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On behalf of Sri Lanka delegation, let me thank through you to the United Nations Secretary General and the High Comissioner for Human Rights for launching a year-long celebration leading up to the 60th Aniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from today, the International Human Rights Day. This is a historic opportunity for us to take stock of the concept and of the means of bringing it to as wide global audience as possible. My delegation highly values the theme of the commermrative year; ‘Dignity and Justice for al’.
My delegation fully associates with the statement made by Cuba on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement
Human Rights are the foundation of human existence and coexistence. One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law, which for the first time in history, provides us with a universal and internationally protected code of human rights, one to which all nations can subscribe and to which all people can aspire.
The foundation of this body of law are the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. Since then Governments have discussed, negotiated and agreed upon many hundreds of fundamental principles and legal provisions designed to protect and promote an array of civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights. UN has also expanded human rights law to encompass specific standards for women, children, disabled persons, minorities, migrant workers and other vulnerable groups.
Sri Lanka has been a constructive and engaged State party throughout to the realization of the principles and concepts of the UDHR. Sri Lanka has voluntarily undertaken internatioal legal obligations by becoming a Party to sixteen international human rights instruments including all seven core human rights Treaties. Sri Lanka is a party to many Optional Protocols namely, Optional Protocol to the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornograpghy. Sri Lanka also earlier this year signed the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Apart from that, Sri Lanka has followed a consistent policy of cooperation as well as open and constructive engagement with the special procedures mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights as well as the Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka is also happy to subject itself to the newly established universal periodic review mechanism of the Human Rights Council in May 2008.
At the national level, Sri Lanka, one of the oldest democracies in the region, has had a long tradition of promoting and protecting human rights. Human Rights have been an essential part of our great cultural tradition for millennia. The Constitution of Sri Lanka enshrines Sri Lanka’s commitment to human rights by guaranteeing to its citizens, fundamental rights, which include freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom from torture; right to equality; prohibition of retroactive penal legislation; freedom of speech, assembly, association, occupation and movement etc.
Sri Lanka was one of the first developing countries to promote universal health and education, gender equality and social mobilization. Since Independence, successive Governments have accorded priority to comprehensive health and education systems, resulting in high social indicators that have placed Sri Lanka at the top of the regional human development index.
My delegation wishes to point out on this historic day that realization of the goals of the UDHR would profoundly be lacking in depth and realism, if it neglects the intimate inter-relationship between human rights and development. This follows from the consideration that under the provisions of the UDHR everyone is entitled to a social and economic order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized. Where lack of resources and grinding poverty deny to the State and the individual the basic conditions in which a life of dignity can be assured or lived, the Universal Declaration is undermined at its source. Hence, if we are to be sincere in our desire to implement the terms of the Universal Declaration, we cannot afford to neglect the problems of development. Therefore, equal importance should be given to all human rights, not only civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights.
Sri Lanka as a founding member of the Human Rights Council, therefore, believes that human rights are too important to be used as a tool to victimize States for political advantage. To achieve Dignity and Justice for all, human rights have to be protected and advanced for their own sake, not for any other gains. Sri Lanka pledges its continued commitment and constructive engagement to achieve these common goals and “to promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner”, which is an important mandate of the new Human Rights Council.
Let us engage in the promotion and protection of human rights based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue and aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their human rights obligations for the benefit of all human beings. This is the new working culture recognized by the founding resolution of the Human Rights Council. Let us work together to acieve the noble objectives of the UDHR through this new working culture.
I thank you, Mr. President.