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United Nations (UN)

Joint statement for the Item 8 General Debate, 18 March 2021

Madame President, I am pleased to deliver this statement on behalf of 53 countries.

We have heard a great deal during the current HRC session about the importance of non-interference in domestic affairs.

In response to these points, we have a very simple position. States that commit human rights violations must be held to account.

The UN Charter acknowledges the domestic jurisdiction of member states. But it also affirms that human rights are universal – appeals to “State sovereignty” cannot be used to shield a country from scrutiny for its behavior toward those within its borders. Indeed, this notion lies at the very foundations of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and this very Council. The Human Rights Council has the responsibility to act when states are not meeting their obligations – a responsibility articulated in UNGA resolution 60/251.

The fact is, it is the responsibility of every state to uphold their international human rights obligations and to ensure that human rights violations and abuses are addressed, including holding those responsible to account. As is clear in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, it is the obligation of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Despite our different histories and domestic legal systems, we have a shared responsibility to address global challenges with a global response.

No country – including our own – can claim to have a perfect record on human rights. But we can and must strive to do better and there is a great more that all of us can do to promote and protect human rights domestically. Attempts by states to deflect criticism by blaming others do not diminish their responsibility to protect their own populations.

We invite all present at this session to devote their energies to protecting the human rights of individuals everywhere, rather than shielding governments from criticism.

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