Human Rights Day

10 Dec 2010

Speech of Resident Coordinator for
Human Rights Day

Excellency,
Distinguished Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen

We have gathered here to celebrate Human Rights Day 2010 which is dedicated to Human Rights Defenders and their courageous battle to stop discrimination of all sorts. Today has a special importance for us, because human rights are at the core of United Nations activities. It defines our mission and constitutes the quintessence of our work comprising inextricable troika of peace, development and human rights.

Today we also celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-the Declaration, which for the first time in the history of mankind recognized and spelled out the core values, including those of non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality. And, human rights defenders have played and continue to play an important and indispensible role in giving inspiration and life to the Declaration.

Since the inception of the United Nations, there have been assiduous efforts to craft and implement a system of universal human rights – rights which are uniformly applicable irrespective of age, gender, race, color, space, status or creed.

Many a stalwarts have dedicated their lives and made immense sacrifices during the course of history in shaping, upholding and sustaining the supremacy of human rights: the abolition of slavery, extirpation of tyranny of colonialism, extermination of institutionalized racism and elimination of discrimination against minorities, indigenous peoples and women is a glowing testimony to the mammoth effort and a spirit to go beyond which they exhibited even at times at the cost of their lives. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those hundreds and thousands of men and women who spearheaded the effort and brought us where we are at this juncture of the history. We pay them the homage today, for they established laudable tradition and practice to defend and preserve the human rights.  

Ill luck would have it, lack of many of fundamental rights in many part of our planet continue to pose formidable challenge. This calls for a collective and concerted action no matter what we are or wherefrom we are: politicians, civil servants, traders, businessmen, students, development practitioners- we all must secure human rights; support those thousands of human rights activists who are harassed, abused, unjustly jailed and brutally murdered even in the so-called civilization of 21st century.

We have only to even cursorily scan the canvass of life across the globe to gauge the immensity of need for augmenting the effort of the defenders of HR:  hundreds of millions of individuals still suffer directly or indirectly from some form of discrimination every day; an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, a great many of whom face discrimination; even in the developed world, the life expectancy of some groups of indigenous children born today is up to 20 years less than that of non-indigenous children.

Minorities suffer similar affliction. In Latin America, for example, some 150 million people of African descent tend to be perpetually entrapped by poverty; and an estimated 650 million people with disabilities, more than two thirds (426 million) are living below the poverty line in developing countries.

Women continue to confront rampant discrimination in some societies, and more subtle versions in others. The impact of discrimination and violence against women and girls world-wide is devastating: as many as 55 million girls world-wide continue to be left out of formal schooling; an estimated 40 per cent of child soldiers are girls; and of young people aged 15-25 living with HIV/AIDS globally, more than 60 per cent are female.

The more than 200 million migrants worldwide, and especially the irregular and undocumented migrants among them, face racism, xenophobia and other chronic forms of discrimination, in both developed and developing countries.

There are still more than a billion people worldwide living on less than a dollar a day. Almost one billion people suffer chronic hunger. Almost one-third of children in less developed countries are underweight or stunted. The problem is even more serious when it comes to  basic sanitation. Half the population of the developing world, almost 2.6 billion people, do not have access to basic sanitation.

There are now an estimated 27 million victims of slavery-like practices globally. For many of the world’s 650 million persons with disabilities, small acts of kindness are, sadly, the biggest breaks they get.  

Laws to protect and promote human rights are indispensable.  But quite often, progress comes down to people… courageous women and men… striving to protect their own rights and the rights of others… determined to make rights real in people’s lives.

States bear the primary responsibility to protect human rights advocates and it is incumbent to ensure the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly that make their work possible.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Turkey has demonstrated on several occasions that it  is side by side with the international community’s efforts to boost human rights for all. Turkey has become party to core international instruments pertaining to fundamental rights and freedoms, including all of the seven principal international human rights treaties of the UN.

Turkey has also developed a sound and effective domestic legal and institutional framework with respect to the protection and promotion of human rights. We welcome and respect Turkey’s efforts to champion human rights and wish to offer our unstinted support in further establishing the legal framework, institutional mechanisms and operational procedures especially in the context of the National Human Rights Institute and the Office of Ombudsman.

Before concluding, I wish to reiterate that we must reach out to help the defenders and champions of human rights; cherish and applaud their work; and speak loud and clear with one voice: nobody is a second class human being and nobody should suffer for preaching so.

Let us resolve that together, we will strive to secure fundamental rights, uphold the dignity of individual’s rights and create opportunities for all to exercise their rights, for, the prosperity of the humanity: the present as well as posterity solely and solely hinges upon establishing a rights based society.

Thank you.