28 January, 2021

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A 20-20 Human Rights Vision

By Navi Pillay

Dr. Navi Pillay

Dr. Navi Pillay

Twenty years ago, a historic document was adopted in Vienna. It crystallized the principle that human rights are universal, and committed States to the promotion and protection of all human rights for all people, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

Among many other significant and ground-breaking achievements, the Vienna Declaration led to the creation of my Office – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Since then, there have been many advances – indeed more than people perhaps realize.

The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place:  these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues.

The key now is to implement those laws and standards to make enjoyment of human rights a reality on the ground. The political will, and the human and financial resources, to achieve this are too often lacking.

The 20 years since Vienna have also, unfortunately, seen many setbacks and a number of tragic failures to prevent atrocities and safeguard human rights.

In several instances where deplorable, large-scale violations of international human rights law were occurring, the international community was too slow, too divided, too short-sighted – or just plain inadequate in its response to the warnings of human rights defenders and the cries of victims.

The Vienna Declaration should be viewed as a blueprint for a magnificent construction that is still only half built.

The conduct of States is more scrutinised than ever, and the expansion of civil society organizations and individual human rights activists over the past 20 years has been truly remarkable. Along with independent national human rights institutions, these are the bedrock of human rights development at the national level. But, it is a matter of deep concern that they are also facing increasing harassment and intimidation in many countries.

Women continue to suffer discrimination, violence and persecution.  So do ethnic, racial and religious minorities, and migrants, as well as individuals because of their sexual orientation. This shows how far we still have to go.

Internal conflicts continue to produce horrendous and widespread human rights abuses. Peaceful protests by people exercising, and calling for, their legitimate rights are being ruthlessly crushed by authorities virtually on a daily basis.

Changing and shifting populations, fuelled by rising poverty, refugee movements and volatile global economics, make countering ‘fear of the other’ a priority.

And complex new challenges continue to emerge, such as climate change and global terrorist movements.

The way we operate in this world is also changing at breakneck speed.

Modern technologies are transforming the way we do human rights work. In 1993, the World Wide Web was just four years old, and its future use and reach could barely have been imagined, nor how fundamentally the Internet would affect our lives. Together with social media and IT innovations, these technologies are dramatically improving real-time communications and information-sharing. They are also magnifying the voice of human rights defenders, shining a light on abuses, and mobilizing support for various causes in many parts of the world.

But we have also seen how new technologies are facilitating the violation of human rights, with chilling 21st Century efficiency. In breach of international law, mass electronic surveillance and data collection are threatening both individual rights, and the free functioning of a vibrant civil society.

A Tweet or Facebook post by a human rights defender can be enough to land him or her in jail. Drones can be, and are being, used for positive purposes. But armed drones are also being deployed, without due legal process, for the remote targeting of individuals. So-called “Killer robots” – autonomous weapons systems that can select and hit a target without human intervention – are no longer science fiction, but a reality.

Their likely future deployment poses deeply troubling ethical and legal questions.

Continued vigilance is needed to ensure that new technologies advance rather than destroy human rights. No matter the scale of these changes, existing international human rights law and international humanitarian law governing the conduct of armed conflict remain applicable.

States must ensure that they ARE applied.

At the international level, a huge amount of work remains to be done to transform human rights from abstract promises to genuine improvement in the daily lives of all people, especially those who are currently marginalized or excluded.

The UN Human Rights Office will continue to work with all our partners to try to prevent human rights breaches from occurring. We will continue to be vocal about human rights violations. We will continue to ask States to do their part – the biggest part by far – to ensure that the tragic mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the human rights of all are protected and promoted.

We can – and we must – do better.

The vision and goals formulated 20 years ago in Vienna are still valid. They are still worth fighting for now – over the next 20 years – and beyond.

Thank you

*Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    ha ha ha …

    • 3
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      Mahinda Rajapakse MUST be STRIPPED of the post of Chair of the Commonwealth of Nations (which has become a laughing stock of the world and is now called the Commonwealth of Clowns) for HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS and war crimes and destruction of democratic institutions in Sri Lanka. The RIGHT TO INFORMATION has been consistently violated and denied the people of Sri Lanka and a petition will be made by media organizations and civil society groups to the Commonwealth of Nations to STRIP Rajapassa of the post of Chair for the destruction of the RIGHT TO INFORMATION and DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS of Sri Lanka

      • 1
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        Dude,
        So now it’s 20/20 eh?No bloody five day dreary test matches.I agree 20/20 is so exciting.Just within three hours Jarapakse will be beaten.Of course the match referee will be her royal highness Navi Pillai.As for umpires how about David and Minee band?Of course the grandstand will be reserved for the likes of our PM Rudra,double Sir Laksiri,Madam Kishali,Madam Dharshika!The rest will have to gate crash!At any cost we must fix Jarapakse for getting rid of that wonderful human being Sun god Prabakaran.I hope that i will get lots of “Likes”.I want to be liked.

        • 1
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          MAD Max, it appears you are DISLIKED. R.I.P. or if you prefer g.f.y!

  • 2
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    Some committed States are by and large the biggest offenders.
    This Crystalised Vision is been reduced to a powder form by the very people who are supposed to uphold them.

    Moreover, Navi Pillay’s vision need to be corrected by a visit to the Opticians.

    Pillay’s Syria talk just fizzled out after one obsession.
    These are all rhetorics. Vienna declaration may be ground breaking BUT not what you do Ms. Pillay………..
    You & your office have put this declaration to shame.

    Its time to throw in the towel.

