73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
High-level plenary meeting on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Statement by H.E. Dr. Rohan Perera
Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
18 December 2018
Madam President, Madame High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Sri Lanka, as a co-sponsor of the resolution titled the ‘Twentieth Anniversary of the adoption of the declaration on Human Rights Defenders is pleased that this important meeting is being convened this year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We wish to extend our sincere appreciation to you Madame President and the principal sponsor of the resolution, the delegation of Norway for this initiative.
Promoting and protecting human rights, is constant work in progress. There is no nation that does not have challenges, and no nation that is perfect. It is not something that can be done overnight despite the most sincere of commitments and the most fervent sense of determination. Despite the challenges, it is our firm duty and responsibility to strive to achieve to promote, protect and uphold the human rights of all. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders constitute a fundamental framework and a guide to action in our collective efforts to meet the varying challenges that have arisen in contemporary times including racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Human Rights Defenders are vital partners in our collective efforts in giving expression to our human rights obligations.
Sri Lanka follows a policy of constructive engagement and dialogue in our efforts to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms. I wish to mention, in particular, our constant and close cooperation with human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies of the United Nations including the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights. During the past three years, 08 special procedures, including 02 Working Groups, have undertaken visits to Sri Lanka, at our invitation.
During these visits, Sri Lanka provided unrestricted access, and cooperated in every way allowing the Special Procedures mandate holders to fulfill their respective mandates throughout their visit.
In our interactions with UN treaty bodies, we have followed a “bottoms-up approach” that was open and inclusive, comprising of consultations and collaboration with stakeholders not only within the Government but also including Civil Society Organizations, human rights defenders and the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).
Sri Lanka has strengthened the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, following the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Sri Lanka is pleased that the status of the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was re-accredited with ‘A’ status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in May this year, as per the Paris Principles,
Sri Lanka, since 2015, has taken far reaching measures to strengthen the role of Parliament, reestablish independent commissions, ensure an independent judiciary, and to strengthen civil society. As a nation dedicated to democracy and the rule of the law, today we reap the benefits of these tangible measures, when our national institutions have demonstrated a deep sense of integrity and resilience, amidst unprecedented challenges.
Without the rule of law working in tandem with the independence of judiciary, there can be no advancement of peace, development or human rights. Sri Lanka has in the recent past rebuilt its independent institutions which have instilled a sense of confidence among our people that their human rights and fundamental freedoms, in the ultimate analysis, will be protected by independent national institutions which will uphold the rule of law. The empowerment of our national institutions through securing a sense of independence and integrity is the ultimate guarantee in safeguarding the rights and responsibilities of individuals and groups and the enjoyment of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. The crucial role of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms amidst current challenges cannot be over stated.
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the time is opportune for us to reflect on what we have achieved over the years both nationally and internationally, and take action to strengthen the institutions that will assist us overcome challenges and achieve the objective of promoting and protecting universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedom for all. This is the best tribute we could pay to human rights defenders, many of whom have paid the supreme sacrifice for the cause of protection of human rights.