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Human Rights Commissioner Strasser on Human Rights Day

09.12.2015 - Press release

Christoph Strässer, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, has issued the following statement to mark Human Rights Day on 10 December:

On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – at that time in Paris and not at today’s UN headquarters in New York. This is a good opportunity to recall the universality of human rights. We have to resolutely continue stressing the universality of human rights and must not be drawn into a discussion about where human rights can differ from region to region. By doing so we would not be demonstrating tolerance but, rather, playing into the hands of those who violate human rights. For they are the ones who are trying to relativise them. Victims of human rights violations, on the other hand, are especially keen to emphasise their universality.

Universality means that human rights apply equally to everyone around the world. And universality also means that human rights apply equally abroad and in Germany. I stress this time and again during my trips abroad.

It is important to me not to wag my finger when abroad. We have good laws in Germany. However, we have believed for too long that it is enough to comply with these laws in order to prevent human rights violations. At present, we are experiencing the largest influx of refugees since the Second World War, indeed perhaps the largest ever influx. Current events have heightened our awareness: ever more frequently, we are confronted with situations in which human rights are not automatically guaranteed by merely complying with laws, for example when it comes to registering and housing refugees.

People do not flee their homes on a massive scale wherever human rights are violated – at least not yet. And then there are also people who flee from natural disasters and material hardship. Seldom, however, has the direct link between human rights violations and waves of refugees been as clear as it has this year.

I do not want people to have to leave their homes against their will – I want human rights to be respected everywhere and by everyone. I am thinking here not only of wars: Germany is especially dependent on a globalised economy – for export, as well as for the supply chains which we need in order to supply our markets. However, a globalised economy is only sustainable if human rights continue to be respected.

That is why I am doing all I can to promote the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights. The goal of this Action Plan is to implement the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It says in the Guiding Principles that states have an obligation to protect human rights. However, companies have to respect them, that is to say, ensure that their business transactions do not violate any human rights. Furthermore, it must be possible for aggrieved parties to have access to remedy.

Many hearings for experts and those affected have taken place this year under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office. I am confident that we will be able to adopt the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights in the coming year. I enter the new year with this positive outlook.

Background information:

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. Two years later, the General Assembly decided to make 10 December Human Rights Day.

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