Striving for progress: Foreign Minister Baerbock travels to Geneva for the Human Rights Council

Palais des Nations in Geneva, the second-largest UN centre after New York

Palais des Nations in Geneva, the second-largest UN centre after New York, © Thomas Trutschel/ photothek.net

26.02.2024 - Article

Around the world, international human rights protection is experiencing almost unprecedented pressure. That is precisely why the Human Rights Council is so important at this time. You can see what is on the agenda for Foreign Minister Baerbock today as the 55th session here gets underway.

In UN jargon, a general debate conducted by heads of state and government and ministers is called a high-level segment. The 55th session of the Human Rights Council is starting with such a segment today with the session continuing until 4 April. The Council focuses on human rights violations around the world and further develops international human rights obligations. Foreign Minister Baerbock is representing Germany today in Geneva and will give a speech in the plenary.

Prior to her departure, the Minister said:

Human rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable. They do not distinguish between north and south, east and west. They are valid for all people, at all times and in all places. And in all places they have equal value. Because each and every human life counts in equal measure.

Key topics: Iran, Russia’s crimes in Ukraine, Middle East

Human rights are universal and apply around the world – a simple sentence that unfortunately sounds like a distant utopia for too many people.

Foreign Minister Baerbock:

We do not look away when a young woman in Tehran pays with her life for her locks of hair glistening in the sunshine. When a desperate father in Rafah does not know how to feed his children. When a woman in Tel Aviv cannot forget the trauma of sexual violence. When a teenage boy in St Petersburg faces a draconian punishment for quietly laying down flowers. When a girl in Mazar-e Sharif will never be allowed to go to school to learn to read. And also when every four minutes a woman in Germany is attacked by her (ex-)partner.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talking to the UN Human Rights Council
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talking to the UN Human Rights Council© Janine Schmitz / photothek.de

The human rights situation in Iran remains disastrous. Systematic discrimination against women and girls is ongoing. The fact-finding mission set up by the Human Rights Council after protests were quelled following the death of Mahsa Amini has not yet been able to complete its mandate to gather and prepare evidence for subsequent prosecution, in particular because Iran refused to cooperate. This mandate therefore needs to be extended, which is what Germany is striving for in the Council.

Two years after the start of the brutal war of aggression, Russia continues to inflict massive rocket attacks on the people in Ukraine and is targeting civilian infrastructure. Therefore, the situation in Ukraine will also be discussed, as will the death of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny just over a week ago. The situation in the Middle East, in particular the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, is another item on the agenda.

Foreign Minister Baerbock:

Because for far too many people in the world the promise contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has not been fulfilled even 75 years on. It is a major achievement to have this thrust into sharp relief through the lens at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Particularly in a world ridden with crisis and conflict, we must not allow this lens to cloud. It must remain clear to be able to shine a light in the places where no-one looks – in Iran and elsewhere in our world. That is what I am working for. That is why we will always listen in the Human Rights Council, use our voice, call injustice by its name and demand accountability – for every person in the world.

Furthermore, the human rights situation is often difficult in places where the spotlight of global attention is currently not shining. These are the places we need to focus on. Discussions will thus also centre on the situation for example in Syria, South Sudan and Haiti, to name but a few examples. What is more, multilateral meetings always provide opportunity for brief talks on the fringes. Foreign Minister Baerbock will thus meet inter alia with Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


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