Human rights 'no longer treated as a priority, but as a pariah'

By agency reporter
May 24, 2018

In a speech delivered on 22 May 2018 at a conference marking the 25th anniversary of a landmark human rights declaration, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a stark warning that the world in general, including Europe, is back-sliding on human rights.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by consensus on 25 June 1993 and heavily influenced by the atrocities occurring just across Austria’s border with the former Yugoslavia, laid down the blueprint for human rights in the post-Cold-War era. It also set in motion the establishment of the UN Human Rights Office that Zeid now heads.

“This anniversary could be the occasion for a polite celebration of the achievements of my Office over the past two and a half decades – and they are many,” Zeid told the delegates gathered in Vienna. “But today is not a time for soporific complacency. Human rights are sorely under pressure around the world – no longer a priority: a pariah. The legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. The practice of human rights norms is in retreat. Here in Europe, ethno-populist parties are in the ascendant in many countries – fuelling hatred and scarring their societies with deepening divisions.”

Referring to Austria, the High Commissioner added "In this country – which more than most should be aware of the dangers of ethnically divisive rhetoric – false and incendiary statements have been made which are fundamentally at odds with the Vienna Declaration."

"We need to use this anniversary to begin to mobilise a much broader community to defend human rights with our fierce, and passionate commitment. We need to make clear the vital, life-saving importance of human rights for the daily lives and global future of our fellow human beings.

"Many of us do still have space to voice our concerns. We need to stand by our achievements and the advances which have been made.

"We need to push back against the haters, the destroyers, the isolationists and ethno-nationalists We need to move forward, defiantly, to ensure that those indivisible, universal, interdependent and interrelated rights are able to build on each other to shape a world of well-being and safety."

* Read the full text of the speech here

* Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


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