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Realizing human rights

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Geneva, 2 March 2010

Gry Larsen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, emphasized the gap between norms and implementation of human rights in Norway's statement during the High Level Segment of the Human Rights Council.

Mr President, High Commissioner,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by joining others in expressing my heartfelt condolences to Chile and the Chilean people for the devastating losses and human suffering caused by the earthquake.

President,

Once again, we are meeting against a backdrop of widespread human rights violations.

  • Billions are affected by poverty and malnutrition.
  • Civilians in the midst of conflict are suffering abuse and violations of fundamental rights.
  • People are being discriminated against on grounds of race, gender, belief and sexual orientation.
  • The absolute nature of the prohibition of torture is frequently being challenged.
  • Detainees are being kept in secret prisons without access to justice.
  • The freedom to assemble, organise and speak out is under pressure.


The promotion and protection of human rights is at the core of the UN mandate, and it is a prerequisite for success in advancing peace and development. We already have a reasonably good legal framework. Our challenge today is the daunting gap between norms and implementation. This must remain the main focus of the Human Rights Council.

As elected member of the Human Rights Council, Norway is committed to work actively to raise the credibility, effectiveness and visibility of the Council through engagement and open dialogue with all partners.

The upcoming review of the Council in 2011 is important. The aim of this process is clear:  to further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Council. For this, we need a clear and realistic assessment of what we can achieve through the review process.

The political will and commitment of the Member States and the international community will be as important to making the Council a better tool for meaningful promotion and protection of human rights, as any changes in structure and working methods. We must also ensure that the review do not create a protection gap. We cannot allow the review process to consume the work of the Council.

Our main task is to promote and protect Human Rights worldwide. This mandate is best served by making full use of the existing system – every day.

The system of special procedures is by far the most successful part of the UN Human Rights machinery. Through their committed efforts the Council is connected to the reality on the ground. The Special Procedures are often a last resort for victims, but they can also serve as an early-warning mechanism to draw attention to patterns of human rights abuses.

Through the Institution Building process the Council has maintained and improved this system. The main obstacle it faces today is clearly lack of cooperation by States. Therefore, the review process should preserve their independence and integrity and strengthen the commitment of States to cooperate with the system.

The UPR is a promising tool that adds value to the existing UN machinery on human rights, in particular through the active role undertaken by the civil society in the countries concerned. No country is beyond scrutiny. At the same time the Council has a strong mandate to deal with violations of human rights in all countries. It is vital for the efficiency of the Council that it addresses legitimate concerns in states that are not currently being examined under the Universal Periodic Review. This is where the Council in our view is underperforming. 

While the promotion of human rights is at the core of the entire UN system, some parts of the system have a more crucial role to play than others. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our strong support for the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, and her office.

Through your efforts and initiatives, Madame High Commissioner, the UN’s ability to prevent and respond to Human Rights violations is strengthened. This work must continue. Even though your office is not part of the upcoming review, I would like to stress that the independence and integrity of your office is essential to the credibility of the UN on its mandate on human rights.

President,

Let me now turn to some key priorities for Norway.

The first one is discrimination against women.

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights much progress has been made to eliminate discrimination against women, but still - discrimination facing women and girls is the rule rather than the exception. A continued denial of basic rights condemns women to marginalisation and poverty, which in turn exposes hundreds of millions of girls and women to continued abuse.

A main priority for Norway’s membership in the Council is to initiate concrete steps to give real effect to women’s rights and dignity. A key measure is to establish a mandate on laws that discriminate against women.

Another priority is Freedom of expression and Security for journalists.

Freedom of expression faces many challenges today: new anti-terrorist legislation and state secrecy laws, increasing use of defamation laws and media censorship. In situations of armed conflict, journalists are more important than ever, but are also under more pressure than ever. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) a total of 139 journalists and media workers were killed in 2009 – of which some 113 were targeted killings. 

Despite threats and violence, journalists continue to tell their stories. They report on discrimination and intolerance, famine, misuse of power, transnational corporations involved in human rights violations and about the cruelties of war.

UN Security Council Resolution 1738 underlines the importance of protecting journalists in conflict zones and of proper investigation into violent attacks on media. The implementation gap is far too evident. The impunity in killings of reporters is in fact an international disgrace that rarely gets the attention it deserves. The Human Rights Council should play a more active role in enhancing protection of media workers.  

A third issue I would like to mention is Secret detentions

It is timely that the issue of secret detention is on the agenda for this session. The use of secret prisons where detainees are kept in a legal vacuum is a breach of international law. This practice facilitates the use of torture and may in itself constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Any person who perpetrates such acts must be brought to justice.

Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and inhumane treatment brutalise and demolish the social fabric of our societies. These practices are illegal and go against all that makes us human.

And that brings me to the fourth issue and a main priority for Norway: Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Norway will this session introduce a resolution to strengthen protection of human rights defenders. Across the globe courageous human rights defenders – be they journalists, lawyers, human rights NGOs or others  – work tirelessly to promote the rights to health, food and education and to fight racism, torture, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and all other forms of human rights violations.

We are deeply concerned about the increase in attacks against human rights defenders over the past few years. Defenders working on issues related to economic, social and cultural rights are particularly targeted. We are also concerned about attempts to criminalize activities of defenders, including those who advocate for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender persons.

Our aim should and must be to create an enabling environment for Human Rights Defenders. Their cause is to improve the lives and freedom of others. They are essential actors in promoting tolerance and human dignity and in ensuring that human rights are implemented on the ground.

We need their eyes, ears and hearts. Only by making full use of their potential, can the UN deliver on its promise to realize human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Mr President,

Our hope is that this session will prove that we – the member states shoulder our responsibility to close the gap between norms and implementation. To this end Norway will engage actively in this session of the Human Rights Council.

Thank you.