United Nations Secretary-General to the Council: Human Rights are the Birthright of Every Human Being
1 March 2013
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this afternoon participated in a high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming at the Human Rights Council, saying that human rights were part of the DNA of the United Nations and the birthright of every human being.
The Secretary-General said that recent developments in the Arab world had demonstrated that people everywhere sought justice, accountability and an end to corruption and misrule. Peace, development and human rights were inextricably linked, and human rights were essential for advancing sustainable development. The post-2015 development agenda should be built on human rights, equality and sustainability. Mr. Ban urged all stakeholders to ensure that international human rights principles guided the post-2015 objectives, and stressed that the rights to education, healthcare and housing were rights for all. Human rights were part of the DNA of the United Nations and the birthright of every human being, said the Secretary-General, adding that every member of the human family had a right to grow and develop their full potential in a secure and sustainable environment and this required the full commitment of Member States.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Millennium Development Goals had been limited to socio-economic rights and had not taken into account civil and political rights. A human rights approach would require dismantling discrimination and ensuring that development was fully inclusive. Central to human rights was the universal right to education. Integrating human rights in development programmes accelerated progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Luís Brites Pereira, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal, said that the mainstreaming of human rights was an important opportunity which should be seized when defining the post-2015 development agenda. Without poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth, the world could not succeed in promoting human rights.
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Consort of his Highness the Emir of Qatar, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and Special Envoy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for Basic and Higher Education, said that education, dignity, justice, tolerance and equality were essential for human development.
Amina J. Mohammed, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, said that the post-2015 development agenda should include tools with which to tackle current and future challenges. It was important to eradicate extreme poverty and to ensure people’s right to health and education services.
Speaking as a panelist, Irina Bokova, Director-General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that human rights and human dignity started with education. The post-2015 development agenda should ensure that everyone could exercise the right to education and training.
Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Orgnization, said that 1.5 billion jobs would need to be created by 2030 to lift everyone out of poverty, and that full and productive employment needed to be part of the post-2015 development agenda goals.
Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that education lifted the status of women and was absolutely critical to their health. Universal healthcare was the best way to sustain the gains made while working towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Rebeca Grynspan, Under Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said that the Millennium Development Goals were an important way to achieve basic human rights and that human rights based approaches were essential to tackling growing inequalities.
Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said that out of all the children who were out of school, 53 per cent were girls and two fifths were affected by armed conflict. Access to education should be included in the post-2015 development agenda.
In the discussion on human rights mainstreaming, delegations stressed the importance of quality education for the full enjoyment of human rights and for ensuring sustainable development. Attention should be paid to the promotion of all human rights, including, economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. The eradication of extreme poverty and access to healthcare and employment were fundamental for the enjoyment of human rights and should be included in the post-2015 development agenda.
Speaking in the discussion were Morocco on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, United States, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, Gabon on behalf of African Group, Honduras on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, Uruguay on behalf of the Blue Group, Bangladesh on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, Thailand on behalf of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Ethiopia on behalf of a group of countries, New Zealand on behalf of a group of countries, Maldives, Turkey, Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, Estonia, Italy, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Bahrain and Egypt.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Save the Children International, Open Society Institute, World Environment and Resources Council, and Action Canada for Population and Development.
The Council will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 4 March, for a full day meeting to continue its interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her annual report, followed by a general debate on thematic reports of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, and a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.
REMIGIUSZ ACHILLES HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the Human Rights Council should play an important role in promoting the effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system. The high-level panel discussion would focus on human rights and the post-2015 development agenda, with particular attention to the right to education, and would provide substantive inputs for the work of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons by reaffirming the importance of integrating human rights in the post-2015 development agenda.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, expressed profound sadness at the passing this week of Stéphane Hessel, one of the main human rights leaders of the world. The guiding principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not rooted in idealism nor were they the work of altruists and dreamers; they were crafted by pragmatists who had endured atrocity and war and understood that the failure to respect human rights was a recipe for rebellion. The links between peace, development and human rights were inextricable and human rights were essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing sustainable development. Last year, a senior-level UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 agenda had been established and had recommended grounding the Post-2015 agenda on three fundamental principles: human rights, equality and sustainability.
