Tale/innlegg | Dato: 03.04.2000
Minister of Foreign Affairs Thorbjørn Jagland
UN Commission on Human Rights Geneva
Geneva 3 April 2000
Ladies and gentlemen,
Addressing you here today is a special occasion for me, as I am the first Norwegian Foreign Minister to deliver a statement in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In today’s globalized world there is a clear trend towards common values and principles. Respect for human rights, the rule of law, openness and democracy are ideals we all share.
Common values and ideals are, however, of little value if they do not lead to concrete results for the individual human being.
Many of the problems we are facing are directly related to the fact that the very human rights and democratic principles we all have committed ourselves to, are not being lived up to.
The gap between good intentions and practical application must be closed.
The new Norwegian government will carry on Norway’s strong commitment to human rights.
Human rights will continue to be an integral part of Norway’s domestic, as well as our foreign policy.
Human Rights is basically about human dignity – about protecting the individual against oppression and exploitation, poverty and injustice, marginalization and degradation. The struggle for civil and political rights, and for social economic and cultural rights, is part of the same struggle for human dignity.
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments, Norway has worked hard to implement these commitments within its legal and political system. An act on the incorporation of core human rights conventions into Norwegian law was adopted in May last year.
We have also adopted a National Plan of Action for Human Rights. Fully half of the recommendations in the plan deal with domestic human rights issues. We will start at home - looking closely at our own performance.
But we will also continue focusing on human rights abroad. Human rights are universal rights. They are essential for peace, economic growth and political stability.
Large-scale human rights violations are not merely the product of civil and ethnic conflict, they are also a major factor behind such conflicts. Governments that continue to disregard basic human rights norms, deprive their population not only of political freedom, but also of improved economic conditions.
The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights.
Capital punishment is unacceptable. Its world-wide abolition will greatly enhance human dignity and respect for human life.
Almost half the members of the United Nations have now abolished the death penalty, either in law or in practice.
Norway urges all states that have not yet committed themselves to abolishing capital punishment to do so.
I call on this Commission to take a clear stand on this issue.
Racism and discrimination are found in all countries of the world, including my own.
Combating racism is above all a matter of raising awareness and changing attitudes.
Racism will first and foremost have to be fought at the national level, through efficient national measures. Here, governments will have to take the lead.
Governments must facilitate initiatives and support action against racism and discrimination at grassroots level. We must encourage popular participation. We must speak out against wrongdoing. We must act on our promises.
In order to increase the efficiency of our national efforts, we must involve every sector of society. All levels of government, civil society and individuals must work together.
In Norway we have recently appointed a legislative committee that will propose legislation aimed at preventing ethnic discrimination in all sectors and all levels of society.
Equality before the law is a must. Nelson Mandela made the point during his early years in captivity: Above all, he said, we want political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent.
But legal equality is only the first step. The next step is to rectify disparities by actively promoting the needs and rights of the under-privileged.
In our fight against racism and discrimination, national action must be supplemented by international efforts.
As a very minimum, we must ensure that already existing international standards are lived up to.
As the world becomes more globalized, we can see a trend towards stronger identification with national and local traditions and culture. People are seeking to find their own identity, and many are joining together to preserve their cultures and values. This is both natural and positive.
However, we must take care that national or ethnical pride does not develop into chauvinism, intolerance and outright racism.
The World Conference in South Africa next year will be crucial in our struggle against racism and for equality and opportunity for all. Norway pledges its full support to this conference.
It is difficult to ensure respect for human dignity in a world where a large proportion of the population lives in poverty. Combating poverty must therefore be a priority in our promotion and protection of human rights.
These questions are high on the agenda of the Commission, not least in the working group on the right to development.
The right to development builds on the recognition that the primary responsibility for the well-being of the inhabitants rests with the state. Governments are responsible for pursuing development-oriented economic and social policies, good governance and to distribute the nation’s wealth so that everyone is given a chance to improve his or her situation.
We all have an obligation to assist. Against this background it is a sad fact that most industrialized countries are far below the agreed target of 0.7 per cent of GDP for development purposes.
In a global economy, solutions have to be global. What we need is a new partnership between the developing and the developed world, based on result-oriented policies in developing countries and a commitment on the part of the developed countries to reach the 0.7 per cent target within an agreed time frame.
Let me comment on a few other issues of priority to my government during this session of the Commission:
Fifty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly adopted another landmark - The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
This declaration recognises the special vulnerability of those who speak out in defence of civil rights, fight against racism, discrimination and absolute poverty.
We have all given our support to this declaration. Now is time to follow up on our commitments.
To this end, Norway will shortly submit a draft resolution to this commission asking for the establishment of a mechanism which can provide advice to governments, review the implementation of the declaration and gather information on the situation of human rights defenders in all parts of the world.
There is a famous quote by the German theologian Martin Niemöller which sums up why we need a mechanism to defend the human rights defenders:
In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
We need the human rights defenders to speak up. We need to protect the human rights defenders so that they are not so easily silenced.
On 16 February this year Norway became the seventh state to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
When it is established, the Court will be a significant deterrent to the most serious international crimes.
I sincerely hope that the 60 ratifications needed for the Court to enter into force will soon be obtained.
I urge all states to take the necessary steps towards ratification.
Today, a growing number of countries are showing a willingness to engage in dialogue on human rights.
Norway has entered into systematic human rights dialogues with many countries. We also have bilateral co-operation on human rights issues with a number of other states. We will continue to support and to encourage such dialogue and co-operation.
Advice and assistance in concrete efforts to secure human rights is essential. Both individual states and international organisations must help in this endeavour.
Norway provides such assistance through bilateral human rights dialogues, and internationally through among others the High Commissioner’s programme of technical co-operation on human rights.
However, we must do more to ensure that adequate resources are devoted to these efforts. Norway is prepared to take its share.
Children are the most vulnerable among us and need special protection. It is therefore essential to support the international effort to protect the rights of children.
Norway gives its full support to the work of the United Nations Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict. In wars and armed conflicts, children suffer the most. As victims of aggression and landmines, as child soldiers and as refugees.
Norway also strongly supports the work of UNICEF and other international organizations focusing on children.
I am pleased to note that during this session of the Commission, two additional protocols to the convention on the Rights of the Child will be considered. I sincerely hope that these two protocols may be implemented quickly.
Each year more than 3 million children die from curable diseases. Diseases children in developed countries are vaccinated against. This is clearly not acceptable. My government is therefore prepared to give a substantial contribution to the global vaccination programme under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, UNICEF and private donors.
In his speech to this audience last week, the Norwegian Ambassador dealt with the human rights situation in a number of specific countries. There are clearly many reasons for concern. But we also see positive developments in many countries, among them Indonesia, Cambodia and Croatia, which give hope for the future.
We are here to make a difference in the lives of those suffering oppression and persecution. We are here to secure the human dignity of every individual. We are to promote equal rights and equal opportunities. Our mission is not completed until all human beings enjoy their human rights.
We will only succeed in our efforts if we remain true to our values and ideals.
Norway is proud to be a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. I pledge our full and constructive support for the important work that you, Mr. Chairman, and this body are doing.