  • 4
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    Yep, We need another historic document I think…. It’s hilarious, how do you give a thief a book of laws and expect them to follow the rules now.. In the first place they now the rules and second they will be like “What the hell you talking about, I need to follow these rule now.. Fuck that”.. “Who’s going to stop me, I’ll just right my own historic document”.. Don’t worry Ms Pillay, you will get a historic document from Raja soon, which we can discuss for another few years… I Guarantee it will be the book with the most bullshit ever written, given to you by the host with the most!!

  • 0
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    There is NO disagreement at all on inalienable UNIVERSAL Human Rights. What stumps me is the special ‘rights’ for groups demanded by them, because they have a bee in their bonnette.
    —–For the 1st Navi Pillay had even alludes to the ‘murder by drone’ carried out by the NATO and US especially, something she has been reluctant to do till now, where the civilian deaths outnumber alleged terrorists by 98:2.

    • 0
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      Universal “Super” Human Rights have come to stay in the UN System. What Super Humans say is the final. …..“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope (1688-1744)….. If so when super humans err who should forgive? Is it a superior right for super humans to err?……. Is unrestricted authority in the hands of one person is a privilege of a super human?….. If so the Executive President of Sri Lanka will always be a super human and election manifestos of Executive Presidents of Sri Lanka will always be super human philosophies….. UN needs some thing more than Vienna Declaration to frame charges against countries governed by super humans because there is no known divine power above them in the universe.

  • 9
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    Dr. Navi Pillay,

    Glad to hear about the advancement of human rights over the years and your part in it.————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Sri Lankan Tamils are denied human rights for 66 years now with redress yet to be seen. Right to life, freedom from sexual abuse, property, free speech , free movement and other fundamental freedoms continue to be denied to them in Sri Lanka. About a million Tamils fled, and continue to flee Sri Lanka over 66 years because of pogroms, violence and injustice against them.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————-

    Please do your part to bring freedom to Tamils.

    • 1
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      This is like a repeating groove in a old 78 rpm record

      • 2
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        When the music stops Sri Lanka, its cruel rulers and its military who committed genocide of Tamils should be in the dock.

  • 2
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    This women is MAd……. Sl need their own solutions

    • 4
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      I am in full agreement. Sri Lankans are importing ethanol to prepare own solutions while the opposition laments that the country is insolvent.

  • 1
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    Another Human right. Pillay & Cameron please note and don’t preach to us.

    http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2007-09-02-voa11/338520.html

  • 2
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    There is widespread support for Human Rights, as long as your office uses the same yard stick for countries both militarily and financially powerful as well as the weak ones. Unfortunately double standards are widespread in the UN system.

    The perception is that Human Rights have been used to destroy the primarily Shite Middle East Nations such as Iraq, Libya & Syria. Palestine is ruined and decimated by powerful nations. Mass Human Rights violations are committed by powerful nations in Afghanistan, Pakistan.

    Your office appears to be more interested in looking at alleged Human Rights violations by Sri Lankan government forces in defeating the worst terrorist organisation in the world, to support those who funded the the dirty war in Sri Lanka and continue this dirty proxy war with the help of opportunistic politicians in powerful countries.

    Unfortunately your own ethnicity leads many people to believe that you are using your high office to create a Tamil Homeland. I hope you will rather follow the footsteps of Nelson Mandela and fight for what is right rather than what is might.

  • 3
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    It is most opportune that this should come from a distinguished South African when the world is celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela and mourning his death. Benson

  • 1
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    Positive Outcomes …… Syria, Libya ,Iraq, looks like Lebonon next…..South Africa where Workers are shot as part of the Enterprise Bargaining. For each Black holding a job, 3.3 blacks in the same age group are unemployed…..Most rural inhabitants don’t have running Water, including the inhabitants of ex President Mandela’s Homeland and his final resting place…….Negative Outcomes….Srilanka where not even one suicide death, car bomb death or mangled bodies.for over four years…….No Child soldiers….Can’t find enough workers to fill the jobs…….100 % increase in Per Capita Income in just four years…… Middle income Nation in Asia in just eight years……Terrorist proxies Governing former Terrorist Territory…….Miss Pillai is allocating her total time to correct things for the betterment of the inhabitant population, under strict guide lines set by Messers Cameron and Harper…….Wonder whether Ms Pillai is on a Performance based Pay Package to display that Colgate Smile……..

  • 2
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    Ms Navi Pillai,s visit to SL recently made some unsavoury waves in the establishment which comprises the authoritarian famliy run government. Government supported media both state and independent Sinhala media are braying for her blood while Ms Pillai leaves no stone unturned to bring Sri Lanka before international inquiry as to its war crimes probe.

    From zero casualties in the last throes of war to admitting some casualties were ievitable the government has put its foot in the mouth and indicted itself before even the ICC has considered a verdict. Peoples Tribunal assmebling in Germany, David Cameron’s first-hand account of Tamils from Jaffna throwing themselves in front of the UK Premier’s vehicle showing photographs of their loved missing in the war despite the military and police trying to prevent their submission of their anguished pleas are now in public domain.

    Ms Pillai is a respected UNHRC commissioner whose position is not to be questioned. Coming from a background of White dominated South Africa and being of Tamil descent she learnt the hard way that if one does not stand up for one’s self somebody will sit on you.

    She may not be revered as Nelson Mandela but she had the temerity and will to seek redress for the oppressed. May she reign supreme as UNHRC and bring corrupt leaders before ICC.

  • 1
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    CTRL + F, “lanka”: 0 results.

    Navi, I am dissappoint :D

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