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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > April 2005 > Statement on behalf of the EU at the informal thematic consultations of the General Assembly of the UN on Cluster III: Freedom to live in dignity
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Statement on behalf of the EU at the informal thematic consultations of the General Assembly of the UN on Cluster III: Freedom to live in dignity

Date of Speech : 19-04-2005

Place : New York

Speaker : Jean-Marc Hoscheit

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Croatia*  and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro align themselves with this declaration.

Mr. President,

The EU appreciates the opportunity that we are given to speak in the two weeks to come on the four clusters of issues contained in the Secretary-General’s report. The scope of these four clusters covers the major issues on the agenda of the international community. It is now our responsibility, as the member states, to work productively on the basis of the proposals of the Secretary-General, in the spirit of increased effectiveness and improved implementation of our common values, with a view to increasing effective multilateralism through reforming and strengthening our organization.

The EU is strongly committed to engage in an exchange of views that should allow us to identify common ground and build the critical masses needed to achieve an ambitious and balanced outcome at the Summit in September.

Mr. President,

With regard to the cluster “Freedom to live in dignity", the EU welcomes the prominent place reserved to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. From the outset, we would like to reaffirm our strong commitment to these fundamental objectives that need to be advanced together. We would like to stress the inter-linkages between human rights, the rule of law, democracy and security and development. Not one of these important fields of UN activity stands second to the others. In that regard, we fully share the Secretary-General’s analysis that “we will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights".

The President’s proposal to structure our discussion along several sub-items will not only allow us to cover the most important issues under cluster III; it will also allow us to illustrate the above mentioned inter-linkages. As a matter of fact, the violations of human rights and disrespect for the rule of law are among the main factors threatening peace and security as well as slowing down development processes.

Mr. President,

The rule of law is the underlying principle at the basis of the UN. It is the indispensable basis of our interaction at the international level.

The rule of law forms the bedrock for peace, security and development, both at national and international levels. For instance, the rule of law will contribute to an environment of trust, predictability and security in which economic development can thrive and will function as an incentive for foreign direct investment. Equally, through transparent and just procedures and institutions, the rule of law will provide ways and means to address injustice before it risks developing into a situation of tension and conflict. But institutions and procedures, however important, are not enough by themselves. A just legal system must build upon international human rights, norms and standards. The rule of law and human rights are interdependent and mutually supporting.

In post-conflict situations, the rapid reaffirmation and strengthening of the rule of law, in parallel with humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction, is essential to restore the backbone of community life. Activities to promote transitional justice have proven critical in many situations to prevent relapse into violence.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comment on the proposed establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission. While defining its mandate we should keep in mind the prominence of the rule of law in post conflict processes.

The need to address the issue of rule of law in post conflict situations is becoming commonly accepted. However, the international community also has a responsibility to prevent conflicts. We would like to recall the words of the Secretary-General with regard to prevention from his report to the Security Council on the rule of law last August: “Peace and stability can only prevail if the population perceives that politically charged issues, such as ethnic discrimination, unequal distribution of wealth and social services, abuse of power, denial of the right to property or citizenship or territorial disputes between states, can be addressed in a legitimate and fair manner�?. Viewed this way, prevention is the first imperative of justice.

The fight against impunity, the rendering of justice and the promotion of reconciliation are vital dimensions of the rule of law. The EU stresses its support to the International Criminal Court and other existing international or mixed war crimes tribunals, and joins the Secretary-General in calling on Member States to ratify the Rome Statute and to cooperate with the Court and the tribunals. Not later than on March 16, 2005, the Council of the 25 European Foreign Ministers, in preparation for this year’s session of the Commission on Human Rights, reaffirmed its constant support for the ICC.

The EU also welcomes the trend of an increased number of cases being brought before the International Court of Justice with a view to settling issues peacefully. We share the Secretary-General’s view that means should be considered to strengthen the work of the ICJ, including through streamlining and simplifying of its working methods to facilitate expeditious adjudicating of cases.

All these are reasons why the EU stresses the importance of the rule of law in terms of adherence to international law, its translation into domestic legislation and strengthening of national capacities in the legal field. We emphasize the need to continue, where necessary, to strengthen the existing body of international norms and rules. To this end, Member States could solemnly reaffirm at the Summit their commitment to an international order based on rules, including their commitment to the UN Charter and other international instruments, norms and principles, that form the legal foundation of the international system. Member States which have not yet done so, should become parties to these international instruments as a matter of priority. In this context, the EU welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to hold a treaty event with  a focus on “Responding to Global Challenges" in the margins of the Summit.  In particular, the EU calls upon all Member States to sign and ratify the convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which was adopted last week by the General Assembly, and will be open for signature at the beginning of the treaty event on 14 September 2005.

