Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Sweden

02/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/23/2021 03:01

Utrikesminister Ann Lindes anförande vid högnivåsegmentet FN:s råd för mänskliga rättigheter

Madam President, High Commissioner, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to address the Human Rights Council today.

Although I regret that we are not able to meet in person in Geneva and enjoy the buzz of the Council this time, I see the fact that the Council continues to meet and work as a sign of strength of continued multilateral co-operation.

Three areas will be the focus of my address today: democracy, women's rights and funding for multilateral cooperation.

First: Democracy.

In many parts of the world democratic space is shrinking, not least for civil society. We see human rights defenders, journalists and media workers being intimidated, harassed and exposed to violence for simply expressing an opinion, or reporting on current events.

Around the world, workers are being denied their rights and representation, as trade union representatives are silenced, arbitrarily arrested or even killed.

This has to end.

This is why the Swedish foreign service is mobilizing to shine a light on the situation of workers and the lack of respect for human rights in the world of work.

Disinformation and misinformation are other serious threats to democracy. Whether online or offline. In our rapidly changing reality, we need to ensure transparency and access to reliable and factual information. That includes strengthening free and independent media.

The trend of democratic backsliding that we have witnessed this past decade has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states use, and continue to use, the situation as a pretext to undermine the rule of law, to place undue restrictions on human rights and to weaken democracy and its institutions. Any COVID-related emergency restrictions must be strictly in line with international law.

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law must be at the core of the pandemic response.

Madam President,

Two years ago, Sweden launched the Drive for Democracy - a global and cross-regional initiative aiming to promote and strengthen human rights, including labour rights, democracy and the rule of law worldwide.

Our Drive for Democracy is a counter-narrative to democratic backsliding and authoritarian trends. It's about reducing inequalities, supporting democracy's principles, its institutions and its voice-s. It is about strengthening civil society and everyone's right to be who they are and making their voices heard. At its core ensuring the respect for the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information.

As this year's chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Sweden has also placed the human dimension commitments on human rights, democracy and the rule of law at the core of our priorities.

Now to my second point. Women's rights.

Women's rights are human rights. We have all agreed that this is the case.

We need to walk the talk. Words must be translated into action in order to truly ensure women's and girls' full enjoyment of human rights.

Gender equality serves all, men and women, boys and girls. It is about equal rights, representation and access to resources. This benefits society as a whole.

Six years ago, when Sweden launched its feminist foreign policy, we were alone. Today, I am glad to say that more and more countries are adopting a feminist foreign policy.

Sweden will never stay quiet as long as there are women and girls suffering from unsafe abortions or harmful practices such as female genital mutilation or child, early and forced marriages. We must strengthen access to comprehensive sexuality education.

I also want to stress the importance of safeguarding sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

We are all are entitled to the same human rights irrespective of whom we love, our sexual orientation or our gender identity. Our push for the protection of the human rights of LGBTIQ persons is consistent and will continue unabated.

Madam President,

Just as the efforts to promote gender equality cannot be carried out only by women, the fight against racism cannot be fought solely by those exposed. The fight against racism in all its forms must be fought by all of us who firmly believe in the equal value of all persons.

Antisemitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred and still prevalent today. This is why, in October, Prime Minister Löfven will host the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism. The aim is to take concrete steps ahead on these crucial issues.

Now to my third point. Funding for multilateral cooperation.

At a time of global crisis, when human rights are increasingly under pressure, international cooperation and a strong multilateral human rights system is more important - and needed - than ever.

Sweden strongly supports the Secretary General's Call to Action on Human Rights. We urge all states to fully cooperate with the UN Office of the High Commissioner and the mandate holders.

If States are to honour their obligations under international human rights law, adequate funding of the UN human rights system, primarily the Office of the High Commissioner, is essential.

This will ensure that the building back after the pandemic is human rights based and sustainable.

Sweden has increased its non-earmarked core support to the office. Today, we are proud to be its largest donor of voluntary funding.

On a final note; I am pleased that Sweden hase taken important steps towards creating a national human rights institution for the protection and promotion of human rights in Sweden, an issue that some of you raised with us during the Universal Periodic Review. Recently, my Government referred a concrete proposal for a Human Rights Institute to our Council on Legislation.

With that, I close my intervention. From a snowy Stockholm, I wish us all a successful Human Rights Council session.

Thank you.