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Opening statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in the German Bundestag at the questions put to the Federal Government on the Federal Government’s Thirteenth Human Rights Report 

13.02.2019 - Speech

When we discuss the Federal Government’s Human Rights Report today, we are not talking about abstract scenarios, but rather people’s lives. I would like to tell you about an encounter I had around two months ago. I met three women during a visit to Iraq. They all had children with IS fighters – two of them because they had been raped. Fortunately, they were able to get to a safe place in a refugee camp. When they wanted to return to their home town after the liberation of Mosul, they were cast out and their children were regarded as IS bastards. They had no other choice at the time but to go back to the misery of the refugee camp. In my talk with them, they told me that they would not stop fighting.

Fellow members of this House, these women stand for countless women who experience similar things in crises, conflicts and wars every day. And they do not stop fighting. We made a conscious decision to try to give these women a voice right at the start of our term as a member of the United Nations Security Council and put the situation facing women, especially in the Middle East, on the agenda. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 will remain a priority of our work in the Security Council.

For example, we intend to support the UN Special Representative with a new Security Council resolution. We want to support initiatives that document crimes against women in order to bring the perpetrators to justice, as this does not happen in far too many cases.

Esteemed colleagues, every day in Geneva and New York we see that it is becoming increasingly difficult to uphold even the status quo as regards protecting human rights. The crisis of international organisations and the crisis of multilateralism ultimately also mean a crisis for human rights. It is not enough merely to defend the status quo. Human rights policy cannot be simply a matter of defence. That is why we need a progressive human rights policy that looks to the future and takes initiatives. This includes strengthening women’s rights, also at the international level. It includes our endeavours on behalf of human rights, also in cyberspace. And it includes our raising the rights of victims of climate change in the Security Council because climate change and security can now no longer be seen separately from each other.

We believe that strong institutions are essential for this type of progressive human rights policy. That is why the Federal Government has decided to run for the Human Rights Council in Geneva again a year earlier than planned, that is, for the 2020 2022 term, because particularly at times when others withdraw – and unfortunately, that is now what is happening in far too many cases – Germany must be a strong voice for human rights. This would make us a member of the Security Council and of the Human Rights Council at the same time in 2020. We want to make use of that to join up human rights and security issues more closely because the Security Council in New York still often does not pay enough attention to those who are suffering.

Fellow members of this House, all this can only be achieved if we strengthen our alliances with like minded countries. We are already pulling in the same direction with Sweden and Canada, for example, as regards fostering women’s rights. But we need to enter into further alliances and to seek support for our position to a greater extent than has been the case so far in the European Union, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, also in partnership with others. I also count in particular on the support of the German Bundestag in this regard.

Thank you very much.

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