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Human rights

Australia’s commitment to human rights

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

Australia is 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.

Australia promotes and protects human rights at home and abroad

Australia's commitment to human rights is enduring: we were an original signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. We have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation.

Protection and promotion of the human rights encapsulated in the Declaration is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace and security, and freedom and dignity for all.

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 the UN General Assembly Third Committee.

We focus our attention on working through our multilateral and bilateral relationships to progress:

  • Protecting the universality of human rights as expressed in international law, and a strong multilateral human rights system that allows for accountability, transparency and cooperation.
  • Fundamental freedoms: promoting the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief.
  • Social inclusion: working to ensure equal human rights for women and girls, LGBTI persons, indigenous persons, people with disabilities and others who may be in vulnerable situations.
  • Global abolition of the death penalty: implementing Australia’s Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty, in line with our opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances for all people.

COVID-19 and Human Rights

The lasting global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will make adherence to human rights critical to future peace and stability. Australia continues to make statements reaffirming the importance of human rights in COVID-19 response and recovery.

In pursuing global recovery, Australia reaffirms its commitment to the 2030 Agenda as the primary global framework for sustainable development and that places human rights at the centre of achieving sustainable and inclusive development.

Australia on the Human Rights Council 2018-2020

During Australia’s term as a member of the UN HRC for the 2018–2020 term, Australia built its engagement around ten pillars and priorities:

  • gender equality
  • good governance
  • freedom of expression
  •  rights of indigenous peoples
  •  strong national human rights institutions and capacity building
  •  rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons
  •  freedom of religion or belief
  •  abolition of the death penalty
  •  rights of peoples with disability
  • role of civil society
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