It is a pleasure to greet this important meeting of the Lisbon Forum of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe. I am proud to have been a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and, as Secretary-General, I treasure the Council’s partnership with the United Nations.
I welcome your focus on the links between development and human rights, the rule of law and democracy, areas in which the Council has made inestimable contributions across the continent.
Indeed, every measure we take to fortify the rule of law strengthens the institutions we need to ensure peaceful and just societies.
Every step we take to advance democratic practices gives people the means to address grievances peacefully and shape the decisions that affect their lives.
And every human right we secure is another brick in the building of a better world.
This is a two-way relationship: human rights are an intrinsic part of sustainable development – and sustainable development is a powerful vehicle for the realization of human rights. And let us never forget that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals means recognizing the interdependent and indivisible nature of all human rights – economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, as well as the right to development. Moreover, promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality is essential to global progress in all realms, on all the Goals.
Yet the world is falling behind in fulfilling the core promise of the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind”. The climate crisis, protracted conflicts, rising inequality, youth unemployment and the proliferation of hate speech are creating obstacles and causing growing discontent. Our shared challenge is to get on track – and human rights can inspire and drive progress.
Thank you for your commitment to dignity, equality, peace and inclusive, sustainable development for all. Please accept my best wishes for an enriching Lisbon Forum.