Briefing to Member States by the United Nations Secretary-General
on the “Call to Action for Human Rights”
Statement by H.E. Mohan Peiris,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Wednesday, 24 February 2021
General Assembly Hall, UNHQ (in-person)
You have this morning, very appropriately reminded us of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscious of mankind and the advent of a world on which human beings shall enjoy freedom as the highest aspiration of humanity. We have reaffirmed our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and equal rights. We have made a promise, and promises Mr. Secretary-General are meant to be kept and given life to. We have to work consistently and constantly to keep to those promises.
But today, human rights faces multifarious challenges and none of us are spared of these challenges. We cannot permit this scared concept to be abused as a platform for political and powerful agendas, which is anathema to dignified living.
Your guiding principles are a beacon of hope. We commend your initiative. But this process must be delicately and efficiently managed. We must be objective. We must leave no room for that critique to be made, as the poet Juvenal from his satire said “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” - “Who guards the guards?”
Sri Lanka, Mr. President will live to our pledges, to this Assembly and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as constitutionally mandated. In Sri Lanka, human rights will be given our highest consideration, as it is only human rights that will assure to all of us a world in which we can all live in dignity. We fully appreciate and accept that human rights is at the core of sustainable development, that gender equality and equal rights for women must be assured, that public participation and civic space must be accommodated as a scared principle of democracy.
I will end with a quote from His Holy Father, Pope Francis when he said and I quote “the pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected we are. If we do not take care of each other, starting with the least, with those who are most affected, including creation, we cannot heal the world.”
We will support you in all your endeavors and initiatives to promote and protect human rights. Be assured.