In the heart of Europe, mothers hide in shelters, fearing for the lives of their children. Hundreds of thousands are on the road, seeking safety far from home.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an attack on the Ukrainian people: on their freedom and on their fundamental rights. It is also an attack against the United Nations Charter.
What’s at stake here is nothing less than the gravest human rights violations: the right to life and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own fate.
Human rights are what make us and their denial can unmake us.
That’s true for the mothers in Kyiv. That’s true for activists of organisations like Memorial in Moscow, for brave men like Alexej Nawalny, whose voices risk to be silenced. It’s true for the protesters taking to the streets in Russia against Putin’s war. And it’s true for all those across the globe who suffer discrimination because of what they believe in.
Our rights touch the very core of who we are as human beings.
That’s why human rights must also be at the core of our policies. I say this at a time when human rights are coming under pressure worldwide. Russia’s aggression highlights this all too clearly. We must stand up to this attack.
Human rights are universal. The Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two Covenants are neither Western nor Eastern, neither Northern nor Southern. They bind all of us, establishing an international order that, ultimately, all of us need.
That is why we must also critically assess our own actions. In African countries, such as Rwanda, Namibia or South Africa, for instance, women’s share in parliament is much higher than in Germany. We must learn from each other. Democracies are never static. We should take criticism as an invitation to change for the better.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Council has a key role to play in our joint effort to safeguard human rights:
First, this Council should be a space to listen. That’s why we strongly support Ukraine’s call for an urgent debate at this Council’s session.
We need to hear the voices of human rights defenders from Egypt, Venezuela or Belarus.
We need to hear the accounts of women who are the most vulnerable in conflict and crisis. “Unless women are safe, no one is safe”, that is how the women at the contact line in eastern Ukraine put it when I met them last month.
And that is why, in the spirit of a feminist foreign policy, my country wants to strengthen women’s and girls’ rights. We want to strengthen their representation and resources. We want to promote more diversity worldwide.
Second, we need more transparency. We encourage the High Commissioner to publish your report on the detention of members of the Muslim Uighur community – and we call on Beijing to allow unfettered access.
That brings me to my third point: The promotion of human rights is not interference in internal affairs. Grave violations of human rights must be prosecuted. That’s why we need to extend the accountability mechanisms for Belarus, for South Sudan, for Syria and for Myanmar. And we urgently need a Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to investigate all violations of human rights that have been committed by Russia since its military aggression. We must stand strong on accountability.
Later this year, Germany will ask for your support for serving for another three years on this Council. We do so because we believe that all of us, together, must place people’s rights at the core of what we do. For the mothers, fathers and children in Ukraine. For all those who suffer. We must act now.