This September, the General Assembly would convene a special event on the Millennium Development Goals to assess progress and identify remaining gaps and challenges; and the Secretary-General would present the broad contours for an ambitious, principled, practical and coherent post-2015 development framework, drawing from the work of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda. Mr. Ban Ki-moon called on all Member States to embrace this opportunity and urged all stakeholders to ensure that international human rights standards and principles help guide the post-2015 goals and objectives. The right to education was a crucial part of this picture but too many school age children were still out of school; this was why the Secretary-General had launched his Global Education First Initiative. Education, health care, housing and fair administration of justice were not a privilege for a few, but the rights of all.
Steady progress had been made to integrate human rights in the work of the United Nations, and the United Nations Development Group had established a dedicated Senior Level Coordination Mechanism for human rights mainstreaming. Human rights were increasingly integrated in humanitarian action and were already a standard component of the United Nations peace and political missions. Human rights were part of the DNA of the United Nations and the birthright of every human being. Every member of the human family had a right to grow and develop their full potential in a secure and sustainable environment and this required the full commitment of Member States.
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the very clear call for human rights had been heard throughout the consultations for the post-2015 development agenda. The Millennium Development Goals constituted an important commitment for lifting many people out of poverty, but had been largely limited to socio-economic rights and had not taken into account civil and political rights. The Goals had often masked the uneven advancement that ignored inequalities and discrimination and had been weak on accountability at national and global levels. Because human rights framed a vision based on substantive equality and equal rights for all, a new global goal on “achieving equality” must be the powerful central message of the new post-2015 agenda. Human rights clarified the post-2015 objectives, which must be universal rights which included not only minimum standard of services, or “freedom from want”, but also guarantees for personal security, political participation and access to justice, or “freedom from fear”. A human rights approach would require dismantling discrimination and ensuring that development was fully inclusive and enhanced the position of the most disadvantaged.
The universal right to education was central to the human rights approach. Education was a fundamental right in itself; it was also an important enabling right necessary to claim and realize other human rights and to achieve the right to development. Without respect for human rights, development would not be equitable and, unless it was equitable, it could never be sustainable. Integrating human rights in development programmes improved their impact on the ground and spurred progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and universal human rights, goals to which Member States had committed themselves and which the United Nations system must respect and uphold.
LUIS BRITES PEREIRA, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal, said that particular attention should be given to the poorest and most fragile States, which faced the greatest challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In Portugal’s view, the Millennium Development Goals lacked a clear human rights perspective and did not take sufficiently into account international human rights standards. Mainstreaming human rights thus constituted both a challenge and an important opportunity that had to be seized when defining the post-2015 agenda. One thing was certain. The international community could not conceive of poverty eradication and sustainable development while by-passing human rights, democracy, the rule of law, good governance and transparency. The removal of all barriers to equal participation in achieving sustainable development was an important issue and had to be addressed. Without poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth, there would hardly be successes in promoting human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. Looking ahead to the post-2015 agenda, education must remain a top priority. A human rights-based approach to development did not necessarily mean creating a separate human rights goal, but mainstreaming the human rights perspective into the goals to be defined in the post-2015 development framework.
