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Madame High Commissioner,
It is a great honour for me to once again address this Council on behalf of the German Government. Please allow me first to fully align myself with the statement made by Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg on behalf of the European Union. I would also like to thank you, Mr President, for your able stewardship of the Council.
Since the adoption of its comprehensive institution-building package in 2007, this Council has devoted its time to substantial issues in several regular meetings and a remarkable number of special sessions. Yet now, halfway to the review of the Council in 2011, more must be done to enable the Council to fulfil its role as an efficient and credible centrepiece of the UN's human rights protection system. In this sense, 2009 and 2010 will be crucial test years for the Council, for example when it comes to dealing with the severe humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka or the untenable situation in Zimbabwe, where many thousands are dying in what is one of the most tragic cholera epidemics in history, now affecting the entire region of Southern Africa. I call on the leaders of SADC and the African Union to exert more pressure to end the plight of the men, women, and children in Zimbabwe and to bring about a government that reflects the true will of the people.
In taking stock of the achievements – and what may be seen as the shortcomings – of this Council, I would like to highlight the following points:
The Universal Periodic Review has not only become an accepted procedure, but is, in most cases, being undertaken as part of a sincere effort by states to come face to face with reality. Having recently undergone the UPR ourselves for the first time, we firmly believe that the combination of in-depth preparation at home, interactive dialogue and the challenge of deciding to act upon the recommendations given provides a lasting stimulation for the internal process leading to the full and comprehensive implementation of all our human rights obligations. Every country that has undergone the UPR has been challenged and impressed.
At the same time, we would hope that the UPR's efficacy is not merely a matter of who is – or who is not – on the list of speakers, or of treating delegations to coffee and tea to solicit their applause and compliments. Seen positively, such efforts undertaken in order to limit the amount of unwanted criticism in fact reveal nothing other than the true potential of an undisturbed UPR to bring the real issues to light. But even more pressing than such trifling points, Mr President, is the need to ensure that the UPR procedure receives the necessary financial resources required for it to function properly.
This Council should maintain a clear focus on human rights situations, both in its deliberations and its mechanisms. This requirement, to our mind, was not met when the Council convened a special session on the world financial crisis in February. In contrast, Germany fully supported holding a special session in November devoted to the dire situation in eastern Congo because it was clearly warranted by the situation. However, we deplore the lack of implementation of the related decisions made by this Council. In this sense, the renewal of several country-oriented mandates during this session will be of crucial importance if the Council wants to meet the expectations riding on it. Once again, we call upon all states to fully cooperate with the Council and to extend a permanent, standing invitation to all rapporteurs and working groups.
As a country that is committed to the idea of international aid and assistance, Germany observes with great concern that more and more states are placing severe restrictions on the work of internationally-funded human rights organizations, as we have seen most recently in Ethiopia. Recommendations recently made in the UPR process point in the same direction, such as when one government recommended to another “to avoid the impunity for people that are qualifying themselves as human rights defenders”. Germany firmly believes in a human rights policy that strives for the realization of fundamental human rights for all. Human rights defenders play a crucial part in this endeavour.
In a few weeks time we shall meet here in Geneva for the Durban Review Conference. My country places great importance on the fight against racism. However, in order to efficiently contribute to this fight, greater efforts need to be made to ensure that this conference will focus on the review and implementation of the 2001 Durban Conference. We therefore do not see the need to concentrate on the elaboration of complementary standards – instead, the conference should provide an opportunity for all to come together and share their experiences and best practices in the common fight against a true scourge of mankind. In this context, I would like to thank the Russian facilitator for the good work done so far, and call on all interested parties to invest further effort in making the review conference a success.
If we are speaking about minority rights in the context of the Durban process, allow me to stress another aspect. It is beyond any doubt that it is important to protect the rights of minorities in law and practice. But we must not forget that it is the individual human being that is at the centerstage of human rights protection. Thus, from a human rights perspective, it remains vital to ensure that the most basic rights are guaranteed for each and every individual, regardless of his or her belonging to a collective group or ethnicity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 60th anniversary we celebrated last year, rests on this very basic, but crucial assumption. It is these fundamental rights, emanating from the dignity of every human being, that states need to protect.
As in previous years, Germany is willing to work together with all delegations and non-governmental organizations in a spirit of cooperation and fairness. Let us ensure that the Council lives up to the expectations vested in it by the many men and women who are suffering from human rights violations worldwide.
Thank you, Mr President!