Anförande av Alice Bah Kuhnke på MR-rådets 31:a session (på engelska)

Genève, 1 mars 2016.
Det talade ordet gäller.

Mr. Vice President, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address the Human Rights Council today. Ten years since its establishment, this Council still serves as the main UN human rights forum. This is an important opportunity to take stock of our achievements and look ahead to future challenges.

It is a great achievement that many people have seen their countries go through democratic transitions. Democracy beyond free and fair elections has taken important steps globally: if you are a woman active in politics, your chance of being elected to parliament have doubled compared to twenty years ago.

However, this development cannot be taken for granted. The Swedish Government is especially concerned by three tendencies that I will address today:

- firstly, shrinking democratic space for journalists and civil society,

- secondly, gender inequalities, as well as continued opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights,

- and finally, the human rights of persons in increased risk of vulnerability, such as persons belonging to minorities, LGBTI persons and migrants.

Mr. Vice President,

My Government is deeply concerned about the troubling situation regarding freedom of expression, and in particular freedom of the media.

Free and independent media is a foundation of democracy and rule of law. As such, the safety of journalists concerns all of us. Across the world, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, lawyers, publishers and union leaders work courageously and tirelessly to promote the rule of law and human rights.

We witness a continuing high number of reprisals, murders and other acts of violence committed against these human rights defenders, sometimes by States.

In addition, civic space is shrinking in many countries. Legal restrictions against the civil society have been imposed in more than 50 countries during the last years. A growing number of democratic activists are sentenced to years in prison on false allegations.

This year, the first Swedish Freedom of the Press Act celebrates 250 years. It still functions as a cornerstone of our legal system and a guardian of freedom of expression in Sweden.

We should all protect the voices of journalists and human rights defenders who demand their legitimate, universal rights every day.

I urge us all to expand the freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom for the civil society, in all states in this Human Rights Council.

Mr. Vice President,

Domestic violence against women remains a global plague. It is the most common form of violence against women and girls, affecting more than a third of all women. This means that over a billion women globally are victims of violence.

No country in the world, not even my own, is exempted. In Sweden, around 20 women die every year as a result of domestic violence. This is completely unacceptable.

I represent a feminist Government, for us the empowerment of women is a key priority. There is still a lot of work to be done. Our efforts emphasize the enjoyment of human rights of women, increased access to resources and more representation for women.

I want to highlight the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights. It is a cornerstone in the full realization of human rights and in our strife to ensure a better life for women and girls.

For instance, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second largest cause of death for 15-19 year old girls globally.

This must change. Sweden will continue to be a driving force for women and girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights. I urge you to join us in this work.

Mr. Vice President,

Racism, persecution of LGBTI-persons, discrimination of indigenous peoples and migrants require urgent action.

These acts are infecting our communities. It denies our equal value as humans and our human rights. It is an obstacle to development. It causes suffering for the individual.

I urge us all to combat this persecution wherever it is manifested. We cannot accept these acts.

My Government is committed to strengthen the protection of human rights – in Sweden and beyond. Allow me to mention a few initiatives:

- First, later this spring, the Government will present communications to the Swedish parliament covering Swedish priorities and policy on human rights, democracy and the rule of law – both nationally and in our foreign policy efforts. One important component is the proposal to Parliament to establish an independent national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.

- Secondly, we are now developing our third national action plan on implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It is built on broad consultations with actors in Sweden and conflict/post-conflict countries and will focus on women's inclusion and meaningful participation in peace processes. If elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in June, Sweden would be a strong advocate for the women, peace and security agenda.

- Thirdly, business and respect for human rights should be part of an active corporate social responsibility policy. That's why Sweden last year proudly became the sixth country in the world to adopt a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

In conclusion, let me end by saying that much has indeed happened during the 70 years since the UN was founded.

However, one important aspect remains. We as Governments still have the responsibility to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights for all, upon which we all have agreed. This is the obligation of every Government.

Let's address these urgent matters together.

I thank you, Mr. Vice President.