Talking points by Françoise Jacob, UNRC on International Human Rights Day.
Rebuild trust, expand freedoms, restore equality.
Thank you for inviting me to share a few words on behalf of the UN in Serbia. This 10th of December is always a good day to reflect on what we have done together, and what remains to be done. I will share 5 points.
1. This year’s thematic focus globally on reducing inequalities which have widened during covid years. The UN Secretary-General's vision for human rights places equality at the heart of our collective engagement to build a more sustainable, just, inclusive and peaceful world. Addressing inequalities, eliminating discrimination and advancing human rights must be front and centre of everything the UN does, including in our engagement with our partners. This year’s thematic focus globally on reducing inequalities which have widened during covid years. We have seen that in 2020 & 2021 the human rights really served as a critical point of action in all relevant areas of life and was tested daily on the ground. I believe this has truly raised our collective awareness and understanding about what rights mean in our daily life, and about the intersection between individual rights and freedom, and the collective good.
2. Let me talk briefly about the progress up to date: 2021 saw a vast effort on the normative agenda. Multiple laws and strategies have been drafted, adopted, or are in the making, to enhance the implementation of rights, anti-discrimination and protection agendas, as per Serbia’s commitments to international bodies. I am particularly happy with the laws and plans passed on Gender Equality, Non discrimination, and the Violence against Women. Well done. In 2022 and beyond, we need to ensure, together, that all this legislative work is being realised on the
ground. I particularly look forward to the completion of the national human rights strategy and the adoption of the same-sex union.
3. Now I will mention a couple of areas where we need to focus urgently. One is the safety of the civic space and beyond. 2021 was marked again by a climate in which segments of the civil society did not feel safe or acknowledge, due to incidents and public threats. Journalists, and other activists have faced risks on their safety and freedom of expression. We have seen an increase of hate and divisive speech, glorification of convicted war criminals, both on public space and on social media. On behalf of the UN, I continue to call for officials to address these incidents immediately and in a way that brings people together. While we address this, in parallel, we must promote and implement code of ethics in all representative bodies, as well as amongst the media, social media. We have to tackle hate from all directions it comes, including from fake news. This is becoming a core focus of the United Nations, what we call the new frontiers for Human Rights, and the UN is now extensively engaging with the GAFA to ensure that technology products, policies, practices and terms of service comply with Human Rights and are not used for surveillance, repression, censorship and online harassment.
4. The second area is about the dialog. We must augment, expand, reshape the dialogs as a key enabler to build trust. Most importantly we must rationalise the democratic dialog, base it on fact and science, weight costs and benefits, and to some extent, remove the emotions. Dialogs are about agreeing on common goals, and shaping compromises, while recognising differences in opinions and perspectives – as the grounding pillars of democracy. And most importantly, reach out to all those who are not part of these dialogs or have diverging opinions. This will be key for the near future in the context of the green transformation, just transition in Serbia.
5. Finally, let me finish on a positive note: 2021 is the year when the right of access to a healthy environment was declared officially by the UN Human Right Council as a human right. This is an important step forward to encourage countries to be more pro-active in creating new solutions to for the wellbeing of people and the planet, towards green transformation.
This is our call for today: Build trust, expand freedoms, restore equality
The United nations will continue to work with all stakeholders and anchor universal standards and values in the development agenda of the future, towards greater justice, peace, wellbeing and equality.