The Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked the beginning of the important work of the United Nations in codifying and developing international human rights law. This is one area where the UN has been successful. Although originally the Declaration was not thought to establish international legal obligations, it can now be argued persuasively that substantial parts of the Universal Declaration have become part of customary international law, binding upon all states.
The human rights instruments that followed the Declaration have led to enormous progress in setting out the obligations in this field. What has made the system weak, however, has been the lack of enforcement mechanisms. This has now been improved with the entry into force of the International Criminal Court. My country has high hopes that the Court will be a powerful tool for enforcement.
We are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights.
There we declared all human rights to be universal. We also confirmed that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind, is a fundamental rule of international human rights law. Unfortunately, basic human rights, including political and civil rights are breached in many parts of the world. Iceland recalls the importance attached to democracy as a means of safeguarding human rights. Furthermore, discrimination continues all over the world on the basis of race, colour, gender and religion. More rigorous efforts are needed to ensure human rights and to combat discrimination. No discrimination should be tolerated.
In Vienna we underlined that the rights of women are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. Nevertheless, discrimination against women remains widespread worldwide and violence against women is one of the most common and glaring human rights abuses ? not only in times of war, but also in the domestic setting. Iceland is ready to join forces with others to find ways to address these problems through the United Nations. We welcome the new initiatives that were taken during this session on domestic violence as well as the request for a study on violence against women for the 60th session. It is regrettable that it was impossible to reach a more comprehensive commitment to combat violence against women.
Last week we marked the international Day of the Disabled. Their rights need to be ensured. Iceland hopes for progress on the elaboration of an international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
The World Conference underlined the link between extreme poverty, development and human rights. On the positive side we have managed to map out ways of approaching the challenge of development through the Millennium Declaration.
On the other hand, progress towards achieving the set goals is very slow.
A worrying setback has been the stalling of the Cancun process to create a trading system which is fair to all. Many countries are committed to revitalizing these discussions. We in the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have started talks in Geneva with a number of our African colleagues to share ideas on ways to push this process forward. It is important to keep in mind that human rights, development and security are intricately related, although as the Vienna Declaration states, poverty cannot be an excuse for breaking human rights.
In Vienna we acknowledged that the aim of terrorism is among other things the destruction of human rights. Since then terrorism has emerged as one of the main threats to global security. Iceland welcomes the initiative of the Secretary-General in establishing the Panel to study global security threats.
While combating terrorism we must ensure that any measures taken comply with our obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. We must uphold the rights of victims of war to be assisted by humanitarian organizations. Attacks on members of humanitarian organizations, including the UN, are unacceptable. It is also important to remember that all parties to armed conflicts have rights under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and international human rights law.
The proliferation and availability of weapons, not least small weapons, multiplies violence and suffering. Iceland supports calls for an arms trade treaty to prevent arms being exported to destinations where they are likely to be used to commit grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Iceland, together with other Nordic countries has already signed a pledge along these lines together with the Red Cross.
Trade in devices which can be used in torture is also a matter of concern. We commend the work being carried out in a number of fora to set limits on trade in such equipment.
Finally, in line with the commitment made at the World Conference, Iceland appeals to all Member States to review any reservations they have made to international human rights instruments with a view to withdrawing them. This is particularly pertinent as regards the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We should also continue to strive for their universal ratification.
Thank you, Mr. President