, especially in rural areas.

My next stop on this visit will be to Samsão Muthemba secondary school, where I will take part in an event to highlight this issue, and my UNiTE to end violence against women and girls campaign.

Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic.

I call it a pandemic because it is a disease that is killing our societies from within.

We must change attitudes and behaviour. That is why I have also set up a network of men leaders.

I commend the government of Mozambique for acknowledging the problem and acting on it.

Your family law addresses domestic violence, the rights of widows and property rights.

You are training police and medical professionals to provide better care for victims.

And you are encouraging girls to go to school and stay there.

Educating girls is essential to giving them better opportunities in life.

Educated girls are less likely to marry young, or get pregnant before they are ready.

They are better equipped to earn an income and succeed as mothers.

Here in Mozambique half of all women are illiterate.

Let us therefore bring focus on the right to education.

We must also make a link between rights, poverty and inequality.

More than 50 per cent of Mozambique’s population lives below the poverty line.

But the country also has a wealth of natural resources.

It is essential that these are managed wisely and transparently for the benefit of all.

I spoke on this issue last night at a dinner with representatives of the extractive industries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have been given a great privilege and a profound responsibility.

The people of Mozambique expect this new institution to play a critical role in combating corruption and guaranteeing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

You will have the power to investigate alleged human rights violations and issue recommendations.

I commend the inclusive nature of the membership of the Commission, and especially that it includes representation from civil society.

Your decision to hold periodic open sessions with civil society is commendable and wise, and I encourage you to pursue regular communication with human rights defenders.

I also encourage you to exchange views with “A status” national human rights institutions in the region, and to apply for accreditation from the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Finally, I urge you to fiercely protect your independence. This is fundamental to your public credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Development Programme stand ready to provide technical support as you move towards becoming fully operational.

You have much work ahead.

Mozambique has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is another important instrument that we hope you will support.

And the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of 2011, and the more recent recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights will require follow-up.

I am confident you will make the most of the opportunity you have been given to contribute to the sustainable development of Mozambique, and I wish you every success in promoting and defending human rights in this wonderful country.

Thank you.