Sixty Second Session of the
United Nations General Assembly
Statement by H.E. Henry Mac Donald
Permanent Representative of the
Republic of Suriname to the United Nations
on behalf of the
agenda item 70
HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS
24 October 2007
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October 23, 2005: Statement to the Third Committee by H.E. Henry Mac Donald, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Suriname to the United Nations on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on agenda item 70 : Human Rights
It gives me great pleasure to address the committee on behalf of the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that are members of the United Nations on agenda item 70 (a) Implementation of human rights instruments, (b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, 70 (d) Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and 70 (f) Celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
CARICOM would like to thank the Secretary General for his comprehensive reports on the issues pertaining to human rights questions.
CARICOM Members remain guided by the fundamental principles of good governance, the rule of law and respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. To that end they have acceded to or ratified some or all of the major human rights instruments. With regard to the most recent international instrument in the area of human rights we would like to recall that several CARICOM members were among the signatories of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities.
We view this as a significant step toward changing the concept of disability and ensuring global recognition that all people must be provided with the opportunities to live life to the fullest potential. In this regard, we recognize the close cooperation of the OHCHR with Special Rapporteurs in promoting the Convention, and the encouragement to give appropriate attention, within their mandates, to the special challenges persons with disabilities face in the enjoyment of their human rights.
Next year will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This cornerstone document of international human rights law inspired the adoption of numerous standard-setting instruments. The fact that this document is widely available throughout the world and translated in over 3oo languages is testimony of the global partnership for human rights.
In this regard CARICOM wishes to express its appreciation to the initiative of Benin and the African countries to introduce a new item on the agenda in this regard and they can count on our support.
We acknowledge the initiative of the Office of the High Representative of Human Rights for issuing a periodic newsletter on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and CARICOM hopes that this forum will prove to be a positive contribution towards the sharing of ideas and also for keeping each other informed regarding activities that will be carried out worldwide to mark this important milestone.
We recognize that the international community over the years has created a wide range of mechanisms to monitor compliance of States Parties with the various human rights instruments they have committed themselves to solemnly implement.
However, as we reflect on the achievements of the international community to advance the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we will have to ask a conscious question whether we have materialized these rights for the various rights holders.
Despite notable progress in the field of human rights, and in particular the civil and political rights, it is unsatisfying to note that the international community still falls short in the progressive realization of the economic, social and cultural rights. CARICOM reiterates the interrelatedness and indivisibility of all human rights and is concerned that some have relegated the economic, social and cultural rights to secondary or of lesser importance.
Pervasive poverty, increasing inequalities between and within countries, the spread of infectious diseases, armed conflict, intolerance, lack of security, climate change are all constant reminders that we have a long way to go when it relates to real implementation of all human rights for all.
The 2005 World Summit once again affirmed the solemn commitment of political leaders for the universal respect for and observance of human rights. The international community can not but seize this opportunity to improve the situation of millions of people worldwide and we should hence deploy all means at our disposal. We have to move from rhetoric to implementation and make human rights a true reality for all.
The occurrence of abhorrent breaches of international human rights law always creates a shockwave to the world community. At that time we all recommit ourselves to upholding the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms and we say “never again”. The critical question here is: Do we really act upon these commitments or do we allow them to become mere theoretical concepts?
Something what seems to come natural to those who have in abundance, is at the same time a distant dream for many more. Millions in the world have no idea where the next meal will be coming from.
Some live in tremendous wealth in a world where living standards have generally improved over the past decades whereas many others live in a world of extreme poverty.
On this year’s annual commemoration of the World Food Day it was acknowledged by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food that the number of people suffering from hunger has increased drastically, despite the fact that we are being reminded that the world has the means to make poverty history.
Against the backdrop of the realities of our interdependent world CARICOM believes that we have to redouble our efforts in the fight against poverty. In this regard it is of utmost importance to seriously address issues such as, but not limited to, harmful trade policies, food safety and security and unfair competition.
When for many medical assistance and healthcare are just a telephone call away, many more do not even have the basic access to affordable healthcare.
