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Statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries on the Secretary General's Call to Action for Human Rights

Statement by Finland on behalf of Nordic and Baltic countries at the informal meeting of the General Assembly on the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights on Wednesday, 24 February 2021 delivered by H.E. Ms. Miia Rainne, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN.

Secretary General, President of the General Assembly, Colleagues,

I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries: Estonia, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Finland.

The work of the UN is based on three pillars: peace and security, development and human rights. These pillars are mutually reinforcing; however, we see an imbalance between the three. The Call to Action for Human Rights recognizes that human rights face major challenges and that systematic human rights violations, rampant impunity and a lack of accountability are widespread in many situations around the world. Therefore, the human rights pillar requires support, attention and commitment. With a well-documented correlation between societies’ enjoyment of human rights and their resilience to crisis, there also needs to be a closer cooperation between the security and human rights pillars of the UN.

The Call to Action  was timely and very much welcome initiative last year. The initiative reminds us that human rights are the responsibility of each and every United Nations actor, in the field, at regional level and at Headquarters. Today’s briefing is a great chance to be updated about its progress and discuss how to take implementation further.

The COVID-19 pandemic is adversely impacting people everywhere. We thank the Secretary-General for his leadership in placing human rights at the core of the UN response to the pandemic. In our view and based on our experience, there is no way around human rights if we are to achieve just, inclusive, democratic and – importantly – more resilient societies.

Today, the Nordic and Baltic countries wish to address three areas, namely women and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights, the role of civil society and funding for human rights at the UN.

Firstly, we have seen pushback against women and girls’ enjoyment of human rights in many countries during recent years. The pandemic, with women on the frontlines as health care and social workers, has exacerbated the situation. Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence has increased, while sexual and reproductive health and rights are jeopardized. The list does not end here. Promotion and protection of women and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights are essential for building back better. Women and girls are drivers of change and recovery, and we welcome the commitment of the UN to this end in the Call to Action.

Secondly, civil society plays a crucial role by sharing knowledge on human rights, raising awareness, and shedding light on injustices. This has led to more informed and better policymaking here at the UN. We continue to welcome civil society input, in particular bringing to our attention the rights of persons belonging to minorities and persons in vulnerable situations - including persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons and indigenous peoples, to mention a few. In this regard, we would like to welcome the Guidance Note on Civic Space as one of the first concrete outputs of the Call to Action. To ensure no one is left behind, it is essential that the UN continues to work with civil society and human rights defenders, guaranteeing them a place right here at the UN, and protecting those who engage with the UN against all forms of reprisals.

Finally, we are fully behind the Secretary-General in underlining that human rights are not optional. Human rights are  universal, interdependent, interrelated and indivisible, and in order to fulfill them, we must ensure that the human rights pillar of the UN is adequately and consistently funded. To enable United Nations to integrate and mainstream human rights in its work and assist member states in the implementation of their human rights obligations, we must act against the systematic underfunding of the human rights pillar and cannot and must not rely on voluntary funding to compensate for the shortfall. Unfortunately, this is not the case at the moment: extra-budgetary funding is necessary even for some mandated activities. Work as important as this cannot be based on voluntary arrangements.

Implementation of the Call to Action requires funding solutions that provide for a strong human rights system at the center of a strong UN. We continue to trust the leadership and guidance of the Secretary-General so that “Calls” and means will go hand in hand. As always, you can count on the Baltic and Nordic countries to be on the forefront of the human rights agenda, and our cooperation to achieve it.

Thank you.


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