Historical archive

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement at Human Rights Council

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Geneva, 2 March 2009

Norway is a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the period 2009–2012. We believe that a well functioning human rights body – with a global mandate based on international norms – is vital in our global efforts to strengthen human rights, State Secretary Raymond Johansen said in his statement.

Check against delivery

Mr President,
High Commissioner,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Since its inaugural session in June 2006, the Human Rights Council has undertaken a substantial institution-building task, creating innovative mechanisms like the Universal Periodic Review.

The UPR provides a valuable opportunity to review all countries’ human rights records and has become a promising tool for adding value to the existing UN human rights machinery.

We cannot afford, however, to become complacent. Once again our meeting is taking place against a backdrop of widespread human rights violations.

If the UPR is to play a meaningful role and be an effective tool for improving the human rights situation in all parts of the world, it must be understood as an ongoing process where we focus on human rights every day. Not just regarded as a meeting in Geneva with representatives of the country under review. We need to discuss how we best can follow up the recommendations emanating from the UPR process.

Norway is a candidate to the Human Rights Council for the period 2009–2012. We believe that a well functioning human rights body – with a global mandate based on international norms – is vital in our global efforts to strengthen human rights.

Mr. President,

We share a world where more than 1 billion people live in extreme poverty. This is totally unacceptable. Furthermore, the current economic and financial crisis is affecting women particularly hard. It is the responsibility of governments to ensure that women are not discriminated against in times of structural change and economic recession.

The crisis emphasises the need to mainstream human rights and gender into all development programmes and strategies. Any solutions, whether short- or long-term, must take human rights and gender into account.

Women and girls continue to be targets and victims of injustice, assaults and sexual violence in armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations. And the issue of immunity for atrocities committed towards women and children remains largely unresolved.

The main responsibility for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 remains with the individual member states.

The development of national action plans are a good way of initiating strategic actions. Norway adopted a national action plan in 2006. We are pleased to note that the action plan has inspired similar processes among our partners.

We certainly recognise that since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights much progress has been made to eliminate discrimination against women. However, both in law and in practice, discrimination against women and girls is still the rule rather than the exception.

Continued denial of basic rights condemns women to poverty, which in turn exposes hundreds of millions of girls and women to continued abuse.

A recent study commissioned by the OHCHR underscores the persistence of laws and customs that make women second-class citizens, and expose them to unpunished violence and inequality. The Council must do more on these issues. One avenue we should explore is to establish a mechaninsm to address discriminatory laws.

With the adoption of resolution 6/30, the Human Rights Council affirmed its commitment to advancing women’s rights and gender equality. We have to translate this commitment into concrete steps and priorities to put women’s rights into practice and ensure their dignity.

My message here today is that the greatest gains countries can achieve come with empowering women; ensuring equal opportunities, providing health care for all and increasing women’s active participation in working life.

The countries that are most competitive and yield the best economic performance are those that offer women the most equal opportunities.

And those countries that manage to overcome existing cultural impediments to such policies – be it in the North or in the South – are going to grow and prosper.

This is our experience. And it is supported by hard figures.

Mr President,

In 2006, Norway supported the decision of the UN General Assembly to review the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The preparatory process has unfortunately not made the progress we expected.

Time is short. We all have a responsibility to contribute to making the Review Conference a success. The fight against racism is of vital importance to human dignity, and we cannot afford anything but a clear, relevant and consensual message from the UN on this.

Most agree that multiculturalism has come under severe strain in recent years. There is a need to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and prevent the “clash of ignorance” that has led to increasing stereotyping of religious groups and others.

No country is immune to human rights problems.

We can all benefit from cooperating with the human rights mechanisms we have established and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights.

We can all benefit from demonstrating openness and receptivity in facing up to human rights challenges.

And not least, it is essential that we take steps to promote democracy, human rights and good governance.

We value freedom of expression because it is the foundation of self-fulfilment. Freedom is at the heart of the search for truth and the attainment of knowledge. Without free speech, no search for truth is possible, no discovery of truth is useful, and no progress is possible. Without freedom of inquiry and expression, there can be no scientific advance.

Mr President,

For more than 60 years promoting human rights have been an essential task for the United Nations. We must ensure that it continues to be an essential task. For as Martin Luther King put it in a speech about civil rights legislation:

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart but they can restrain the heartless”.