CARICOM shares the view that the right to health should be addressed in a holistic way, not only paying attention to medical care but also the underlying causes, including access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
Political leaders of the region, conscious of the critical role of health in the economic development of their people committed themselves to pursuing initiatives and targets in order to improve the health status of their populations. Through a collective regional response to the health related challenges, including through inter alia, the sharing of best practices and resource mobilization the region is forging ahead to realizing the right to health.
We have taken note of the initiative of the special rapporteur on the right to health to develop human rights guidelines for pharmaceutical companies in relation to access to medicines and look forward to the discussions in this regard.
Many more profess tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity, but at the same time the world is plagued with ethnic hatred and racial tensions, and through which actions many more are being killed.
CARICOM notes the ongoing work of the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and shares his concern on the tightened national laws on asylum and immigration as a means to defend national security in the fight against terrorism.
Our region remains convinced that equal attention should be given to the impact of globalization on the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Globalization is not merely an economic process and it is now generally acknowledged that it affects the full enjoyment of human rights. We are cognizant of the fact that the ever-widening development gap between developed and developing countries poses a threat to global security, stability and prosperity.
In this context the most critical issue to address is how globalization could be used for the promotion and protection of human rights in general and the right to development in particular. Of paramount importance is that of creating an international enabling environment that is conducive to our pursuit for sustainable economic and social development.
Finding a durable solution to the debt problems of developing countries, creating market opportunities for developing countries, especially small island developing states, fair competition rules and the democratization of international financial institutions, with the subsequent participation of developing countries in the international decision-making and norm setting process, could all positively contribute to the advancement of all human rights, in particular the economic and social rights.
The Member States of the Caribbean Community remain convinced of the essential contribution of human rights education to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and fostering of tolerance and respect for the dignity of others and should therefore be critical components in the national implementation of human rights instruments.
The proclamation of the World Programme of Human Rights Education reflects the growing recognition that human rights education is essential for building a universal culture of respect for human rights as well as to prevent future generations from grave human rights violations. We fully subscribe to the view that starting at the basis of society and teaching our young people the values of tolerance and respect will prove to contribute to acknowledging our differences.
In this regard we express the hope that through enhanced partnership the international community will continue to work towards achieving the objectives of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
CARICOM member states have taken note of the work of the newly established Human Rights Council, and in particular its process of institution building, encompassing elements for the universal periodic review, special procedures and the human rights advisory committee.
We observe that the Council is willing to embrace the principles of universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights, while conducting its work in a spirit of a constructive interactive dialogue with member states. Of equal importance are the elements of universal coverage and equal treatment of all States.
CARICOM expects the Human Rights Council to deliver on its expectations of creating a more conducive and cooperative environment for the promotion and protection of all human rights and looks forward as the human rights situation of two of its Members will be reviewed in the first period of the universal periodic review.
Last year CARICOM informed the membership about its initiative to introduce a resolution on the bicentenary abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
We take this opportunity to express our appreciation and heartfelt thanks to those who have assisted us to commemorate this special occasion.
I have the pleasure to remind you of yet another related initiative to erect a Permanent Memorial at the United Nations in honour of the victims of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It would be remiss of me not to express gratitude to those friends who already have so graciously contributed to this initiative.
CARICOM is convinced that others soon will follow and also will contribute to immortalize the legacy of those held in bondage and servitude under the most cruel conditions.
In closing Mr. Chairman,
At the dawn of this new millennium political leaders committed themselves to a set of lofty goals, contained in the Millennium Declaration and also committed to a timeframe of 2015 to realize these targets. CARICOM is of the view that concerted action is needed from all stakeholders to improve the situation of the world’s people, for history will harshly judge our inability or even lack of political will to do so.
CARICOM acknowledges that progress in protecting and promoting human rights depends primarily on actions taken at the national level in accordance with international human rights obligations. In order to be effective, states must truly implement their international human rights commitments.
CARICOM member states therefore, mindful of their obligations under international law, would like to reiterate their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and subsequent human rights instruments as well as the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action.
I thank you.