unofficial translation -
I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The candidate country the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia; the European Economic Area and EFTA member Liechtenstein, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
Two thousand and eight not only marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights.
This World Conference afforded the international community an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to ensuring that each human being benefits from all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action offers a reference framework to overcome obstacles to the promotion and universal protection of human rights. Our attention must remain focused on this action framework and we must continue our efforts to effectively implement the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and thus prevent human rights violations around the world.
It is undeniable that huge progress has been made in promoting and protecting human rights over the last 15 years.
The impetus of the World Conference led to the founding of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which significantly raised awareness and spread human rights within the United Nations system and on the ground.
In this regard, the European Union welcomes the excellent the work done by the OHCHR in Nepal, Colombia, Uganda and many other countries. It would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ms. Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who throughout her mandate made a valuable contribution to promoting and protecting human rights around the world. The European Union will lend its full support to the new High Commissioner, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, in her work to strengthen the universality and indivisibility of human rights.
We believe that the OHCHR should have all necessary resources at its disposal to independently determine its plan for strategic management and undertake its work in Geneva and on the ground, particularly in the area of technical assistance. Similarly, the EU is of the opinion that the rules currently governing its budgetary policy and human resources should be maintained.
The broadening of the OHCHR’s on-the-ground activities is particularly encouraging, and the European Union welcomes its efforts to consolidate its presence through the establishment of regional offices. The EU also welcomes the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the OHCHR and the Kirghiz authorities regarding the opening of a HCHR regional office in Bishkek. The EU would like to reaffirm that the opening or extension of the mandate of a HCHR regional office is a positive step for the country concerned, which will thereafter benefit from valuable technical assistance to improve its situation.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action calls upon states to sign and ratify the relevant United Nations human rights conventions. We must recognize that in fifteen years, great strides have been made towards the universal ratification of these texts, not to mention the adoption of new conventions such as those against enforced disappearances.
The Vienna Conference also called for the establishment of special procedures to determine both theoretically and practically the action required in numerous aspects of human rights protection. Here, once again, the valuable contribution of these mechanisms is indisputable.
Lastly, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action highlights the fundamental role of civil society in observing and promoting human rights, and over the last 15 years we have seen the worldwide emergence of associations and non-governmental organizations whose primary goal is the implementation of international treaties on the protection of human rights. The European Union commends their efforts.
The international codification of human rights continues to move forward with the negotiation of new international instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whose entry into force we recently celebrated, as well as the UN Convention against Enforced Disappearance, which we hope will be implemented shortly.
However, we are less positive with regard to the current human rights situation in the world. In practice, many people are denied the right to fundamental rights and freedoms. Human rights defenders often risk their lives fighting for this cause, and the European Union would once again like to assure them of its unconditional support.
Much remains to be done in the area of human rights in order for the Declaration and Programme of Action to be fully implemented and for human rights violations to be put to a stop. Each day, we must reiterate our commitment to justice, the rules of law and the fight against impunity, which are the only ways to fully achieve human rights. It is our collective responsibility, in collaboration with international and non-governmental organizations to lay down conditions which allow human rights to be effectively exercised at a national, regional and international level.
We commend the international conference of experts, which was organized by the Austrian government in Vienna last August to discuss how to strengthen the local implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Its recommendations, which will be released as a UN document under the 63rd UNGA, deserve our full attention and should be an inspiration for our future work, based on our shared conviction that no human rights violations should escape our scrutiny.
Mr. President, thank you very much./.