Statement by Ambassador Antje Leendertse in the General Debate of the Third Committee at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 4 October

04.10.2021 - Speech

The Third Committee evokes mixed feelings. Heavy – because of the horrors that people suffer from human rights violations in too many places and that are being discussed right here. But also upbeat - because this Committee strives to make human rights a reality for all people, everywhere. Germany is committed to that goal!

Today, when we think about the status of human rights worldwide, the situation in Afghanistan is certainly one that comes to mind first. Germany, together with many others, calls for the respect and protection of human rights of all persons living in Afghanistan, including women and girls, as well as children and persons belonging to minorities. We deeply care for the safety of journalists and human rights defenders whose work is vital for an inclusive society.

Human rights are universal – as the members of this Assembly set it out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their yardstick. Germany is committed to promote human rights as an integral part of our foreign policy – from international fora to grass-roots project work.

During our two-year term in the UN Security Council, we pushed for a strong and tight link with the Human Rights Council – bringing together what belongs together: Peace, Security and Human Rights. The fact that the High Commissioner and a record number of civil society briefers were invited to the Security Council stand testimony to that. So does our conviction that also the Peacebuilding Commission should brief the Human Rights Council.

There cannot be peace and reconciliation without accountability. Therefore, we engage on accountability in the Alliance against Impunity and in the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism. I would like to highlight our support for mechanisms against impunity in Syria, where grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and especially against children, prevail. In this regard, we strongly support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) and the Commission of Inquiry.

It was during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union that the EU adopted a new Human Rights Sanctions Regime. The listings underscore that most severe human rights violations will have consequences for their perpetrators. In this context, I reiterate our grave concern about the human rights situation in China, particularly in Xinjiang.

Germany is committed to advancing gender equality and the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls – in our own country and worldwide. I admit: in many respects we still have a long way to go on achieving full gender equality in Germany. Nevertheless, it remains our goal both internally as well as in foreign policy that the exclusion of women ends and that women’s and girls’ rights are fully protected and promoted. We are proud to serve as member of the UN Women Executive Board and look forward to our role as Vice-Chair of the upcoming Commissions on the Status of Women. This year, Germany adopted a new National Plan on Women, Peace and Security. We led a huge effort in mainstreaming WPS in our foreign policy, even more so than before. This includes our full commitment to preserving sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Germany is committed to the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. I say this having in mind the situation of countless Rohingya women and girls, while not forgetting other victims around the world. We fully support the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and call for full accountability. This includes adequate child protection and psychosocial reintegration programs for girls and boys who have been forced to participate in armed conflict.

Since this year, Germany has an Inclusion Strategy for LGBTI-issues in its Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation. The Strategy is a contribution towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and to its main goal that, in true terms, no one is left behind.

In our globalized world, it is our obligation as consumers -- and the obligation of those who supply what we buy-- to take responsibility for human rights. Germany’s recently adopted Law on Supply Chain Due Diligence is our commitment to ensure respect for human rights along global supply chains. We call on the international community equally ensure such respect. We would like to see enhanced efforts towards a broadly supported instrument on this topic.

Germany’s human rights engagement also translates into concrete support for project work on the ground. More than 20 million USD for close to 250 human rights projects worldwide by the German Foreign Office in 2021 alone stand testimony for that. So does Germany’s voluntary contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – 11.5 million USD so far in 2021. I call on all Member States to agree to finance the UN’s human rights pillar not just with the bare minimum – but with regular means that allow it to fully unleash its preventive potential.

While we are committed to focus our energy on standing up to human rights violations today, it is nevertheless important to be mindful of future challenges for human rights protection.

This year in the Third Committee, we will present a resolution on National Human Rights Institutions. NHRIs have important functions, including in conflict and in peacebuilding settings. The NHRI in Ukraine, for example, has identified various limitations of media pluralism and the safety and freedom of journalists in Crimea.

Also, together with Spain, we present the resolution on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. In the era of climate change and accelerating natural disasters, as well as a pandemic ravaging for the second consecutive year, the rights to drinking water and sanitation are all the more important.

We believe that there is a fundamental impact of climate change on virtually all human rights – and that measures to fight climate change also must adhere to Human Rights standards. This is why the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment is crucial. And the resolution to create the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, currently being negotiated in the ongoing Human Rights Council, is timely.

In this regard, I would like to read a message of our youth delegates: “Young people are often scared about the future. This relates to climate change, digitization, but also daily life issues – education, how to get a job. One of our key demands is to take into account the repercussions of today’s decisions for following generations.”

Human rights protection would be virtually impossible without the alert eyes and ears and the wholehearted work of civil society organizations around the globe. We pay tribute to their engagement and support their work. We have much to gain from civil society’s critical and constructive feedback. This is why I also would like to underscore the importance of the access NGOs enjoy to UN premises.

Such transparency and exchange will bring us closer to making universal human rights for everyone a reality.

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