Vienna, 10 December 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "Human dignity and universal nature of human rights at the centre of Austria’s foreign policy"


Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the International Human Rights Day

Vienna, 10 December 2007 - "Even in the third millennium it is still not implicitly understood that all people are entitled to the protection of their fundamental rights no matter where they live, what culture they belong to, whether they are a man or a woman, a child or an elderly person," stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

"Human dignity, the global protection and the universal nature of human rights are therefore at the centre of Austria’s foreign policy and development cooperation. Our biggest challenge is to see the existing human rights standards implemented in practice at the global level," continued Plassnik. "We must not relent! The systematic commitment to better human rights protection is a permanent task for all of us - regardless of the political agenda of the day," said Plassnik, referring to next year’s 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights held in 1993, a milestone in many areas to this day, will also celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2008.

"This is not about abstract concepts but the fate of people, real physical or psychological misery," stated the Foreign Minister. "Together with our EU partners, we intervene in other states in hundreds of cases every year in favour of individuals who are in danger. We address human rights issues vis-à-vis governments worldwide at all political levels. Austria also emphatically promotes effective human rights protection within the framework of the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE," said Plassnik.

"Austria seeks to achieve long-term structural improvements in worldwide human rights protection. This includes the protection of children in conflicts, combating torture, strengthening the rule of law and human rights education. Austria provides concrete and direct support in many areas: whether by taking comprehensive stock of serious human rights violations in the civil war-stricken Democratic Republic of the Congo or in the UN’s efforts to promote the protection of minorities, which are indispensable for the prevention and resolution of many conflicts," said the Minister. In SOS children’s villages in northern Uganda, for instance, Austria supports the medical and psychological care and schooling of former child soldiers and child victims of violence.

Plassnik emphasised a specific personal concern of hers: the protection and promotion of women’s rights. "Many women throughout the world suffer from sexual violence and exploitation, particularly in war situations. But even in times of peace women’s fundamental rights are massively violated by traditional practices such as female genital mutilation or systematic discrimination." Here, too, Austria helps in various ways, e.g. by supporting the Office of Gender Quality Promotion of the African Union, which takes measures to combat traditional violence. Thanks to Austria’s support, it has been possible to carry out a campaign for the prevention of sexual violence and improve the care of affected women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courageous work of many women who are committed to the protection of human rights in all parts of the world," concluded Plassnik.

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