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Speech in the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 27 February 2018
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Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, friends,
It is an honor to once again be able to address the Human Rights Council.
A year has passed since I last stood before you at this high-level segment. The world has seen progress on several fronts, yet in other areas things remain the same, not least in terms of the lack of respect for human rights, democratic values and the rule of law.
One grave example of this is the situation in Myanmar. I was deeply moved by the stories I heard from the women in the camps of Bangladesh when I visited them in November. The testimonies of the horrific acts committed in Myanmar are numerous and can only be termed as crimes against humanity.
The people I met had not only been subjected to violence and abuses themselves, they also had to witness the suffering of their children and their family members. All the while, impunity reigned free.
This cannot be accepted. The international community must act to bring those accountable to justice and ensure a safe return for the refugees whose human rights must be respected.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank The High Commissionaire, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for his powerful speech yesterday. Your strong voice for human rights will be missed and I would like to thank you for everything you have done to bring human rights concerns to our attention.
One of the worst humanitarian crisis is of course the ongoing conflict in Syria. I welcome the adoption of UNSC resolution last Saturday on cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access in Syria. But now the resolution must be fully and immediately implemented. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to help the most vulnerable. All parties, and especially the Syrian regime, must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Today I would like to speak on three important topics.
Firstly, the global human rights legal framework was born out of the barbarous acts that outraged the conscience of humanity 70 years ago. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is part of international law. It is also an important milestone for the human family.
The international legal system - founded on human rights, democracy and the rule of law - must constantly be defended. Not least now, when many political leaders question the validity and universality of human rights and of individuals as the sole bearers of rights.
The responsibility to meet these challenges with resolve lies with us all – and the Council must play its rightful role in this regard.
Secondly, when human rights are challenged, when democracy is under pressure and the rule of law is undermined, we need the most courageous among us: the human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, bloggers and media workers, artists and publishers - all who dare to speak up on behalf of those who have no voice. For there can be no democracy without a vibrant and pluralistic civil society.
It is these brave women and men who help us as states live up to our international obligations and ensure that we are held accountable.
Yet impunity for crimes against human rights defenders is mounting, and women are particularly at risk. According to UNESCO, 800 journalists have been murdered in the past decade alone, and 90 per cent of these murders remain unsolved. This impunity is unacceptable.
Sweden will continue to champion all those who defend the universality of human rights and their ability to act free from threats, violence, harassment and reprisals.
Thirdly, human rights are a central element of international law and are essential to the development and maintenance of international peace and security, and sustainable development. The three pillars of the UN are equally important, as there can be neither sustained peace nor true development without the full and equal enjoyment of human rights by all.
In this regard I would like to highlight the need to strengthen the link between Geneva and New York – the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. Human rights violations and abuses are often root causes of conflicts and can act as early warnings of impending disasters.
As Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel so eloquently put it: "Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the centre of the universe." It is precisely because of this that the bodies of the UN must work together, not in parallel isolation.
The Human Rights Council should play an important role in preventing conflicts by adequately addressing situations before they escalate and the Security Council should make better use of the steady stream of information flowing from Geneva and rely more regularly on OHCHR to brief the Council.
Mr. President, finally
The autumn last year was characterized by an unparalleled movement. It can be summed up in two words: me too.
Throughout the world, women are neglected in terms of resources, representation and rights.
This is the simple reason why we are pursuing a feminist foreign policy – with full force, around the world.
Four years have passed since Sweden adopted a feminist foreign policy. Many looked upon this idea with scepticism– as if ensuring the human rights of 50 percent of the population was a controversial concept. And our feminist foreign policy has borne fruit.
Between 2015 and 2016 Sweden increased its development assistance to organizations focusing on women and girl's enjoyment of human rights. Sweden is now the largest core donor to UN Women. Furthermore, several thousands of midwives receive training each year, enabling millions of women to give birth with the help of trained personnel.
These are no small examples and they are only a handful of the things that my Government has done to advance the entire range of human rights for women and girls.
Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted it is about time that our daughters, sisters and mothers have the opportunity to enjoy the same human rights as our sons, brothers and fathers.