Check against delivery
49TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Statement by H.E. Dr. Paavo Väyrynen, Minister for Foreign Affairs Finland Geneva, 18 February 1993
Finland returns to membership in this Commission at a time when human rights issues are everywhere in the focus of international relations. This is as it should be. As a member of the Human Rights Commission, my country will make an active contribution to the common efforts. We see ourselves here as representatives of an old Nordic tradition of individual freedom and equality, and in that spirit we want to cooperate with all; members, observers and non-governmental organizations alike.
Human rights are universal. The universality of human rights derives from the principle of equal dignity of all human beings. At the same time, human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural, are indivisible. Governments bear the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals. Governments should guarantee that the human rights instruments of the United Nations are fully implemented within their jurisdiction.
I have noted with satisfaction the growth of the norm system on human rights. But standard-setting in itself is not sufficient; the instruments, if not implemented, have only academic significance; if implemented, they rectify, and - more importantly - they help to prevent abuses of human rights. The responsibility for implementation and prevention lies mainly at the national level.
The increasing number of states that have adhered to the international human rights instruments illustrates that there are common standards, accepted and well known in all parts of the world, for protecting the status and dignity of human beings.
We encourage all countries to acceed to the international human rights instruments and to the corresponding mechanisms. All governments should respect the basic human values and rights and commit themselves to their implementation. Human rights obligations are not always easy to comply with. The cultural background and level of development may have an effect on how successful the implementation of human rights obligations is, and where the emphasis lies. What is essential is that all governments respect basic human rights and commit themselves to these obligations, and genuinely strive to implement them. At the same time, it is important that confidence be created everywhere on the consistency of the international community in its assessment of the application of the human rights standards and norms. The credibility of the human rights mechanisms should be strengthened.
Promotion of human rights and democracy require constant vigilance from us. The non-governmental organizations have an indispensable role to play in this respect. Democracy based on popular participation, good governance, independent judiciary and rule of law, while providing political stability, also supports sustainable development.
All these questions are on the UN agenda. Clearly, human rights are to be appropriately integrated and incorporated in all UN activities. I see a particular point in a better coordination between development programs and human rights bodies.
Mass violations of the rights to life - atrocities like the practice of "ethnic cleansing" and rape of women committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as looting of humanitarian aid in Somalia - have been drawn to the attention of the Security Council, and rightly so. Appropriate measures to respond to mass violations need to be urgently envisaged by the international community. In the broadened concept of security within the United Nations, human rights merit a major integrated role in
peace-keeping, peace-making, preventive diplomacy and early warning. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the context of securing humanitarian aid to the victims of man-made disasters, as e.g. in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia.
In today's world, it is obsolete to maintain that the human rights situation in a country is purely an internal matter. Respect for sovereignty and integrity of states needs to be upheld. Yet, we see no justification to oppose the consideration of the human rights situation of any country, whose actions in this field have caused concern in the international community. Such consideration by the appropriate international bodies has to be based on the principles of the UN Charter and the relevant human rights instruments. Respect for human rights is undoubtedly a responsibility of every state, both towards its own citizens and international community alike.
Addressing human rights in other states does not permitcomplacency about the situation in one's own country. We know that each and every country, including my own, can improve her human rights performance. Every government must practise in deeds what they state in words. Double-standards cannot be accepted.
During the time of profound change it has become vital to find ways to react promptly to human rights violations. Although the UN has built up its capacity to deal with human rights violations, the present situation is far from satisfactory. Inthis respect I support all efforts to strengthen existing mechanisms and welcome consideration of new mechanisms to respond to this need.
The mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights have developed throughout the years. I would like to commend the work of the thematic rapporteurs and working groups of the Commission, which provides an essential contribution. The cooperation of governments is necessary for the proper functioning of these
I am particularly alarmed about the fate of minorities. Members of minorities in various parts of the world are increasingly confronted with intolerance, racism, xenophobia and violence. Various forms of hatred and fanatism pose a serious threat to human rights as well as to peace and security in today's world.
The search for peaceful solutions within international human rights system needs to be intensified. The recently adopted UN Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities is therefore more than welcome.
The CSCE has recently advanced its early warning capabilities by creating an office of a CSCE High Commissioner for Minorities at the Helsinki Summit in summer 1992. This could possibly offer ideas for the consideration of an office of a special UN High Commissioner for minorities, once we will have some experience
from the CSCE activities in this field. The present situation would certainly call for such a high-level authority to deal with this question.
The work-load of the Human Rights Centre, including its many thematic mechanisms, cannot be carried out without adequate staff and other resources. I would join those who have already expressed serious concern of present insufficient capacity of the Centre to fulfill its growing responsibilities. More resources should be allocated for human rights purposes within the UN system.
The UN's human rights program has undergone significant development since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The World Conference on Human Rights, which is only a few months away, will offer a unique opportunity to reaffirm that human rights are truly universal and indivisible; that economic, social and cultural rights are interdependent with civil and political rights. The Conference should focus on achieving specific goals by devoting attention to protection and promotion of human rights, prevention of their violations and development of future strategies for improving adherence to human rights norms.
In a wider perspective, there is no sustainable development for the humankind without respect for human rights. At the UNCED Conference in Rio de Janeiro last year we pledged that each country has the primary responsibility for its own development, with support by the international community. In enhancing human
rights there is a need for a new partnership among all nations, which focuses on the dignity and rights of the individual. This partnership thrives on the interlinkage between human rights, democracy and development.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.