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Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Side-Event: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A prevention tool to achieve peace and sustainable development”- 26 September 2018

26.09.2018 - Pressemitteilung

Mr. Secretary-General,

Madam High Commissioner,

Distinguished colleagues,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank my colleague from France, Yves Le Drian, for convening us today. France is rightly proud of the French Revolution as the historic event that gave rise to the first declaration of human rights. It was only logical that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris in 1948.

Since then, France and Germany have developed a relationship that is as close, friendly and strong as a friendship between two countries can be. This is no miracle! It was achieved by relying on fundamental rights, freedoms and values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rights and freedoms that previous generations had to fight for. My generation enjoyed the luxury of benefitting from these hard-fought achievements.

These days, however, we realize that we cannot take these cherished freedoms for granted. They are threatened in ways I would not ever have thought possible. I say this with regard to disquieting global developments, including here in New York or in Geneva, but also with regard to events in my own home country.

This is the time to stand up for what our predecessors laid down in the Universal Declaration in Paris in 1948! It is upon us to defend its principles and achievements.

“Us” does not just include the representatives of states or international organizations, but each and every member of our civil societies: All of us are called upon to defend human rights!

Human rights are at the core of peace. Respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is therefore our best measure of prevention. Germany will bring this deeply held conviction to the table as a member of the United Nations Security Council in the coming two years. We will try to lend our voice to those who would otherwise be overheard. Whose voices are silenced by the sound of war and conflict.

The United Nations belong to them! The mothers and fathers of the UN made that abundantly clear when they drafted the Charta. It’s first three words are: “We the peoples.”

It is my pleasure to now hand over the floor to Ms. Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Thank you all for joining us today.

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