Statement by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Every time I come to the Human Rights Council, there are both light and heavy thoughts on my mind. Heavy thoughts – because of the horrors people suffer from human rights violations in too many places. Light thoughts – because this Council embodies humanity’s most noble ambition: making human rights a reality for all people on this planet. We are committed to that goal. In our struggle, we experience setbacks and failures. But we have to keep up our determination.
Ladies and gentlemen, this ambition will be crucial when we look at the situation in Afghanistan. After 20 years of engagement, the international community and Germany in particular have a moral obligation to continue helping the Afghan people. That is why Germany is significantly stepping up its humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries. We are working hard to assist Afghans for whom we have responsibility to leave the country. We have expanded our programme allowing Human Rights Defenders to take shelter in Germany for temporary stays. And we support a strong mandate for this Council to monitor the human rights situation in Afghanistan. We demand from the Taliban that they respect basic human rights, particularly the rights of women and minorities. This will be a benchmark for us and our partners in determining our future engagement with a new Afghan government – including for possible development assistance.
The formation of a Taliban interim government excluding other groups was not the right signal needed for international cooperation and stability in the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, beyond Afghanistan, the human rights situation is concerning in many other parts of the world, too:
Civil war and conflict have brought inhumane suffering to people in Yemen and, most recently, the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Together with more than 40 other countries, Germany has been calling on the Ethiopian Government to facilitate humanitarian access.
We also continue to raise our voice against the grave violations of human rights in North Korea and Syria.
We speak up about the detention of ethnic minorities like the Uighurs, and the disrespect for civil liberties in Hong Kong. We encourage you, Madam High Commissioner, to visit China – and we call on Beijing to allow for unrestricted access.
We also condemn the repression of peaceful opposition and civil society, such as in Russia and Belarus. That is why we support the accountability mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for Belarus.
Ladies and gentlemen, this underlines our conviction that human rights violations must not go unpunished.
We are engaged in the Alliance against Impunity and in the Alliance for Multilateralism, which supports the accountability mechanisms for Syria, Iraq and Myanmar.
During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the EU adopted a new Human Rights Sanctions Regime. In a first, balanced package of listings, we sent out a strong signal against severe violations of human rights.
At the same time, we also need to adapt our struggle for human rights to a changing world. Together with Brazil, we will table an updated privacy resolution to this Council. It addresses racial biases in artificial intelligence. And we need more such creative thinking to protect human rights in the digital sphere.
Climate change affects virtually all human rights. In turn, all measures to fight climate change must respect human rights standards. Therefore, Germany supports the creation of a Special Rapporteur on climate change and human rights.
And finally, in a globalised world, all those involved in international trade have responsibilities. I am proud that Germany’s new Supply Chain Due Diligence Act breaks ground in protecting human rights along global supply chains.
Madam President, in all these efforts, your office is a key ally. Germany has therefore raised its voluntary contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to more than 11 million US dollars this year.
We stand ready to work with you and all other members of this Council in the fight for human rights.
For Germany, this means addressing shortfalls in our own country, where we have stepped up efforts to counter racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.
It also means learning from bitter experiences such as Afghanistan. But above all, it means keeping up our determination to make human rights a reality for all people on this planet.