Statement by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Human Rights/Conflict Prevention Caucus High-Level Event of the UN General Assembly on The preventive potential of human rights instruments – What does it mean in practice?

24.04.2018 - Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,
dear friends,

Together with State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl, I am very pleased to welcome you to the German House.

I have just arrived from Toronto where I met with my G7 colleagues. As you can imagine we had importang discussions on Russia, Syria, China, but not only simple ones. But you might be surprised hearing that we also discussed conflict prevention. Actually I took pride in leading this debate, as Chrystia, my Canadan colleague asked me to.

So I am happy to spread the news here: there was broad consensus amongst us in supporting Secretary-General Guterres and his focus on prevention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that it is better not to let crises escalate into conflicts in the first place. Rather, one must seek to prevent violent confrontations from the start.

The list of conflicts that pose a threat to international peace and security is a long one. So long that it is difficult to bear.

And this makes it hard to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are too often ignored or violated during conflicts.

So, it is time for reflection: The violation of human rights is an important early warning indicator. It can point to possible threats of security.

This comes with an appeal to international responsibility. Because security cannot mean putting off action until the graves have been dug.

True security is guaranteed only when human rights are guaranteed.

And that brings us to the key issues for our meeting today:

How can we make better use of the instruments the United Nations has developed in the field of human rights?

How can they help the Security Council to better fulfil its potential as a conflict prevention instrument?

And shouldn’t the Security Council look at the human rights situation in individual countries much more regularly?

True, it did so in the case of North Korea.

But, as we all know, it was anything but easy to convince all Security Council members that the meeting was necessary.

So we have to ask ourselves:

Can the Security Council really afford to regularly ignore the comprehensive reports prepared for the Human Rights Council in Geneva?

And shouldn’t the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteurs and commissions of inquiry be listened to here in New York much more often?

Let me give you just one concrete example:

Reports had been circulating in Geneva about the difficult situation of the Rohingya for a long time before it escalated last year.

Could that development not have been anticipated earlier in New York too?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Germany is seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2019–2020 term. If our candidacy is successful – and I very much hope it will be – then we will work to improve the flow of information between Geneva and New York.

Because, yes, the United Nations is built on three pillars:

  • peace and security,
  • development and
  • human rights.

These areas belong together; they are not isolated from each other. But we need your practical proposals as to how we can strengthen the link between them.

Therefore I am looking forward to today’s discussion!

Thank you very much.


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