Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström at the Human Rights Council
Geneva, 1 March 2017.
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Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to be able to once again address the Human Rights Council.
Equality is the foundation of the multilateral system that is the United Nations. It is the cornerstone of international law and human rights. All States are equal, so too are all the persons in this room and beyond.
Yet the winds of change are blowing. Unfortunately, the winds are not those of increased solidarity, understanding and multilateralism but rather those of xenophobia, prejudice and isolationism.
All of us, Sweden included, face continued challenges in ensuring the full respect for human rights.
Some argue that under the current circumstances, we should lower our ambitions concerning human rights; it is not realistic to push for their universal respect.
To them I say: human rights are not based on idealism. Human rights are based on binding obligations of international law. This is not the time to question what has already been agreed but to work together for their full and equal implementation.
The lessons learned by our predecessors in the ashes of a war-torn world were the very reasons for the creation of a multilateral system based on unity, equality and the rule of law. In the words of Dag Hammarskjöld: "The UN was not created to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell". Sweden will continue to fight tirelessly to reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights for everyone. We will continue to reject any attempts by States to restrict human rights by referencing national laws, religions, customs or traditions.
And we will continue to defend the independence of the Council and its special procedures against all those who wish to undermine its legitimacy and possibility to act.
In order to promote and protect human rights globally, Sweden will later this spring publish reports regarding the current situation for human rights in all regions of the world. The Government has also recently handed over a communication to Parliament on our priorities regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Two years ago I stood before you and declared that women's rights are human rights. But gender equality is still a vision rather than a reality in all parts of the world. Violence, oppression and systematic subordination are common place for countless persons, particularly women and children.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights. Based on Sweden's own experience, full respect for these rights is essential to achieve gender equality, full and equal participation in society, poverty reduction and social and economic development. These rights naturally have implications for a person's health. The role of midwifery is a key element in this regard as it allows women better access to maternal care. The Swedish campaign Midwives4All contributes in highlighting these aspects and rights which help save women's lives.
Sweden will continue to champion sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
As members of the United Nations, we have all vowed to adhere to the principle of non-discrimination for everyone, everywhere.
The struggle against hatred, violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity has to remain high on our agenda. We cannot sit idly by and watch as Governments actively engage in the promotion of hatred and violence against those most in need of protection. Discrimination can never be justified.
Again, it is because we are equal that we must all respect and protect each other's freedom of opinion and expression.
To defend these rights, the safety of journalists, bloggers, publishers, artists and union leaders is a paramount responsibility for us all.
Unfortunately, we witness an even growing number of reprisals, violence, imprisonments and murders committed against all those courageous enough to fight for the pursuit of human rights. Hence, we must all redouble our efforts to protect human rights defenders and allow civil society organisations greater protection and to combat the shrinking space.
In order to highlight the importance of freedom of opinion and expression, and to commemorate the 250th anniversary of freedom of expression in Sweden, I will later today open a Swedish exhibition here at the UN on this issue.
Sweden is committed to the promotion and protection of international law and human rights across the entire UN system, including in the Security Council.
As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Sweden will continue to advocate for the advancement of human rights, in particular women's human rights, as an essential component of conflict prevention and peacebuilding as well as in achieving a durable peace.
Violations of human rights are indeed a threat to international peace and security. It is time for the international community to act accordingly.
For it must be the will of "we the people of the United Nations" that in the end decides our common fate.
I thank you, Mr President.