Thank you, Mr. President,
At the outset, my delegation wishes to thank His Excellency Mr. Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council, for his presence here today and for the presentation of his Report to the General Assembly. As we reflect back on an eventful and challenging year for the Human Rights Council, I would like to express my delegation’s sincere appreciation for the leadership taken by the Council on a number of issues of concern to the international community.
Let me also express our profound gratitude to the members of this august Assembly for the wide support displayed yesterday by re-electing the Maldives to the Council for another term that begins from January 2014.
When the Maldives was elected to the Human Rights Council in 2010, as the smallest country to occupy that seat, we took on board the challenges ahead with great enthusiasm and a strong sense of commitment. We have since then continued to advocate for the protection of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms for all peoples in general and specifically for the voiceless and marginalised.
Our membership in the Council for the past three years has been a catalyst for positive change domestically, and provided the right impetus to take bold steps in protecting and promoting human rights in the country. These include among others, enacting important pieces of legislation such as the Disabilities Act and the Domestic Violence Act, along with ratification of international human rights instruments such as all core conventions of the International Labour Organisation, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and acceding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. We firmly believe that our continued tenure on the Council would give us an opportunity to enhance and accelerate efforts to consolidate democracy, and protect and promote human rights in our society.
However, while we are proud of the progress we have made, we recognize the challenges that lie ahead to achieve these objectives for the Maldivian people. First and foremost, we must further strengthen our human rights institutions and ensure that we have a functioning, responsible and independent judiciary that understands its role as a protector of the rule of law and human rights. We must endeavour to increase women’s participation both in public and private sectors. We must provide more protection for our children and provide our youth with education and opportunities to contribute to the progress of society. But above all, we must try to build resilience and cultivate the value of respect for human rights within the society, to complement the formal and statutory measures already in place.
As portrayed by the Report of the Human Rights Council, 2013 has been an eventful year, with the escalation of violence and deteriorating human rights situations in various corners of the world. Whether these violations of human rights are a result of civil war in Syria, occupation in the Palestinian and Arab territories, or ethnic and communal tensions elsewhere, we call on all parties involved to cease all ongoing violence and to engage in dialogue that will lead to lasting peace. We also encourage countries undergoing transition to work towards substantive reforms, strengthen democratic institutions and ensure the protection of their people from all forms of abuse.
It is the work and the mandate of the Human Rights Council, and the United Nations as a whole, to assist and facilitate positive outcomes in such situations. We are therefore, encouraged by the on-going efforts of the Council to provide technical assistance to countries in need and hope that it can built upon this assistance in the future. We call upon all states in the process of transition and undergoing situations of unrest, to work closely with international human rights bodies and the international community in general, to establish the necessary institutions, including independent judiciaries and credible human rights mechanisms and to ensure the creation of inclusive and democratic systems of government. Inclusion and dialogue is the way forward.
Since undergoing our own transition to a democratic system of governance five years ago, the Maldives continues to be active in the area of human rights. We have used our own experience to firmly adhere to human rights principles, and based on these guiding principles, we have been able to participate actively at the international level, including the various initiatives the Maldives led at the Human Rights Council. Based on our experience, we firmly believe in the need for more engagement with the international bodies including the Human Rights Council. We recognise the need for small states such as the Maldives to be heard in the large arenas. In this regard, the Maldives in 2012, took a lead role with the support of a cross regional group of partners, in establishing a Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund aimed at supporting the participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the Council. We are pleased to note that this Fund is finally in operation.
The Universal Periodic Review is a unique peer-review mechanism that directly contributes to the efforts of States, to promote and uphold their human rights obligations. It also provides a cooperative framework for States that is objective, transparent and constructive, and to exchange views and interact on human rights issues. We fully support and reaffirm the Human Rights Council resolution that established the Universal Period Review mechanism. While adequate steps must be taken to encourage states to participate, the Maldives believes there must be appropriate measures to enable the Council to move forward with the review, if states decide not to cooperate. The Maldives believes engagement at UPR provides countries an opportunity to improve the human rights situation of the countries. But we should also ensure that technical and other advisory assistance is provided to countries to implement recommendations.
Today, as the Maldives celebrates its election to the Human Rights Council for a second term, we pledge our continued support to the cause of promoting and protecting human rights, and assure the international community that we will continue our work domestically and internationally with the very enthusiasm and sense of commitment we embraced, when we were first elected. At the Council, the Maldives will continue to forge strong partnerships with all relevant international stakeholders, towards attaining an effective and results-oriented global human rights protection system in line with the five key principles we wholeheartedly believe in – firstly, that human rights are inviolable and universal and thus, the promotion and protection of human rights across the globe must be done in a non-selective, equitable and non-politicised manner; secondly that human rights remain central at domestic and international level; thirdly that dialogue and partnership between countries and other actors is of utmost importance; fourthly that human rights must be realised for all peoples, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnicity; and finally, pursuing an objective assessment to improve human rights standards around the world in a balanced, fair and independent manner.
In the days ahead, the Maldives would like to see an end to violence and stronger focus on human rights in countries where violence and unrest prevails. We would like to see emerging democracies build human rights resilience and work towards creating a culture of respect for human rights. We would like to see the global community put more emphasis and efforts towards protecting and respecting our natural environment, achieving greater equality for women, and strengthen the protection of the rights of children, and the disabled.
The Maldives calls upon all states to fully engage and cooperate with the United Nations and human rights mechanisms. We stand ready to lend our assistance, and to extend our continued commitment to improving human rights protection both at home and abroad and we look forward to continue our positive activism at the Human Rights Council, through which we hope to contribute to creating a world which gives greater recognition to and respect for human rights.
Thank you Mr President.