Speech

"Human rights are central to our commitment to the United Nations"

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Thank you Mr President, colleagues.

70 years of the United Nations, 50 years of International Human Rights Covenants, 10 years of the Human Rights Council. These anniversaries allow us to reflect on our achievements. We should be proud of them, but not complacent. We must work tirelessly to keep human rights at the heart of the global agenda. The UK is committed to doing just that. Human rights are central to our commitment to the United Nations.

The dire situation in Syria; shocking attacks in Orlando, Dhaka, and Baghdad; attacks on civilians seeking UN protection in South Sudan; constraints on human rights defenders. Every single day reminds us that our freedoms cannot be taken for granted and that our work to prevent abuses and violations is far from done.

As we continue that work over the next decade, we should focus on three things in particular: first, how to implement existing treaties, second, how to prevent rights violations and abuses, and third, how to make our approach more coherent.

On the first, universal values should not simply be words in a UN treaty – they should be a reality of everyday life. We must lead by example, holding ourselves to the highest standards, honouring the 2030 Agenda, leaving no-one behind. We should encourage and facilitate technical assistance to states that want it. All member states must respect and promote their human rights commitments actively. And, at the UN, we should welcome and encourage engagement by human rights defenders and civil society that can so enrich our discussions.

Second, we should focus on prevention, by strengthening our early warning capacity and tackling root causes. Our working methods must be fit for purpose, so we can take robust action when needed. Not just in other countries, but also in our own, so that when we fall short of the standards we promote worldwide we correct ourselves.

And third, I welcome the UN’s efforts under “Human Rights Up Front” to bring a coherent strategy for preventing and responding to human rights violations and abuses. Working in silos is inefficient and ineffective – there is simply too much at stake for that to continue.

So I welcome UN improvements in analysis, information sharing and communications. They will improve our ability to deal with evolving crises.

In conclusion Mr President, the United Nations must use the full breadth of its mandates and activities to protect effectively the people it is meant to serve.

In the United Kingdom we are proud of our commitment to the UN, and as part of that commitment we are running for re-election to the Human Rights Council this year.

As member states let us all work together to provide the political will to stop human rights violations and abuses, and the suffering they cause.

Thank you.

Published 13 July 2016