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Speeches, 2/28/2018

Statement by Under-Secretary of State Sipiläinen at the Human Rights Council

Statement by Ms. Anne Sipiläinen, Under-Secretary of State, at the Human Rights Council 37th session, High-Level Segment. Geneva, 28 February 2018.

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Mr. President,

It is an honour to deliver this statement to the Human Rights Council.  This august body has an important role to play in the prevention of conflicts. As the world faces complex challenges, the Council must reinforce the recognition of the mutual dependence of peace and security, development and human rights. Human rights violations and abuses are never acceptable.

The causes of conflict vary. However, it can be maintained that there is a causal link between conflict and human rights violations and abuses, such as violence against ethnic groups or the Government’s overall inability to secure a safe and dignified life for its population. The Council must therefore recognize that when such violations or abuses are allowed to continue, they provide a fertile ground for conflict.

As the key UN human rights body the Council must efficiently respond to the calls by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and fully support his independent mandate. The High Commissioner has Finland’s continued strong support and admiration. The Council should also more often cooperate with the General Assembly and the Security Council and bring, through the Secretary-General, its reports to their attention. The actions by this Council have to be guided by the rules-based international order.

We are appalled by the cruel attacks on civilians in Eastern Ghouta. Finland calls everyone to respect the UN Security Council call for a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire. We regret that systematic violence, blocking humanitarian aid, systematic destruction of medical facilities and schools in violation of international law continue in Syria. We urge all parties to respect international law.  The Syrian government, which has a duty to protect the people within its territory, bears the greatest responsibility for all this. Finland fully supports the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on international crimes committed in Syria (IIIM).

In eastern Ukraine a sustainable ceasefire is urgently needed as the hostilities continue and civilians are suffering. The only way to a lasting peace is through negotiations and the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement. Finland condemns the human rights violations committed in the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed by the Russian Federation.

We call on Myanmar to fully respect human rights.  To ensure national reconciliation, lasting peace and stability for everyone in Myanmar, all alleged violations and abuses, including against women and girls, must be investigated thoroughly and independently, bringing those responsible to account. We call on Myanmar to fully cooperate both with the International Fact-Finding Mission and the Special Rapporteur.

Mr. President,

We recently commissioned an independent study on Finland's work to protect human rights defenders. The study provided us with recommendations on how to improve our work. We should, for example, mainstream more effectively the protection of human rights defenders in our security and trade policies.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders has contributed to the visibility and protection of human rights defenders. Awareness of human rights has increased. At the same time we witness disturbing restrictions on civil society worldwide.  This includes violations of the freedoms of association, speech and assembly. There are also numerous human rights defenders – lawyers, civil society activists, journalists, bloggers, trade union members, whistle blowers – in prison due to their work on human rights and anti-corruption.

Women human rights defenders may face more challenges when taking an active role in society. This is particularly so when working with issues that aim to change gender roles, such as the right to property and access to land, violence against women or sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women human rights defenders also often face multiple discrimination. For example, indigenous women or women with disabilities can be discriminated against both on the basis of their indigenous origin or disability and gender.

I want to take this opportunity to pay our deepest respects to Ms. Asma Jahangir, a prominent human rights defender and UN Special Rapporteur, who contributed to the protection and promotion of human rights throughout her life.

Mr. President,

Digitalisation and artificial intelligence are important tools in enhancing sustainable development. They provide enormous opportunities in providing services, access to information and the development of new forms of civic participation. But digitalisation may also make access to services more difficult for those in a disadvantaged situation.  In enhancing digitalisation and artificial intelligence human rights must be respected, including by taking into account the right to privacy and questions related to accountability. 

The 70-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core international human rights instruments provide us with a robust framework to address these opportunities and challenges. We encourage the Human Rights Council to actively discuss the human rights, including gendered, aspects of digitalisation and artificial intelligence.

To conclude, Mr. President,

Finland has always been a staunch supporter of the rules-based international order. For us, it is important that we fulfill our responsibilities in upholding international law.  Therefore we have announced our candidature to the Human Rights Council for the term 2022-2024. We gladly continue to support the Danish candidature in the elections this autumn.

Thank you.

This document

Updated 2/28/2018

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