The EU also supports as a matter of principle the Secretary-General’s intention to create a dedicated Rule of Law Assistance Unit to assist national efforts to establish the rule of law. We look forward to receiving further details in this regard. Such a unit has the potential to significantly enhance the coherence and effectiveness of the UN’s efforts to promote the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict societies. The EU fully supports the Secretary-General’s intention which enables the UN to better cope with the increasing demands regarding the strengthening of justice and the rule of law.

Mr. President,

The EU would like to reaffirm its strong commitment to human rights. We share this principled attitude with member states and groups of member states in the UN.

Human rights, civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, are one of the fundamental pillars of the UN system which the UN has a mission to promote and to protect. In this regard, the EU stresses the need to strengthen the overall human rights system, most notably by mainstreaming human rights throughout the UN system, including in the deliberations of the Security Council.

The EU believes that only through the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms is it possible to empower women and men in an equal manner and, therefore, create the basic infrastructure to achieve sustainable human development.

At the country level, the EU expresses its support for the Secretary-General’s “Action 2" programme and acknowledges the need for more resources and staff.

As stated above, the EU underlines the need for ensuring the respect for human rights in conflict prevention activities as well as in post-conflict situations. In this context, we would like to emphasize the importance of human rights education as a powerful tool for conflict prevention.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights plays a central role within the human rights machinery. The EU supports the call for the strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through increased financial resources. We call for increased funding for the OHCHR from the regular UN budget. We strongly believe that at the very least core functions of the Office should be financed from the regular budget, independent from voluntary contributions. We encourage the High Commissioner to present as soon as possible her plan of action to strengthen her office, keeping also in mind the importance of carefully designing the relationship between her office and the proposed Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.

Institutional reform in the field of human rights must strengthen the United Nations’ human rights machinery as a whole. In that regard, we welcome the proposal for the creation of a standing Human Rights Council, reflecting the centrality of human rights in the UN system. We emphasize again that human rights are universal in nature and that all countries have a responsibility to respect, implement and promote human rights without any exception.

In his statement before the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on April 7, 2005, the Secretary-General explained the rationale behind his proposal to establish a Human Rights Council at the same institutional level as the Security Council and ECOSOC. As recommended by the Secretary-General, the HCHR should participate more actively in the deliberations of the Security Council and the proposed Peacebuilding Commission.  We would like to commend the Secretary-General for his proposal, as he puts into focus the interaction in substance of the dimensions of security, development and human rights. The useful indications on the mandate, the criteria for membership and the functioning will facilitate the forthcoming deliberations on this issue.

The EU would like to thank the Secretary-General for his explanatory note on the Human Rights Council. We will examine in detail the Secretary-General’s interesting proposals and we will comment in more detail during our upcoming discussions on Cluster IV.

Mr. President,

The EU supports efforts to promote democratic institutions, practices, processes of democratization and good governance worldwide and underlines the importance of the proposals in the Secretary-General’s report aimed at strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The EU supports efforts to promote transparency, accountability, participation and access to justice around the world. Progress in these areas, plus the strengthening of democratic institutions and practices, leads to the development of a culture of democracy. Furthermore, good governance, democracy and human rights need to be addressed as fundamental horizontal concerns to promote sustainable development.

We would like to see the UN’s capacities enhanced in order to assist countries seeking to establish and also to consolidate their democracy.  Pending further study on organization and functioning, we can agree in principle to the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a democracy fund. However, we should be mindful of ongoing efforts in promoting democracy, notably by UNDP and the Secretariat’s Electoral Assistance Division and ensure that the various strands co-ordinate their efforts effectively.

Mr. President,

The EU endorses the concept of “Responsibility to protect". Grave and massive violations of human rights and acts of genocide call for strong response and action on the part of the international community.

The EU endorses the Secretary-General’s important proposal concerning the “Responsibility to protect". In our view, this proposal should be considered from a broad perspective. The basic principle of state sovereignty is and should remain undisputed. It should also be recognized that state sovereignty implies not only rights, but also responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is the responsibility of each state to protect its own citizens - that comes first. However, if a state is unable or unwilling to do so, and if a situation of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity or massive human rights violations occurs or threatens to occur, the international community will have a responsibility to help protect these civilians and thereby also help to maintain international peace and security; first and foremost through diplomatic, humanitarian and other measures, such as support to capacity building and other development activities. But if such measures would have no immediate effect or would come too late, enforcement measures through the Security Council or approved by the Security Council should be possible, if needed and as a measure of last resort.

The responsibility to protect encompasses a responsibility to prevent. In the Secretary-General’s words: “an ounce of prevention is worth significantly more than a pound of cure".

Mr. President,

In conclusion, allow me to thank the Secretary-General once again for his thoughtful and inspiring work, which so rightly builds on the interaction between development, security and human rights, rule of law and democracy and their mutually reinforcing nature. The clear recognition of their interdependence and mutually reinforcing nature should guide us in our future discussions. We look forward to working constructively with partners to take this forward for the benefit of all our peoples.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

This page was last modified on : 20-04-2005

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