SHEIKHA MOZA BINT NASSER, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, said that the simplicity and measurability of the Millennium Development Goals should be built upon and be used as a platform towards true sustainability. Development goals should be made enforceable, equal and universal, by making the principles of human rights clearly visible throughout them. Strengthening the human rights dimension in the development goals was the best way to ensure that these goals would also be enforceable. An accountability mechanism similar to the Universal Periodic Review would reduce the scope for violations by drawing scrutiny from the global community, not only over countries’ human rights records but also with regards to their commitment to human development for all. Education was one of the most powerful tools that could break the cycle of conflict. Nobody could deny that human rights’ values of dignity, respect, responsibility, justice, tolerance and equality, were essential attributes for human development. What had to be defined now was how to make those attributes part of the development framework, of which education was the core.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Assistant-Secretary-General and Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, noted that while grave inequalities remained in a number of countries, regimes in the Arab world had been toppled by people seeking justice, transparency, and equality. While accelerating progress on the Millennium Development Goals, it was imperative to form a long-term strategy that included tools to tackle current challenges and anticipated future ones. Sustainable development was at the core of the post-2015 agenda, demonstrating society’s commitment to social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Eradicating extreme poverty was important and combining a macro-economic strategy with broader policies would be critical in this regard. Inclusive social development involved ensuring the right to health and education services, schooling and relevant skill-sets were crucial; discrimination based on gender, faith, and ethnicity could not be tolerated; and results in the lives of people, especially women and youth, should be monitored and measured. The United Nations should think deeply about the implementation of the post-2015 agenda, bearing in mind that its main aspiration was to create a world of equality.
Statements by Panellists
IRINA BOKOVA, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, stressed the importance of human rights and human dignity and said that they started with education, which was a basic human right and essential for the fulfilment of all other rights. Progress had occurred since 2000 but steep challenges remained. Around 61 million children remained out of primary school and a similar number of adolescents were out of secondary school, which was a violation of the rights of millions of young girls and boys, especially children from marginalized groups and children with disabilities. Education was especially important for the post-2015 agenda, which should ensure that everyone could exercise their right to education, training, and learning opportunities. A sharper focus on education for creativity was required for human rights and global citizenship and, in this respect, a holistic perspective on education was essential.
GUY RYDER, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, said that there were 30 million more unemployed persons in the world today than before the global economic crisis started and many young persons today had never had any hope to lose. In 2009 the International Labour Organization’s constituents had adopted a Global Jobs Pact with a view to ensuring recovery and setting specific goals to this end. Those goals should be placed at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. About 900 million women and men were working but could not, along with their families, live above the poverty line. In order to pull everyone out of poverty, 1.5 billion jobs would need to be created by 2030. The creation of decent jobs was a challenge that needed to be confronted. Education was intimately linked to labour market processes and would have to constitute a lifelong process. Full and productive employment needed to be part of the post-2015 agenda goals, and States should be helped to identify targets within the sustainability, equality, and human rights frameworks.
MARGARET CHAN, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that education and health went hand-in-hand in the drive to lift people out of poverty, and were drivers of sustainable development in a knowledge-based economy. Education lifted the status of women and was absolutely critical to their health. No significant progress would be seen as long as women were regarded as second-class citizens, were excluded from educational and employment opportunities, and were victims of violence. In December, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution endorsing the goal of universal health care, the single most powerful concept that public health had to offer. Universal health care, by providing financial protection, helped ensure that no one was pushed below the poverty line by the costs of health care; it was fair and no one, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, was excluded. Universal health care was the best way to sustain gains made towards the health-related the Millennium Development Goals and to address other health challenges.
REBECA GRYNSPAN, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said that the United Nations Development Programme helped countries develop capacity to deliver on their human rights commitments. By 2012, 80 countries had asked for support to bring human rights more fully into their public policy, laws and development frameworks. The Millennium Development Goals were an important way to achieve basic human rights; they were not only about material achievements, but about the very way this should be done: if they didn’t touch the most marginalized groups and did not include the excluded, then their ultimate success would be hurt. Important lessons had been learned from practice: human rights-based approaches could be particularly effective in helping countries address the underlying and persistent roadblocks to progress. Human rights-based approaches were essential to tackle growing inequalities and the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals.
YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said that equity was among the new organizational commitments of the United Nations Children’s Fund and its equity strategy focused on most disadvantaged children. Much progress had been made on the Millennium Development Goals, including on education, but there were still children left behind. Those were children with disabilities, marginalized and poor children, girls, children who had to work to help their families, and children affected by armed conflict. Of all children out of school, 53 per cent were girls and two fifths were affected by armed conflict. For those children, armed conflict not only affected their daily lives but also robbed them of their future. Awareness about the specific problems of children out of school was increasing and strategies to assist them were available; the international community simply could not afford to exclude them from the post-2015 development agenda.
Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect all human rights, including civil, political, and economic and cultural, and the right to development, which encapsulated all rights. Morocco, on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, said there was a particular need to develop consistent goals and indicators; and underlined the importance of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, or transitional justice, for development. Bahrain, on behalf of the Arab Group, hoped that objectives in the future would focus on matters of priority, such as the role of education, dialogue among cultures, and rejecting violence. Success could only be achieved through the incorporation of the principles of human rights into development strategies. United States said that an essential component in the fulfilment of human rights was a comprehensive strategy for promoting education. Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, supported the various initiatives for furthering universal education for all.
Bangladesh, on behalf of a group of like-minded countries, said that a human rights- based approach should be able to inform efforts to promote development and take into account the different needs of different developing countries. Honduras, on behalf of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries, said that efforts needed to be redoubled to ensure the desired levels of development. The process should be marked by inter-governmentality, transparency and inclusiveness. Uruguay, on behalf of the Blue Group, said that the real challenge was to turn the right to safe drinking water and sanitation into reality and that this should not be neglected in the post-2015 development agenda. European Union enquired as to in what ways human rights should be included in the new global framework.
Ethiopia, on behalf of a group of ten countries, said that 250 million women lack access to contraceptives and reproductive health and that 275,000 women and girls died each year from pregnancy and birth related complications; prioritizing sexual and reproductive health was crucial as it reduced maternal mortality, prevented the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, retained girls in school, and improved child’s health. The education of the 15 per cent of the world population estimated to live with disability, was often not being prioritised, noted New Zealand, on behalf of a group of 13 countries, and stressed that new goals related to education in the post-2015 agenda must help build inclusive education and increase accessibility for persons with disabilities. The international community must learn from the Millennium Development Goals, said Maldives, as they had shown where the success was lacking, and that often it was the “how” what counted and not only “what” and “who”.
MICHEL FORST, Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, called on the international community to place human rights at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. The international community must be more ambitious in achieving the “freedom from fear” and the “freedom from want”. Gender equality and discrimination were growing and violence against women continued to undermine the achievement of many of the Millennium Development Goals, which had not reached the poorest of the poor. The international community must not be satisfied with development goals that excluded the poorest, and must aim for justice and a voice for all. The post-2015 must include a stand-alone goal concerning equality.
Save the Children International said that 200 million children were out of school, most of whom were the poorest and most marginalized; learning and equity must be the two principles underpinning the post-2015 development agenda. The Open Society Institute believed that this agenda should also include a specific goal on the right of education, which underpinned the achievement of all other rights and goals. World Environment and Resources Council said that new political action must be undertaken in Afghanistan to preserve the human rights of women, particularly, concerning their right to education and employment.
Turkey said that only 3 per cent of the United Nations budget was allocated to human rights and this was an issue which should be addressed, bearing in mind that human rights were at the core of development. Australia recognized that the Millennium Development Goals were inter-related and education was crucial to achieving all the other goals. Poverty reduction should be at the top of the post-2015 development goals agenda. Brazil said that the Council should place an emphasis on education and stressed that the eradication of extreme poverty should be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. Switzerland said that human rights were international obligations and, as such, should be explicitly incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda. The need to ensure education for all should be underlined in the new agenda. Estonia emphasized the centrality of human rights in the United Nations system. The United Nations budget allocated to human rights should increase substantially to reflect that reality. Education was of the utmost importance and should contain a human rights reference. Italy said that the right to development and the fight against extreme poverty should constitute priorities in efforts to advance human rights worldwide. Education was the most viable chance for marginalized persons to participate in social life.
