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Workshop on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights: Opening statement by Ms. Marcia V.J. Kran

5 April 2013

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished panellists and participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this workshop on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. At the outset, allow me to thank Ambassador Idriss Jazairy for accepting to chair and moderate today’s discussion. I have no doubt that your long and rich experience and diplomatic skills will contribute to the successful outcome of this meeting.

Mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, this workshop aims to explore various aspects relating to the impact of the application of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by the affected populations in the States targeted. The contributions of the distinguished panellists and their interactive dialogue with the participants present today offer a unique opportunity for an in-depth discussion on this subject matter. The workshop is not only a review exercise, but it also allows all stakeholders to exchange views on newly emerged trends, to hear the voices from the ground and to brainstorm on the way forward. As such, we welcome the States, academic experts and civil society representatives who have joined us today.

The impact of unilateral coercive measures has been addressed on various occasions in relation to the three pillars underpinning the work of the United Nations – peace and security, development and human rights. Concerning the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, I would like to draw your attention to a thematic study conducted by our Office and presented to the Human Rights Council last year. Equally relevant are General Comment No. 8 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and a working paper presented by Judge Marc Bossuyt, who is with us today, to the then Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. I trust that these studies and the annual report of the Secretary General on the subject prepared by OHCHR will provide a helpful basis for the workshop’s discussion today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights held in June 1993. As the international community seeks to find its way ahead on the linkages between unilateral coercive measures and human rights, I would like to draw your attention to what Member States agreed by consensus two decades ago. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, in its paragraph 31, called upon States “to refrain from any unilateral measure not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that creates obstacles to trade relations among States and impedes the full realization of the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments, in particular the rights of everyone to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, including food and medical care, housing and the necessary social services.” The World Conference further affirmed that food should not be used as a tool for political pressure.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we can see, the drafters of the Vienna Declaration put people and their rights at the centre. This is exactly what our Office does and has stressed on many occasions. When addressing the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, we must focus on people, in particular vulnerable groups and individuals whose rights are most likely to be affected. I wish you a fruitful deliberation.

Thank you.