Vienna, 27 June 2013 Press release

Spindelegger: "Civil society is the most important ally in improving the protection of human rights"

Spindelegger opens the international conference "Vienna+20: Advancing the Protection of Human Rights", held on 27 and 28 June 2013 at Hofburg Palace in Vienna

Vienna, 27 June 2013 – "When we read the newspapers or watch the news we are always reminded that we must not rest on the laurels of our past achievements when it comes to the protection of human rights. Protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people is an ongoing task and challenge, in Austria and world-wide. Governments alone could never master this task if it wasn't for the courageous commitment displayed by defenders of human rights and NGOs and for the warnings they issue." With these words Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger addressed the participants of the international human rights experts’ conference this morning. The conference has been organised by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is held at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, on 27 and 28 June 2013 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights.

"It makes me sad that human rights defenders are still paying a high price for their incessant work in many parts of the world: they are faced with threats, imprisonment or even murder. It is the task of all governments to protect and promote their civil societies and the work they do", Spindelegger said. "High Commissioner Pillay and I have therefore decided to put the civil society in the focus of this conference. Activists who know precisely what needs to be done so that women, men and children worldwide can live in freedom and dignity", the Foreign Minister continued.

More than 100 experts from all over the world, including numerous human rights defenders and representatives of NGOs, will work on concrete recommendations that are to be presented by Austria to the bodies of the United Nations in Geneva and New York and to be followed up by the international community. Important items on the agenda include an improved legal protection of victims of human rights violations, the promotion and protection of women in public and political life, as well as the integration of human rights in the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda that is currently being developed.

"The World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 was an important milestone in the global protection of human rights. Based on these achievements, it is the responsibility of all of us – governments together with civil society – to put the dignity and rights of all people in the focus of our every action.  Any violation of human rights must be prosecuted and people who do not know their rights must be empowered to demand them", the Foreign Minister concluded.

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