Item 2: Annual report of HC for Human Rights and report of OHCHR and SG
General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update
Statement by Iceland
13 September 2023
I thank the High Commissioner for his update.
The Human Rights Council draws strength from its diversity and respect for different backgrounds. That being said, there is no denying that this Council is increasingly struggling to find consensus.
We are reminded of these differences when the rights of women and girls are on the Council’s agenda, and the polarization increases exponentially when the rights of LGBTI persons are discussed.
Similarly, when the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to freedom of opinion and expression are up for discussion, this Council finds itself in what some have referred to as a “clash” of civilizations.
Let us be cognizant that behind these debates there are individuals. Individuals who face discrimination and persecution. Individuals who fear for their lives. Individuals who are not granted the same recognition and rights as those of us sitting in this very room.
No society is perfect, and we all represent our respective governments. However, when emotions are running high, let us be mindful that this Council has a precious mandate. Individuals count on us. Their lives may depend on our work.
The advancement of human rights is inherently an ongoing process. We as humans continue to learn from past mistakes. Policies and practices that were seen as acceptable are now recognized as human rights violations.
Irrespective of our governments’ national positions, let us not forget that lives are at stake.
I thank you.