General Comment:Universal Declaration of Human Rights & Vienna Declaration & Programme of Action. Delivered by UK Ambassador to WTO & UN in Geneva Simon Manley.

Simon Manley CMG

Thank you Mr President

I would like to start by thanking the main sponsors for presenting this initiative to the Council. We appreciate the Core Group’s constructive engagement and strongly welcome their efforts to accommodate many of the points we raised during negotiations.

We are pleased that this draft seeks to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. These foundational instruments of the international human rights system have guided us in our obligations to promote and protect human rights of all. Previously abstract notions of universality, equality, non-discrimination and inherent dignity are codified in international law and practice, thanks to the work began by the UDHR.

These two anniversaries point to an opportunity, to look back at how much progress has been made since 1948 but also how far we still have to go. We face significant challenges in upholding the central ethos of both the Universal Declaration and the Vienna Declaration. Chief among these challenges, regrettably, is, the concerted effort to rollback decades of progress towards achieving gender equality.

In parts of the world, women and girls are stripped of their most basic human rights, subjected to violence and intimidation, and even restricted from attending school or university.

Therefore we deeply regret attempts by a number of delegations to rollback on human rights, and in particular on the rights of women and girls. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, the battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.

Mr President,

We do not believe that girls’ participation should be singled out on the condition of their age and maturity. Do we say the same thing for boys? We do not.

Notwithstanding these outstanding concerns, we have co-sponsored this initiative and will join consensus.

Thank you.

Statement delivered by Simon Manley on behalf of:

Vietnam, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Fiji, India, Panama, Romania, South Africa and Spain.

Published 4 April 2023