Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office on Human Rights Day (10 December)

08.12.2017 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (8 December) to mark Human Rights Day on 10 December:

I would like to use the occasion of Human Rights Day to spotlight several issues that have been of particular concern to me during the past year. In 2017, the human rights situation in many parts of the world is still alarming.

A worldwide phenomenon with which I am confronted time and again in talks with human rights defenders is the shrinking space for civil society. For example, this became abundantly clear to me during a regional human rights seminar in Mexico last May.

I am observing the increasing restrictions imposed on freedom of the press and of expression with great concern. This also applies to countries in our immediate neighbourhood, as developments in Turkey show.

In response to this I am working to encourage civil society players and support them in creating new spaces for their activity under the motto “creating spaces”, focusing on issues with considerable potential for societal transformation, such as education and health. The areas of economic, social and cultural rights in particular harbour great potential for change.

On the issue of capital punishment, too, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the progress towards worldwide abolition or a moratorium does not grind to a halt. The death penalty is an inhuman and cruel form of punishment. Germany rejects the death penalty under all circumstances and will continue to work with its partners in the European Union to actively campaign for its worldwide abolition.

Another issue close to my heart is business and human rights. Rapid progress now needs to be made on implementing the Federal Government’s National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights, the NAP, which was adopted almost one year ago. It lists expectations regarding adherence to human rights due diligence that apply to all German companies, irrespective of their size and main business activity. I was pleased to present the German NAP at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in November, where the international audience greeted it with widespread interest and encouraged us to implement its ambitious goals.

Another “NAP” of great significance for my work serves the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. For no conflict can be overcome in the long term if half of the population is excluded from peacebuilding efforts. Next year, too, we must continue working to include women to a greater extent in all phases of conflict prevention and conflict management. With this in mind, in 2018 Germany will assume the chair of an international network working specifically to implement the Resolution. I had the privilege of introducing German initiatives in this area during a UN Security Council debate in October.

This year in my role as Commissioner for Human Rights, I was particularly concerned with the conflicts in Yemen and Myanmar. Access for humanitarian organisations to the suffering population must not be restricted; unfortunately we see this happening far too often. International humanitarian law must be respected. We must resolutely continue our engagement also in less widely reported crises.

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.
The aim of the German Government’s National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights is to enable all those involved to implement the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.
The aim of UNSCR 1325, which was adopted in the year 2000, and of the to date seven follow-up resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122 and 2242, is to include women to a greater extent in crisis prevention, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding and to protect them against violence in armed conflicts. On 11 January 2017, the Cabinet adopted the second Federal Government Action Plan to implement Resolution 1325 for the period 2017–2020. In 2016, on the fringes of the UN General Assembly, an international network – Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network – was launched with the aim of supporting member states and regional organisations in their efforts to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 through experience-sharing. Germany will assume the chair of this network in 2018 and host its annual meeting in Berlin.


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