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No peace without human rights: 28th session of UN Human Rights Council opens

04.03.2015 - Article

Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier attended the opening of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 3 March and gave a speech at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament.

UN Human Rights Council meeting room in the Palais des Nations, Geneva
UN Human Rights Council meeting room in the Palais des Nations, Geneva© Photothek/Trutschel

Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the opening of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 3 March. On the margins of the meeting, he met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and representatives of civil society.

The United Nations Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva for what is already its 28th session. Its 47 member states will spend four weeks discussing a broad range of topics relating to human rights. The focus this year is on children’s rights, an EU‑led initiative on freedom of religion and belief, and the human rights situation in Syria, North Korea and Myanmar.

Germany is chairing the Human Rights Council this year. Joachim Ruecker, Ambassador at Germany’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, welcomed the German Foreign Minister to the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the start of the 28th session.

To promote human rights is to promote peace

Right at the beginning of his speech, Steinmeier emphasised how impossible it was to talk about the global human rights situation without mentioning the key trouble spots in world politics. Work for human rights is inextricably linked with work for peace and security –

We cannot have human rights without peace and conflict resolution. But the reverse also holds true: peace can never be assured without respect for human rights!

He went on to say that situations where human rights were systematically undermined were fertile ground for social and political crises. Standing up for human rights, he said, was therefore a direct means of conflict prevention.

Steinmeier’s speech to the UN Human Rights Council
Steinmeier’s speech to the UN Human Rights Council© Photothek/Trutschel

The vital role of civil society

Steinmeier thanked the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Ruecker, “for recalling the firm place that civil society has at this Council”. Any reports of reprisals against those appearing at the Council must, he said, be followed up.

Steinmeier then commended the decision to award last year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the two human rights activists Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. As Steinmeier put it, to promote human rights is to promote peace: “In a world out of joint, we must never lose sight of that dual hope.”

Steinmeier and Prince Zeid signing the funding agreement between Germany and the OHCHR
Steinmeier and Prince Zeid signing the funding agreement between Germany and the OHCHR© Photothek/Trutschel

Afterwards, Steinmeier met the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, to sign the annual funding agreement between Germany and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Germany is making a voluntary contribution of 5 million euros for 2015, to support such activities as UN assistance for victims of torture and monitoring of the human rights situation in Ukraine.

Germany’s Foreign Minister also met representatives of civil society. At a press conference afterwards, Steinmeier said Germany firmly opposed the restriction of non-governmental organisations’ rights to speak at and take part in the UN Human Rights Council.

Steinmeier had previously given a speech to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament in which he called the conference a “laboratory of multiculturalism” and said international politics had much to learn from it.

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Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

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