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Human rights

Australia’s commitment to human rights

Australia's commitment to human rights reflects our national values and is an underlying principle of Australia's engagement with the international community.

Australia was a founding member of the United Nations and an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. For over 75 years, Australia has been a strong advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights, especially in the context of advancing human rights in the Indo-Pacific region.

Human rights are universal but indivisible and interdependent. human rights apply equally to all people, no matter who you happen to be or where you happen to be born.

They underpin peace and prosperity. It is only through the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights that sustainable and inclusive development can be achieved.

Our commitment to human rights reflects national values that are deeply embedded in Australian society and our respect for democracy and the rule of law. It also underpins the way we have always engaged with the international community—with active, practical advocacy, sensitivity and fairness, and a willingness to speak out against human rights violations and abuses.

Australia promotes and protects human rights at home and abroad

Australia's commitment to human rights is enduring: Australians helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation.

We are strongly committed to advancing human rights globally through our bilateral relationships, development assistance and engagement with civil society, as well as our engagement in regional and multilateral fora, including the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

Protection and promotion of the human rights encapsulated in the Universal Declaration is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace and security. Australia takes a human rights-based approach to development.

Australia promotes human rights through constructive bilateral dialogue. Where appropriate, we work with countries to advance and protect human rights through development assistance and humanitarian support. At times, and especially in the case of gross human rights violations, we will apply sanctions.

Australia’s Multilateral Human Rights Engagement

Australia is committed to a strong multilateral human rights system. We continue to support the independent mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We promote efforts to strengthen the Human Rights Council and the wider human rights system.

Though Australia’s three-year membership of the HRC ended on 31 December 2020, we continue to actively engage as an observer at HRC, and at the UN General Assembly Third Committee.

Australia is committed to protecting and promoting universal human rights and defending the multilateral human rights system. We want to:

  • defend and advance the human rights of women and girls, LGBTQIA+ persons, persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples 
  • raise and defend fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion and belief and freedom of assembly and association
  • continue our leadership on combatting modern slavery, abolition of the death penalty guided by Australia’s Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty, gender equality and supporting the rights of people with disabilities
  • partner with Pacific Island Countries to tackle the human rights implications of climate change 
  • enhance the engagement of civil society in the multilateral human rights system and support human rights defenders and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) 
  • strengthen the multilateral human rights system to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, including specific country situations (for example Iran, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Myanmar)
  • and support a diversity of voices in human rights fora, including through our funding for Small Island Developing States’ and Indigenous Peoples’ participation at the UN.
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