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Statement by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre

Last updated: 03.03.2011 // Statement by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre at the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council 1 March 2011

Mr President,
High Commissioner,
ladies and gentlemen,

I believe it is appropriate to start my intervention on behalf of Norway by saluting the capacity of response of the United Nations.

We meet here in Geneva as the drama in Libya continues to unfold – and as millions across the Arab world rise up to demand full respect of their legitimate human rights.

Norway welcomed the timely Special Session on Libya held here in the Council on Friday – demonstrating the ability of the Council to react urgently – sending a clear message that the ruthless use of violence against peaceful protesters is entirely unacceptable.

Norway compliments the 15 members of the UN Security Council for having reacted swiftly, with precision and by unanimity to the madness carried out by the Gaddafi regime – a regime that has lost by all standards of legitimacy and that should conclude urgently that the time to go has come.

Norway compliments the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his determined leadership in the promotion and protection of universal human rights. The Secretary General is right in reminding us of the need to pay attention to the full spectrum of rights with equal force – civil, cultural, economic, social and political.

Norway commends the determined efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Navi Pillay, and her office. The world – all states and all citizens – need a strong, independent and courageous High Commissioner.
Finally – and above all – Norway pays tribute to the thousands and thousands across the world who are taking such daunting risks by standing up to their legitimate universal rights. They should feel a strong and clear message of support from this session.
Mr President,

The Libyan authorities must prevent further deterioration of the crisis. We reiterate our call for an immediate end to the violence and for steps to be taken to address the legitimate demands of the population.

We strongly support the call for an independent international investigation into the violent suppression of protests in the country. Unlawful acts of violence will not go unpunished.

The aspirations of the millions throughout the Arab world go to the core of the business of the Human Rights Council. The world at large is learning a powerful lesson of how the force of legitimate popular demands can rise to the surface and cause authoritarian regimes – even those with powerful police and security forces – to falter.

Universal human rights are enshrined in international conventions. Their full implementation cannot be limited by choice. But neither can one political model be imposed from outside. We now need to make available all relevant experiences to those populations who will enter and complete the transition towards democracy and full respect for all human rights.

Norway stands ready to offer its part.

Let me add this: The fulfilment of the aspirations of Libyans may come back to challenge the UN. A power vacuum in that country will do no good to no one. I urge the UN Security Council to start reflecting o n how the international community can step in and assure the rights of people – and the future prospects of stability and democracy.
Mr President,

Global poverty is our gravest human rights challenge today. We must promote economic, social and cultural rights to the same extent as civil and political rights. They are inherently interconnected.

Access to safe drinking water and adequate food are key rights for health and welfare. We are reminded of this fact in the reports from the current events in the Middle East.

Our contributions to human rights must also be seen in the context of fighting poverty and promoting development – and mobilizing the political will to confront climate change.

Donor countries must live up their obligations. Norway is doing its part through its annual international development budget of one per cent of gross national income. At the same time, we call upon developing countries to mobilise more of their domestic resources for development.

Universal human rights are included in each and every one of the Millennium Development Goals. The world is making progress towards reaching these goals, but daunting challenges remain, first and foremost in the field of child and women’s health. Every minute a woman dies from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Norway has made this an area of priority, through active engagement in the global initiative on MDGs 4 and 5, and we encourage other partners to join forces.

Mr President, 

Sadly, in many places discrimination against women and girls is still the rule rather than exception. As a result, many women are condemned to poverty, which again exposes them to further abuse. 

Several states have made commitments with respect to women’s rights in the context of their Universal Periodic Review. This is encouraging.

One of the main achievements in the Human rights Council last year was the decision to establish a working group to address discrimination against women. We have high expectations of the working group’s contribution to the fight against gender discrimination.

Let us apply this perspective: Empowering women is not only right – it is also the sound thing to do – economically as well as politically, ensuring equal opportunities, providing good health care, and increasing the ratio of women in working life – and thus making a forceful contribution to a stronger economy.

Mr President,

Let us take this occasion to bring the courageous human rights defenders to the centre of the stage. They bring to light the realities on the ground, without which national and international efforts would be ineffective. They play a crucial part in the democratic process, but equally important, they serve as an indicator of democratisation and an engine for further development.

Across the globe, from Belarus to Iran, from Myanmar to the Ivory Coast – from the streets of occupied territories - courageous human rights defenders – be they journalists, lawyers, members of human rights NGOs or others – work tirelessly to promote the rights to health, food and education, and to fight racism, torture and all other forms of human rights violations. All too often the risk is enormous.

We are deeply concerned about the increase in attacks against human rights defenders. We know that the attention and support of the international community not only encourage human rights defenders to keep up their efforts, but also provide effective protection.

The cause of these brave women and men is now highlighted by both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner. This is indeed to be welcomed.

During this session of the Council, Norway will introduce a resolution to renew the mandate on the situation of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. We call on the broadest possible endorsement of this resolution.

Mr President,

We are making valuable lessons from our membership of the UN Human Rights Council.

We see great value in the stronger attention to the human situation on a country level – closer to people, closer to the daily reality where the rights are to be enjoyed. The Universal Periodic Review mechanism is a crucial improvement towards relevance - as is the ability to react swiftly to the situation in Libya as we have seen demonstrated in recent days.

Norway is committed to use its membership to ensure that every individual is better protected against discrimination and abuse.

Our aim is to give meaning to the words of the Secretary-General: human rights are equally valid to all people, in all countries, at all times.

Thank you.

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