Norway's statement at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council

Geneva, 29 February 2016

State Secretary Tore Hattrem held Norway's main statement at the  31st session of the Human Rights Council.

Mr President,

Since the establishment of the Human Rights Council ten years ago, the international community has continued to develop tools to address violence, extremism, discrimination and the neglect of human rights.

We are concerned that we are facing an unacceptable, and growing, implementation gap between established norms and the realities on the ground.

It is important that we now consolidate our normative achievements and make full use of them. The international human rights institutions must be safeguarded and strengthened.

Not since the Second World War have so many people been forced to flee their homes. This human tragedy requires urgent attention and joint efforts.

It is also a symptom of the failure of states to protect and promote the human rights of their citizens. People do not flee from safety and decent lives.

Recent developments have shown us – once again – that political crises and human rights violations often go hand in hand. Where there is a political crisis, human rights come under pressure. Where human rights are under pressure, crisis is often brewing.

Therefore, protection of human rights must also be part of our effort to address conflict and crisis.

Conflicts and crises can never be an excuse for ignoring human rights violations. Nor can repression be accepted in the name of 'social stability'. When the opposite is claimed, this should be a call to the international community that we need to step up our efforts to promote and defend human rights.

In our response to extremist violence, we must not lose sight of – or lose the political will to fight for – the international principles that we agreed on around 70 years ago, in the UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights.

We agreed on these principles precisely to prevent this kind of misuse of power.

Our stated ambitions must be matched with human and financial resources. Together we need to secure OHCHR's financial capacity to respond to the increasing demands. We are worried that the institution face dire financial straits.

Mr President,

Freedom of expression is essential for self-fulfilment, for each and every one of us. But it is far more than this.

Freedom of expression is necessary for the realisation of other human rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. It is a prerequisite for democracy and good governance.

We need free exchanges of opinion if we are to be able to choose the best policy options. The general public need access to information if we, as governments, are to be held accountable.

Time and again, we see that censorship, repression of free speech and increased use of propaganda are signs of a pending crisis.

We must become better at responding to these signs. Moreover, we must recognise that inclusive dialogue and the free exchange of opinions is our best defence against repression, violence and conflict.

Mr President,

We are dismayed that the situation for human rights defenders around the world continues to be very difficult, and in some places is even deteriorating further.

This is unacceptable.

Together we must protect those who are at the forefront in protecting the rights of others.

We remain deeply concerned by recent reports in this area by the High Commissioner, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and other mandate holders.

We believe that the Council must respond with a clear message, building on its existing body of work, including resolution 22/6 adopted in 2013.

At this session, Norway will present a new thematic resolution for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

The draft resolution takes into account the severe risks that human rights defenders face when defending economic, social and cultural rights – also when these relate to environmental issues, land issues, and development.

The aim is to recognise the legitimate role of human rights defenders in this area. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders, severely hamper the realisation of these rights and undermine social cohesion. In turn, this can damage stability and ultimately undermine development.

We invite all States to join forces in protecting the legitimate role of human rights defenders in our societies.

Mr President,

International death penalty trends are leaning towards abolition. However, we are seeing some worrying developments in certain countries.

Norway gives high priority to the global fight against the death penalty. We oppose its use in all circumstances as a matter of principle.

Norway will host the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Oslo on 21–23 June 2016. We encourage abolitionist and retentionist countries alike to participate.

Norway strongly believes in the value of multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the World Congress, where States, the UN, NGOs and committed individuals are able to join forces.

Finally, as the Council marks its 10th anniversary in 2016, we must continuously strive to improve its ability to deliver. While much certainly remains to be done, let me especially acknowledge the crucial role played by civil society at the Council.

We welcome and support this feature of the Council, and believe other parts of the UN and its organs and organisations would also benefit from greater transparency, openness and inclusiveness.

Thank you.