Chile said that there was a deficit in the Millennium Development Goals and stressed that human rights were needed in the post-2015 development policies, including the principle of democracy and the right of access to quality education and health. Cuba said that the establishment of the post-2015 development agenda should be marked by an inter-governmental process involving, among other things, a critical analysis of why not all of the Millennium Development Goals had been attained. Costa Rica said that new development objectives should also be sustainable in environmental terms. Access to free and quality education for boys and girls should be a matter of priority. Sierra Leone said that the presence of the Secretary-General at the meeting had given human rights the attention they deserved, and stressed the importance of the right to development as an integral part of human rights.
Algeria said that education was an important factor in building social cohesion and, as such, it was given special importance in Algeria. Greater technical assistance and cooperation were required to ensure that disadvantaged groups were given an equal chance to prosperity. Bahrain said that equitable basic education was a human right in itself and was essential for promoting all other human rights. The post-2015 development agenda should identify sustainable goals that would contribute to promoting peace and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Egypt said that education, as a right, was fundamental for development. Regrettably an extensive focus on quantity had been placed at the expense of ensuring quality education. A re-evaluation was necessary on the coordination of the actions of the United Nations system for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that much remained to be done to realise reproductive and sexual rights for all, and that the post-2015 development agenda was an opportunity to address them comprehensively.
IRINA BOKOVA, Director-General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in concluding remarks, said that the post-2015 agenda should definitely include education. This was a question of equity and sustainability, and remained closely linked to all the other goals on the agenda. Looking only at the question of access to education was not sufficient. There were 200 million children who could neither write nor read properly because of the poor quality of the education they were receiving. Therefore quality was also crucial if the international community wanted to give young people the skills to enable them to enter the job market. Education was particularly important for the full enjoyment of human rights by women and girls.
MARGARET CHAN, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said in concluding remarks that the Constitution of the World Health Organization made it very clear that the right to highest attainable standard of health was the right of all people, and it was States’ responsibility to guarantee it. The mainstreaming of human rights in the health sector meant, in practice, that nobody should be denied health services because they were poor. Access alone was not sufficient and the health system had to provide quality services. The system must also reach out to people in need, such as the poor, the marginalized, disabled, people living in remote areas, people with HIV/ADIS, among others. Persons with disabilities must be given a voice and a seat around the table so that programmes planned for them were relevant.
GUY RYDER, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, in concluding remarks, was struck by the obvious and powerful commitment shared by all to ensure that human rights were indeed mainstreamed in the post-2015 arrangements. The question was not if it should be done but, indeed, how. It was quite early in the process to give very precise answers, but it was clearly a question to be taken into account in both the design and implementation. Concerning education, the notion of quality in education had come to the fore; regarding equality, including gender and persons with disabilities, among others, the International Labour Organization was giving it increased attention, as it endeavoured to upgrade its work on equality on access to labour for the disabled.
REBECA GRYNSPAN, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, in concluding remarks, said that the framework of human development was also embedded in the human rights-based approach to development. This recognition was important, as it was about people-centred policies and actions and the Goals could not be achieved without the inclusion of the most vulnerable. The discussion had called for a strong focus on addressing inequalities and discrimination in the post Millennium Development Goals framework. Concerning disabilities, Ms. Grynspan recalled that a multi-partner trust fund had been created for persons with disabilities as a joint effort of the whole United Nations family.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, in concluding remarks, said there was a need to focus and prioritize some issues in order to come up with a development agenda that was relevant and that could be implemented at the national level. Concerning the question of persons with disabilities, Ms. Mohammed said that the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons had held the most robust discussion on the right of many vulnerable groups during its last meeting in Monrovia.
KYUNG-WHA KHAN, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in concluding remarks, said that the “how” question was important and that this would be a part of discussions in the lead up to the post-2015 development agenda. For example, the Universal Periodic Review process had already been translated into activities on the ground and good practices were already emerging. There would be even more coming from the ground that would help clarifying the “how” question.
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