The Universal Declaration of Human Rights rings hollow to the millions of people around the world who have to struggle in extreme poverty, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today as he called for progress on human development to go hand in hand with advances in security and human rights.In a message marking International Human Rights Day, whose theme this year is that fighting poverty should be a matter of obligation and not charity, Mr. Annan said that “if we are to be serious about human rights, we must demonstrate that we are serious about deprivation.”Mr. Annan said the world’s poorest are the people least capable of achieving or defending rights – such as to a decent standard of living or to food and essential health care – that others take for granted.“We must all recognize that wherever families eke out an existence on less than a dollar a day, or children die for lack of basic yet life-saving care, the Declaration has, at best, a hollow ring,” he said.Poverty is both a cause and a product of human rights violations, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a separate message noting that awareness of “the stranglehold of poverty on billions of men, women and children around the world” has never been higher.She added that approaches to poverty reduction are all too often couched as appeals to charity or altruism.“We reaffirm that freedom from want is a right, not merely a matter of compassion,” she said. “Fighting poverty is a duty that binds those who govern as surely as their obligation to ensure that all people are able to speak freely, choose their leaders and worship as their conscience guides them.”General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said the world had “a moral and strategic obligation” to combat poverty when it is so immediate and the suffering of countless people is so intense.“The poorest are more likely to experience human rights violations, discrimination or other forms of persecution,” she observed. “Being poor makes it harder to find a job and get access to basic services, such as health, education and housing. Poverty is above all about having no power and no voice.”Sheikha Haya added that history is littered with well-meaning but unsuccessful schemes for eradicating poverty, and called for fresh programmes that tackle the root causes, such as discrimination and social exclusion.
. Mr. Tusk said the European Union (EU) continues to receive people in need of protection. He echoed his appeal to the international community to take responsibility for refugee protection and irregular migration, underscoring the EU’s support of the UN process to develop Global Compacts on Refugees and on Regular, Safe and Orderly Migration. “Your engagement is needed right now, both in terms of money for humanitarian assistance, and more resettlement for those displaced by conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and especially across Africa,” he told the Assembly. In connection with the refugee crisis, Mr. Tusk urged a “crackdown on human smugglers that exploit vulnerable people and violate sovereign borders,” and welcomed the International Criminal Court investigation on smugglers in Libya for crimes against humanity. Against the backdrop of repeated terrorist attacks, he stressed the need for the constant strengthening of the global fight against that scourge and violent extremism, including doing more on counter-radicalization. He reiterated his plea to the world’s Muslim leaders to stand strong against Islamist extremism as a real support in fighting terrorism. “In short,” the President said “we must be more determined than they are.” Full statement available here Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session In his address, the President of Finland called the Secretary-General’s determination to reform the UN “laudable,” spotlighting that transparency, accountability, efficiency and gender balance “should be the guiding principles of the UN system.” Sauli Niinisto also welcomed the Secretary-General’s focus on conflict prevention, advocating for the marginalized to be given a voice in peace processes. “Women, children and adolescents often pay the highest price in conflicts but they can also help to pave a way out of the crisis,” he told the Assembly, while pointing to Finland’s contribution in establishing a Nordic network of women mediators who provide inclusive and meaningful participation in all phases of peace processes. Pledging his support for UN peacekeeping reform, he drew attention to Finland’s increased participation in UN police missions – now through seven UN operations, including a specialized team on sexual and gender based violence in South Sudan. “It is my strong view that no UN peacekeeper nor any other UN personnel should be associated with misconduct of any shape or form. In particular, there must be ‘zero tolerance’ with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse,” he stressed. Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mr. Niinisto called that country’s nuclear weapons programme “a threat to global peace and stability,” that must be stopped. While stressing the importance of the continued unity of the Security Council, he underscored: “Such behaviour cannot be tolerated by the international community.” Before leaving the podium, Mr. Niinisto expressed his strong belief that global challenges and threats be addressed together by the world community. “Peace and security, human rights and development belong to all of us. Only together can we make this world a better place,” he concluded. Full statement available here For his part, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte pointed out that the problems confronting today’s world, such as climate change, migration, terrorism and cybercrime, are by definition international. “No single country can tackle them in isolation. We need each other. […] In this turbulent world, the importance of the UN is growing every day, he told the Assembly. The Prime Minister said “cooperation is key” when it comes to preventing terrorism, and that the UN is the prime forum for international cooperation. As a good example of cooperation, he pointed to the Global Counterterrorism Forum, saying its work “is not high-profile – most of it goes on behind the scenes – but it saves many lives.” Turning to conflict, Mr. Rutte flagged that not enough attention is being devoted to the early its early stages of development, saying “That has to change.” He pointed to the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali where the Netherlands is using intelligence to carry out long-range reconnaissance work in anticipation of conflict – instead of waiting for it to happen. Conflict prevention ties in with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which he calls “the ultimate prevention agenda” as “they address the drivers and root causes of instability and conflict.” “Investing in human dignity, eradicating poverty, fostering climate resilience and promoting economic and social progress will reduce the incidence of conflict, instability and despair. Development and lasting peace – all in one package,” Mr. Rutte maintained. Full statement available here Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak Also taking the podium, President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria spoke in depth about international peace and its links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), telling the Assembly that the UN peace and security architecture, together with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “have provided a solid foundation for achieving peace and prosperity.” Mr. Radev stressed that Bulgaria supports a surge in diplomacy for peace that places prevention as an overarching priority. “Prevention and mediation are essential means of reducing human suffering, including in addressing the root causes of forced displacements, bringing humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts together,” he elaborated. The President pointed out that armed conflicts in many parts of the world continued to undermine peace and human values, asserting that “protracted conflicts require a holistic UN response encompassing preventive diplomacy, mediation, peace-building and effective special political missions.” Calling climate change “one of the biggest challenges of our time,” he noted that the phenomenon not only impedes the well-being of countries, but also poses security threats to many of them. Mr. Radev wrapped up his address by drawing attention to the need for promoting equality, countering discrimination and ensuring respect for human rights as keys to achieving lasting peace and sustainable development, saying “we believe that the protection of human rights should be placed at the centre of all action undertaken by the UN.” Full statement available here