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Minister of Foreign Affairs N. Dendias’ speech at the High-level segment of the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (Geneva, 25.02.2020)
I am honored to address the 43rd High Level Segment for the Human Rights Council.
My country would like to express its great appreciation for the mandate and the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and to assure her of our continued support. Greece avails itself of this opportunity to make some specific remarks.
The protection of Human Rights, sustainable development, and lasting peace and security, are inextricably connected. There is no peace if Human Rights are violated. There is no development and growth if instability and violence persist. Only peaceful and inclusive societies with robust institutions based on the rule of law and access to justice for all can provide a solid democracy, peace and prosperity.
This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter. There is an imperative need to underline the enduring value of the UN founding pillars.
We also have to declare our commitment to the implementation of norms and standards conducive to international order and multilateralism. There is no doubt that a lot of progress has been achieved all these years. Many more people have become free from oppression, free from poverty, free to live the lives they want. Nevertheless, we can’t take Human Rights for granted. Having all these in mind, I believe that today we have a great opportunity to reaffirm our strong commitment to the multilateral human rights system. This is the platform for the international community to best address all Human Rights challenges seeking synergies, both at international and regional level.
Greece remains committed to the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all Human Rights. We provide our full support to the multilateral Human Rights system within the United Nations. Consequently, we support the UN Human Rights Council’s special Procedures and the UN Human Rights Treaty Body system. In this vein, Greece maintains a standing invitation to all Human Rights Council Special Procedures. During recent years, it has received a number of relevant official visits, while others are scheduled in the near future.
Additionally, in 2019, Greece presented its Periodic Reports on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and the Convention of the rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are, also, fully involved in the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism. We recognize that this assessment procedure achieves tangible results on the ground. The preparation of our comprehensive national report ahead of our review in 2021 provides us with an opportunity to focus on our Human Rights framework. Greece builds its Human Rights’ foreign policy on the philosophy of synergy and collaboration. A consensus-based approach through dialogue and collaboration is more realistic and conducive to achieving tangible results.
My country’s active presence in the UN fora is coherently linked with a national Human Rights policy. A policy which relies on the principles of non-discrimination, equality and diversity. On fora such as the Human Rights Council, Greece focuses its work, on cross-regional initiatives. In this respect we work together as core group members of the relevant resolutions with more than 40 different countries from all continents.
These initiatives aim to tackle important civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, such as:
-The right to work.
-The enjoyment of cultural rights.
-The protection of cultural heritage.
-Youth and Human Rights.
-Safety of journalists and the advancement of religious
–Cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence.
Additionally, Greece will table during this Human Rights Council session the biennial Resolution on “Promoting Human Rights through Sport and the Olympic Ideal”. An initiative which Greece leads since 2013.
At this point, please allow me to make a special reference to a global challenge that threatens our planet, our lives and “our” Human Rights: climate change. Climate change is affecting Human Rights, including cultural rights and certainly the world’s cultural heritage. The Greek Government is concerned about the potential impact of climate change on cultural and natural heritage. For this reason, we undertook the initiative to convene in June 2019, in Athens, an International Conference, entitled “Impacts of Climate Change on Cultural Heritage: Facing the Challenge”. The aim is to raise awareness and encouraging global action on the issue.
During 2020, Greece will host a High Level Meeting on the same issue, with the participation of Heads of State/Government. At a national level, Greece remains totally committed to the full protection and promotion of the Human Rights of every person.
Greece recently adopted (March 2019) the Law on the “Promotion of Substantive Gender Equality, Prevention and Combating of Gender Based Violence”. It aims at mainstreaming gender in all sectors of private and public life. Furthermore, Greece is currently drafting its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
I would also like to add that the promotion and protection of the rights of Persons with Disabilities will always be an absolute priority for our national policy. We are also in the process of elaborating two more National Action Plans namely on the Rights of the Child and on combating Racism and Intolerance.
Allow me now to make a special reference to one of the main challenges that my country presently faces, that is migration and forced displacement. We are situated at the external borders of the European Union, and, therefore, on the forefront of the migration and refugee crisis for several years now. Greece continues to be confronted with the biggest migrant and refugee flows since World War II. We rank among the top four EU member states in asylum applications. We have one of the highest ratios of asylum seekers per capita. Despite the disproportionate burden, we have managed to save thousands of lives at sea.
The protection of Human Rights of both refugees and migrants is an issue of great importance for my Government. In particular special attention is given to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, unaccompanied minors or disabled persons. The current reception capacity has unfortunately been surpassed. Keeping in mind the improvement of the migrants’ situation and the safeguarding of their Human Rights, my Government proceeded to a series of decisions concerning, inter alia:
-The relocation of a number of migrants from the islands to the mainland.
-The adoption of a new Law on the international protection of asylum seekers.
-The establishment of a regulatory framework for the guardianship for Unaccompanied Minors and the recently announced national Acton Plan “No child alone”. The initiative was launched by our Prime Minister Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis himself
I would like to stress, however, that entry countries cannot and should not bear the burden of the migratory pressure alone. It goes without saying that an international challenge of such magnitude can only be tackled through collective action, based on the fair sharing of responsibility.
In conclusion I would like to stress our belief that, the Human Rights Council has the power to effectively address global challenges. To give direction, to provide guidelines and assistance, and to take important decisions for the promotion and the protection of all Human Rights for all human beings, making the world more sustainable.
Greece will continue to strongly support these goals.
We will do so by actively engaging with states NGOs and all relevant actors. Our common aim is to increase the positive impact of our actions on the ground. We have to prove that “leaving no one behind” will not be another unmet promise. That It has now become our collective daily duty.