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Speeches, 3/6/2014

Statement by Secretary of State Stenlund at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Statement by Mr. Peter Stenlund, Secretary of State, at the High-Level Segment of the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, 5 March 2014

Photo: Stefan Lee
Madam Vice-President,
Madame High Commissioner,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to address the Human Rights Council, a vital forum for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.

At the moment, much of the political attention is focused on the situation in Ukraine.  
In his statement on 3 March, Mr. Kourkoulas expressed the position of the EU which Finland fully supports as a member state. The EU continuously assesses its positions, the next discussion taking place tomorrow at the Heads of State and Government level.  

The future of Ukraine must be solved peacefully and with full respect of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. There should be no place for violence by any side in resolving political differences.  Impunity for human rights violations cannot be accepted. Particular attention must be given to protecting the rights of minorities – here the opportunities that the Council of Europe and the OSCE can offer must be used in seeking solutions and carrying them out.

In Syria, the tragedy continues. Finland deplores the appalling humanitarian situation and human suffering of the Syrian people. The Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council has reported of gross violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Human rights violations often target people not participating in the armed conflict and are committed by both sides of the conflict. The perpetrators of these violations must be held accountable. It is an issue of grave concern that despite the ongoing atrocities the Security Council has not referred the situation in Syria to the ICC. I would like to reiterate our call to the Security Council to do so, and to show that impunity will not be tolerated for these horrendous crimes.

Both the Syrian government and the international community have failed to implement their Responsibility to Protect. While it is already too late for so many, the international community must start reacting to these atrocities without any more delay and much more effectively than so far, to stop further suffering.

We witness grave human rights situations also in many other countries. Finland supports a strong mandate for all UN human rights bodies and mechanisms to address these violations.

Madam Vice-President,

The international community has together created a comprehensive normative human rights framework. The treaty bodies and the expert mechanisms of this Council complement the framework by providing independent expert guidance on the realization of these rights. The effective functioning and integrity of this universal framework must be ensured.

The Universal Periodic Review has established its place as a relevant forum for peer review. Finland had a very positive experience of the feedback during the preparation process and the consideration of our UPR report, including from civil society.  We are now preparing a voluntary national mid-term follow-up to the UPR recommendations. This process gives value to the recommendations and provides a real opportunity for dialogue with all stakeholders.

Adhering to the normative human rights framework pays off.  For example, a World Bank study shows that five years after a country adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, its pace of reform almost doubles that of the previous fifteen years. Increasingly research results testify that respect for human rights is also an investment in improved economic development and the society as a whole. We should seize this opportunity and resolve to strengthen the existing international human rights framework.

Finland looks forward to deepening cross-regional cooperation in the Council to ensure that our decisions will respond to the needs on the ground. We all face human rights challenges and need to learn from each other's experiences.

It is imperative that we listen to the voices on the grassroots level. The Council must keep its doors open to meaningful participation of non-governmental organizations and civil society. It must speak forcefully against harassment of individuals and organizations that bring human rights concerns and violations to our attention.

Madam Vice-President,

Human rights are one of the prerequisites of sustainable development. Finland fully subscribes to the Secretary-General's message that "no person anywhere should be left behind". We are committed to integrating a human rights based approach and gender equality in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Attention must be paid to that women, children, youth and groups that are particularly vulnerable to marginalization, such as persons with disabilities and the indigenous peoples, are included in the development agenda and can contribute to it in a meaningful manner.

We also look forward to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York in September. The participation of indigenous peoples on an equal footing with Member States in the preparations of the outcome document is fundamental to the success of the Conference. 

Participation as such is not enough; individuals must also be given the proper tools to do so. Inclusive education that provides access to quality education and meets the basic learning needs of individuals plays a key role. I just had the pleasure of participating at a side event on inclusive education with a special focus on persons with disabilities that Finland organized together with key partners.

In this context, I am happy to inform that Finland has ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) providing for a complaints procedure to the Covenant. We are confident that this procedure will be beneficial for further enhancing the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in everyday life.

Madam Vice-President,

December marks the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the General Assembly. The achievements in closing the gap in women's rights since the adoption are worthwhile celebrating. However, much more still needs to be done to end discrimination of women. In fact, our efforts need to be doubled in order to avoid regression. Women's equal participation in political, economic and social decision-making is still far from achieved. It should also be recognized that women who can freely decide on their sexuality and reproductive health, have better possibilities to educate themselves, take part in work life and the society as a whole.

Violence against women is a challenge for many countries, including my own. Women's rights cannot be fully ensured, if violence against women is not eliminated.
Finland will carefully consider the recent concluding observations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women based on the consideration of Finland's report in February.

Madam Vice-President,

An active engagement of women in conflict resolution as well as post-conflict and other transition situations is in the benefit of all societies. The implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and other related resolutions is essential. I encourage the Human Rights Council to do its part in transferring this comprehensive framework into action.

Finland is committed to continue engaging with the Council and its members in strengthening the international human rights framework, in bringing forward a human rights based approach to development as well as in achieving gender equality worldwide.

Thank you.

This document

Updated 3/7/2014

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