Ladies and gentlemen
Good afternoon to all of you from Switzerland!
I am very pleased to celebrate with you all the historic decision taken by the General Assembly 10 years ago to create the Human Rights Council. It has been an important milestone for human rights and for Switzerland, which places human rights at the heart of its political activity. Switzerland is host state of the Human Rights Council and of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A whole constellation of institutions and NGOs active in this area are based in Geneva. This city is the world capital of human rights, serving the international community and individuals all over the world.
Ten years ago, the Human Rights Council was born. Ten years –the age of innocence; the age of childhood. So when we ask today what we have achieved so far, the response can be read in the eyes of many ten-year old children around the world: there is hope, there is progress, but there is a lot of work ahead of us.
Let me start by underscoring that the Council has achieved remarkable and very welcome successes. Two examples:
First, the Council has established solid mechanisms whose authority is indisputable. For instance, the Universal Periodic Review has become a driving force in advancing human rights. The same is true of the Special Procedures, the eyes and ears of the Council.
Second, the Council has proven to be highly responsive. It has shown itself capable of responding rapidly to human rights violations. The Council deals with critical situations wherever they may occur. It grasps new issues arising from societal change. This dynamism has meant that its activities have constantly evolved and increased, to the point where it is now permanently in action.
The Council's successes and the action taken have helped consolidate the human rights architecture. There remain challenges, however, when it comes to implementing those rights. Human rights violations are still a widespread reality, especially in fragile contexts and in failing or authoritarian states. Elsewhere, the universality of human rights is regularly challenged.
The gap between the Council's activity and the reality on the ground is considerable. We must work together to close this gap. Switzerland has identified three possible ways of augmenting the Council's impact on the ground:
First, the Council must focus more on monitoring the implementation of its work at the national level. We need to support countries that are committed, and hold those that violate human rights to account. The Council's impact on the ground must be boosted by optimising the existing mechanisms. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to make it roll in the right direction.
Second, we need to include non-state actors, both civil society and the private sector, to a greater extent. Their role is vital in ensuring that human rights are respected. Protection for defenders of human rights, the space given to civil society and its participation in the Council must be reinforced.
Finally, the role of the Council in the UN architecture needs to be strengthened. Fresh impetus must be given to the pillar of human rights. Political mobilisation is needed to ensure that human rights play a more important role in all UN activities.
We therefore welcome the Human Rights up Front initiative. We also welcome the initiative to stage a high level debate in July on the role of human rights in peace and security.
Switzerland believes that the Council's 10th birthday is an opportunity to get us all working together. Together, we must strengthen the pillar of human rights, alongside these existing efforts and initiatives. For this reason, we are going to launch an appeal in June of this year. Its aim is to improve conflict prevention by optimising communication and further enhancing collaboration on human rights issues between the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the Security Council in New York.
Human rights violations are always an indicator of potential instability or the escalation of a conflict. Often they pave the way for the worst tragedies. Such violations are a warning light that is too often ignored. It is up to us, working together, to ensure that this situation changes and to put human rights at the centre of prevention.
In order to have a human rights pillar that is up to the task, we must allocate the sorely needed additional resources. Investing in human rights means investing in prevention and in a more peaceful world. Switzerland will pursue its commitment to ensure that more resources from the ordinary budget and from peacekeeping operations budgets are devoted to it.
Ladies and gentleman and dear friends
The Human Rights Council has accomplished a lot in its first 10 years. The fragile new-born of ten years ago stands today as a growing child. Together, from Geneva to New York, we must invest in human dignity and in respect for the human rights of every individual. We owe it to the future generations. To all those children who share today the 10th anniversary but not the same rights. That’s our common task – our common responsibility.