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Sweden Stresses Importance Of Human Rights

Sweden stresses importance of human rights during General Assembly debate

29 September 2008 – Human rights must be at the heart of all United Nations activities, especially conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities, Sweden’s Permanent Representative told the General Assembly’s annual General Debate tonight.

Ambassador Anders Lidén said the efforts to make the values and norms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which was adopted by the General Assembly 60 years ago – a reality everywhere “must also include the United Nations itself.”

The contents of the Declaration and other key documents on rights “constitute international law, the foundation upon which every attempt to build a lasting peace must rest.”

While the 60th anniversary of the Declaration was cause for celebration, he said many challenges, including the fact that millions of people worldwide do not have the right to choose their government representatives freely.

Mr. Lidén added that States have a responsibility to ensure that people within their own borders are protected from massive violations of their human rights.

“If a State is not capable of doing so, it should ask the international community – the United Nations or regional organizations – for help. And we all have to be ready to assist.”

The Ambassador stressed that if a State is unwilling to protect its people, the Security Council must face its responsibility to protect populations in peril.

“We need a Security Council that is ready to shoulder this responsibility and to work together, because unilateral action might run the risk of aggravating the problem and undermining international law and legitimacy.”

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ served as the core basis for the founding of the UN after World War II.

“It is incumbent not only upon States, but also the United Nations, to ensure that the responsibility to protect serves as the underlying measure and motivation of all its work,” Archbishop Migliore said.

The notion of responsibility to protect acts as part of the historical and moral basis for States to govern, he added.

“Likewise, they reassert that good governance should no longer be measured simply within the context of ‘states’ rights’ and ‘sovereignty,’ but rather by its ability to care for those who entrust leaders with the grave moral responsibility to lead.”

Canadian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonard Edwards also spotlighted the importance of human rights in his address earlier today to the final day of the Assembly’s General Debate.

He said the Human Rights Council, set up two years ago to replace the widely discredited Commission on Human Rights, had made both progress and setbacks in ensuring that its scrutiny of countries’ records was balanced and objective.

“We must continually challenge ourselves to improve our own records,” he said. “The creation this year of the Universal Periodic Review, which Canada strongly supported as an innovative improvement to the UN’s human rights machinery, is an important tool to help States identify and address their continuing challenges.”


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