Human Rights Day - Speech of Ms. Louise Chamberlain, United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNDP Resident Representative
Commemorative Event to mark Human Rights Day - 2019
14:45, 10 December 2019 г.
Hotel Orion, Bishkek
Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen,
71 years ago today the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a milestone in human history, the first global expression of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all of us are entitled, no matter our race, ethnicity, religion, social origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, disability or income, or other distinction of any kind.
When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, it was proclaimed as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations".
In that spirit, on behalf of the United Nations in the Kyrgyz Republic, I would like to welcome you at this celebration of International Human Rights Day.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year we celebrate in particular the role of young people.
Indeed, in marking today’s celebration, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has highlighted that in 2019, which also marks the 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we celebrate the role of young people in bringing human rights to life and we commend their global march for their right to a future of peace, justice and equal opportunities. Today we call on everyone to support and protect young people who are standing up for human rights.
First, as human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN commends the Kyrgyz Republic’s commitments to leave no one behind, the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy 2018-2040 will be critical for making progress towards national development targets, including equal access to health, education, the right healthy nutritious food, decent work, to culture, science, and civil integration.
Second, we praise the country’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the adoption of three key instruments:
• The National Human Rights Action Plan 2019-2021
• The National Action Plan on the realization of recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, and
• The National Action Plan on the implementation of 24 recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The adoption of these tools now needs to be followed by the development of practical multi-year action plans and the allocation of sustainable public funds to ensure their implementation.
Third, we acknowledge progress on the rights of children and youth. Kyrgyzstan has significantly improved its civil registry system, including birth registration and issuance of birth certificates to children born on its territory, and has improved its legislative and institutional frameworks to address violence against children. Also, in 2019, the Kyrgyz Parliament approved the School Meals Law to ensure that all Kyrgyz children in the primary grades have access to a healthy and nutritious meal at school.
Fourth, as today also marks the final day of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we commend national efforts to promote gender equality and improve the prevention, protection and response to violence against women and girls in recent years.
Nevertheless, gender-based violence, including domestic violence and harmful practices such as child marriage, remain widespread; impunity for these crimes persists; and the rights of women and girls who are victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are still in many cases violated during the judicial process.
Fifth, we acknowledge national efforts to improve access to justice and the quality of justice dispensation. The Government has launched an ambitions reform agenda, aimed at promoting the rule of law and establishing a more humane, accessible, responsive and accountable criminal justice system.
To realise this objective additional investments are needed for implementation and to further translate international standards related to the rule of law and the right to a fair trial into the national context of the justice sector. It is important to stress the importance of the right to non-discrimination in both law and practices, ensuring that no ethnic or other minority group is unfairly treated by the criminal justice system.
Sixth, we welcome progress made in the representation of women in politics at the local level by the introduction of a 30% quota in local keneshes. Despite earlier measures to promote women’s political leadership, overall low representation of women remains a concern and has diminished further in recent years. We also note that ethnic minorities remain underrepresented in political affairs, and in the public service.
Seventh, we appreciate increased partnership with the Government on its human rights agenda as demonstrated by the successful official visits to the country of UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and finally, the Special Rapporteur on Minority Rights, who is in the country at this very moment.
While this progress is appreciated, progress is yet to be registered in other key areas:
1. The enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, in line with recommendations from key human rights mechanisms.
2. Vocal expressions of intolerance, hate speech and calls to violence often go unhindered. It is important that the Kyrgyz Republic fosters an environment in which all Kyrgyz citizens including women and vulnerable groups can safely voice their concerns, freely participate in the public sphere and make use of their right to expression.
3. Some vulnerable and minority groups continue to report that they face harassment and discrimination, including members of certain minority religious groups, and Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT communities. Comprehensive non-discrimination legislation and its robust implementation represent an excellent step forward to tackle these issues.
4. Further strengthening of the Institution of the Ombudsperson, in compliance with the Paris Principles;
5. The National Preventive Mechanism, the National Centre for Prevention of Torture, requires greater funding to ensure that it is more independent and effective; and vigorous action is needed to bring to justice perpetrators of the crime of torture, in line with the state’s existing commitments and national law.
We take this opportunity to celebrate civil society and human rights defenders for their critical work and efforts to improve the lives of all people in Kyrgyzstan. A robust and free civil society is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy – human rights defenders engage constructively with all of us to improve and strengthen human rights protection. They also play an important role in placing a spotlight on areas where we have not focused enough attention. For all of these invaluable contributions, we thank you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me end by quoting – not the UN Secretary-General – but Nobel Peace Laureate, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi. She described human rights as a component of every religion and every civilization, and a common aspiration for all people and all nations: “Human rights is the fruit of various civilizations. I know of no civilization that tolerates or justifies violence, terrorism, or injustice”.
Let me conclude by recognizing the extraordinary challenges that lie ahead for Kyrgyzstan. As we enter a new decade, stakeholders must continue supporting the government’s efforts and work in partnership with civil society to protect and promote rights and equal participation for all members of society - to ensure that noone is left behind.
Thank you for allowing me to share these reflections on behalf of the UN system in commemoration of International Human Rights Day.
The UN system stands with the Kyrgyz Republic in continuing to develop public awareness and help develop state capacities to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all citizens and peoples of Kyrgyzstan.