Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
On behalf of the Nordic Countries
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
10 December 2008
It is my honour to take the floor on behalf of the five Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden on this important occasion celebrating 60 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Nordic countries are pleased to join countries from all regions of the world in reaffirming this cornerstone of human rights, which constitutes the foundation for safeguarding and advancing human dignity worldwide.
The Nordic countries would like to take this opportunity to pay particular tribute to human rights defenders in all regions of the world. Over the years, human rights defenders have been a crucial force in bringing violations to our attention and pointing to ways of improvement. Without their courage and persistence we would not be where we are today. We pledge our continued support of their efforts.
For sixty years, the Declaration has inspired national and international efforts to put the protection of individuals at the centre of human development. It has contributed to the development of customary international law, and rights enshrined in the declaration have been laid down in international conventions on human rights which are widely ratified by countries. Mechanisms have been developed at the regional and international levels to promote and protect these internationally agreed instruments.
We have come a long way in developing the foundation established by the Universal Declaration. Yet, this is not only a day for celebration, but also for reflection, and for great concern. Sixty years down the road, no country can claim to have fully realized the aspirations of the Declaration. Millions of persons still suffer violations of their civil, political, economic or social rights at the hands of their governments, or suffer human rights violations which we as governments have a responsibility to prevent. In an era where genocide and other large-scale violations of human rights should be crimes of the past, they are crimes of the present.
We must all pledge to do better.
As the international community, and as individual countries, we have a joint responsibility to take this work to the next level. As Governments, we must do all in our power to extend the protection of all human rights to all without distinction of any kind such as birth, race, sex, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, origin,or any other status, including sexual orientation.
The ownership of the Universal Declaration must be shared not only by governments, but by the men, women, girls and boys which it strives to protect. In order to realize full ownership, we must undertake to bring the contents of the Declaration to the attention of those it concerns through human rights education and learning.
We, the Nordic countries, reaffirm our commitment to engaging with Governments, the UN and with civil society with the aim of making human rights a reality for all.