Delivered by H.E. Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann
I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of Andorra, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Switzerland, the United States, the EU and it’s member states – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and my own country, Denmark.
We welcome the briefing on the status of the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights.
We wish to commend the Secretary-General’s attention to the importance of a human rights-based approach, across pillars, and we welcome the reaffirmation of the UN’s commitment to protecting and promoting civic space as an essential prerequisite for sustainable development, safeguarding peace and security and protecting human rights.
When the ‘call to action’ was launched, the world was facing widespread human rights violations. Over the past year, the Covid-19 crisis has further exposed and exacerbated human rights violations and abuses, affecting disproportionately the most vulnerable. We have witnessed increasing hate speech, misogyny, exclusion and discrimination; the MUTE button pressed on civil society. In this critical juncture, the Call to Action to put human rights at the heart of the UN’s work is only more acute.
Civil society and human rights defenders play a crucial role in supporting our work at the United Nations and the healthy functioning of democratic institutions. Through its diverse range of expertise, perspectives and lived experiences, civil society enriches the decision-making process. The UN and its Member States have a collective responsibility to realize fundamental freedoms and human rights for all. Recalling the three opening words of the UN Charter, we are reminded that the United Nations is not the preserve of governments or States alone, but of “We the peoples”.
We are conscious that the UN has already taken important action to support civil society and welcome in particular the launch of a new UN system-wide guidance on the protection and promotion of civic space in September 2020.
In support of ongoing efforts like these under the 'Call to Action’, our countries, with the support of civil society, have prepared a set of specific recommendations on ways to strengthen civil society participation at the UN. The recommendations include ways to bridge the digital divide, ensure meaningful engagement at the UN and the call for an Envoy for Civil Society.
Digital technologies, for instance, have shown their value in broadening engagement for different stakeholders. While we recognize that there remain barriers to overcome to ensure inclusive meetings, such as access to the Internet or language barriers, the UN should seek to expand the participation across UN processes, creatively, by all available means and in close consultation with civil society, to identify and overcome these barriers.
Beyond procedural conditions for effective and meaningful participation, the UN can and should explore revising, through system-wide strategies, the modalities for inclusive civil society engagement across the spectrum of UN processes, inter alia, through: improved access to information, engagement in preparation phases, and the formal recognition of independent civil society reports.
Finally, to have a positive impact, these actions require policy consistency across the UN system. The creation of periodic spaces or platforms for accountability, review and stocktaking of ongoing efforts to strengthen civic space at the UN, such as a “Civil Society Action Day”; or - inspired by the impressive work done by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth - further tasking an “Envoy for Civil Society” to support an inclusive, meaningful and consistent civil society participation across the UN, is proposed to be explored.
These are concrete proposals that seek to support your ongoing efforts under the Call to Action for Human Rights. It is our belief that the recommendations can enhance the meaningful and inclusive participation of civil society at the UN.
We stand ready to dedicate our efforts under your leadership to contribute to their implementation, and we look forward to working with you, Mr. Secretary-General, as well as with all governments and stakeholders, on the continued implementation of the call to action to achieve the “highest aspiration”, in the words of the Universal Declaration. You can count on us to continue to take up the fight.