Wien, 9. December 2008 Press release

"Human rights must not be relativised"

Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Vienna, 9 December 2008 - "The 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is no reason to rest on our laurels. The fight for the rights and dignity of men, women and children must be intensified in all parts of the world. Consistent commitment to the protection of human rights is therefore a key mandate of Austria’s foreign policy," emphasised Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger to mark tomorrow’s international Human Rights Day. On 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly as a basis for modern human rights protection.

"Human rights must not be relativised - not even with reference to ‘cultural peculiarities’ or ‘religious traditions’. The greatest challenge we face today is the fact that implementation of agreed standards for the protection of human rights is either missing or inadequate," said Spindelegger.

For this reason Vienna had been the venue of a conference convened at the initiative of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in August 2008, attended by over 130 human rights experts who elaborated concrete proposals for better enforcement of international human rights standards at the local level. "The recommendations of the conference were presented by Austria at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. Our embassies see to it that the recommendations are incorporated in the consultations that are being conducted in numerous states on reforms in the field of human rights and the rule of law,” stated the Foreign Minister.

“Austria systematically addresses human rights issues vis-à-vis other governments together with its EU partners and intervenes on behalf of at-risk individuals. The support for the work of human rights activists is of special concern to me. They often advocate compliance with human rights in very difficult circumstances, risking their own security and freedom,” continued Spindelegger.

Looking at the next two years, Spindelegger added: “In our work in the Security Council, too, we will focus on the protection of human rights and the rule of law. This particularly includes our support for strengthening the rights of women and children and their consideration in addressing and resolving conflicts. We must do everything possible to decisively improve women’s protection from rape and violence and children’s protection from being recruited and deployed in hostilities.”

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