Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland
to the United Nations
informal thematic consultations of the General Assembly
on Cluster III (Freedom to live in dignity)
contained in the report of the Secretary General
(In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all)
New York, 19 April, 2005
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I would like to reiterate our support for the Secretary-General’s basic premise in his report – that development, security and human rights go hand-in-hand.
Iceland will address at this meeting the issues raised in Cluster III of the Secretary General’s report on human dignity.
We agree with the Secretary-General that the protection and promotion of the universal values of the rule of law, human rights and democracy are ends in themselves. And also that these values are mutually supporting.
Rule of law
The rule of law is fundamental to the dignity of the individual and his or her development. It is also central to development of society as a whole – without predictably applied just laws it is very difficult for any society to move forward. Corruption sucks the energy from any struggling economy. Arbitrary, autocratic rule forces individuals (or companies) to spend time cultivating favour with the referee instead of getting on with the job of scoring goals. Where there is no reliable legal right of ownership, investment whether financial or human, will be less forthcoming, economic development slower and more faltering.
Iceland therefore welcomes the Secretary-General’s proposals on creating a Rule of Law Assistance Unit within the proposed Peacebuilding Support Office to assist countries in re-establishing the rule of law after periods of conflict.
We welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to hold the 2005 treaty event focusing on the treaties to the protection of civilians. In this context Iceland calls upon all Member States to sign and ratify the convetion for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which will be open for signature at the beginning of the treaty event.
Deepening of democracy
Application of the law alone is not enough; the law has to be just and agreed by the people. For this reason we strongly support the Secretary-General’s emphasis on democracy as a universal value. As a signatory country of the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies, Iceland is convinced of the central importance to security and development of protecting the right of people to choose how they are governed. We support the practical proposals by the Secretary-General on making the UN more proactive in promoting democracy and in assisting in establishing it where it has not taken root.
Responsibility to protect
We support the Secretary-General’s strong statement on the responsibility to protect in cases of massive human rights abuses or genocide. Much work has been done in recent years under the leadership of a number of member states to find a conceptual approach to a problem which has often been obscured by concepts of sovereignty. We fully agree that the time has come to embrace the responsibility to protect and to be prepared to act on it in line with the Charter of the UN. Underpinning the foundation of the UN is the concept of our common humanity; when our fellow human beings are subject to massive human rights abuses, it is our obligation to come to their aid.
An important means of protecting against massive abuse is to ensure that past, actual and potential offenders are not allowed to escape with impunity. Iceland reiterates its support for the ICC and other international courts with a mandate to prosecute war criminals and other offenders against human rights.
We are still considering the more detailed explanatory note circulated by the Secretary-General on the proposed Human Rights Council. In general terms, Iceland strongly supports this idea and agrees with the Secretary-General’s analysis of the present Human Rights machinery. We agree that a smaller, standing body elected by all member states would enjoy far greater legitimacy than the present Human Rights Commission, which, as the Secretary-General states, has undergone a decline in credibility and professionalism. The suggestion by the Secretary-General that those elected to the Council should abide by the highest human rights standards would be a vital step in reinstating the credibility of the human rights machinery of the UN.
We also favour the raising of the profile of human rights that establishment of a Human Rights Council would achieve. At the same time it is necessary to ensure that adequate resources are made available to human rights work of the UN, including the important work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
This intervention has followed your directions in concentrating on issues raised directly in Cluster III of the Secretary-General’s report. We look forward to taking up other closely related issues, such as development and security in forthcoming debates.