[Human Rights] HRC / 22nd Session, High-level panel discussion, Statement by H.E. Mr. Reinhold Lopatka, State Secretary for European and International Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, let me thank the High Commissioner and her Office for their efforts in organising this panel. I would also like to express my gratitude to our partners for their contributions.
In June 1993, shortly after the fall of the iron curtain, more than 7.000 participants, representatives of 171 governments and more than 800 NGOs, gathered in Vienna for the largest ever conference on human rights. Their goal was to draft and agree upon a common platform for reinforced action for the global protection and promotion of human rights.
The World Conference on Human Rights gave birth to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It re-affirmed the universality and indivisibility of human rights. It clarified that human rights are a legitimate concern of the international community and emphasised the inter-dependent nature of all human rights and the inter-relatedness between human rights, the rule of law and democracy. And it provided a major step in the protection of the rights of women.
Moreover, the Vienna World Conference triggered a successful institutional build-up in the global and local protection of human rights. It led to the creation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights later in 1993 and paved the way for setting up independent national human rights institutions in countries all over the world.
Today’s panel debate on the 20th anniversary of this historic event is a unique opportunity to take stock of the achievements of the Vienna conference. It allows us to analyse the relevance of the results of 1993 for addressing today’s human rights challenges and enables us to identify what needs to be done in order to further strengthen the institutions, mechanisms and instruments to improve the promotion and protection of human rights across the world.
We have made significant progress in the institutional developments in the field of human rights protection. Let me mention three major achievements:
the establishment and outstanding performance of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
the continued expansion of the UN treaty body system and
the remarkable growth of the number and impact of the Special Rapporteurs and other special procedures.
Despite this progress, human rights are still being violated on a large scale across the world. Victims of violations continue to call for justice and compensation. Resources provided by the international community and the United Nations for the protection of human rights remain insufficient. While the protection of human rights constitutes the Third Pillar of the United Nations, they only make up around 3% of the UN budget.
In light of these challenges, we must not waver in our fight against human rights violations. We need to stay firm in our commitment that human rights violators must be held accountable.
I hope that this panel will not only commemorate past achievements but will make a contribution to the future by answering pressing questions such as:
How can we further strengthen the High Commissioner and her office?
How can we effectively mobilise the necessary resources for the promotion and effective protection of human rights?
What is the role of other actors, like national human rights institutions, NGOs and civil society in this regard?
And, maybe most importantly, how can we ensure that justice prevails, at the national and the international level?
In conclusion, I am glad to announce that the Austrian Government will hold a high-level expert conference on 27 and 28 June this year in Vienna. The aim of this meeting will be to re-assess the developments of the last 20 years and to formulate commitments for future action in the struggle to improve the human rights of all persons.