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Statement by the President of the Human Rights Council on the occasion of Human Rights Day, UNHQ New York

Mr Vice-president of the General Assembly,
Mr. Deputy Secretary General,
Distinguished laureates of the United Nations Human Rights Prize
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, on behalf of the Human Rights Council, I would like to pay tribute to a remarkable man and a champion of the human rights cause: Nelson Mandela, who passed away some days ago.

His life has been a true testimony to what can be achieved with sheer strength of character, determination, and absolute belief and personal commitment to his fellow human beings and his nation, South Africa.

Nelson Mandela devoted almost all his life in bringing a message of freedom, democracy, equality, racial harmony and human dignity to the entire world.  Let us be inspired by his towering achievements summed up in one of his many famous quotes:
“What count in life is not the mere fact that we have lived, it is what difference we have made to the life of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me, as President of the Human Rights Council, to take part in the celebrations of the Human Rights Day, marking the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Coinciding with the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the establishment of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, this year’s commemoration has a special significance.

These two crucial documents constitute a milestone in the continuous struggle for the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all, and should guide our efforts aimed at further advancement of the human rights cause in the world.

A long road, not free from enormous difficulties and obstacles, has been travelled since this august body adopted the Universal Declaration.

We should spare no effort in ensuring that the Declaration and all international human rights law inspired by it do not remain a dead letter.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The achievements realized up to now in the field of human rights would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of all those brave human rights activists, mostly unknown, who have dared to raise their voices to denounce abuses and injustices, and who have worked in their communities to ensure respect of human rights.

This is why, when looking at the future, one of the priorities should be to preserve a safe space for the effective participation of civil society both at national and international level, including when cooperating with human rights mechanisms like the Human Rights Council.

This assembly recognizes today the importance of the many individuals and organizations which work every day around the world to ensure the promotion and protection of our rights.

In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the laureates of the 2013 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, who are here with us today. Nelson Mandela himself was a laureate in 1988 (as said by the previous speakers).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in a fast-changing world still facing a multifaceted complex crisis. This has been seriously affecting human rights everywhere without exception, impacting on the daily life of millions of people, especially the most vulnerable.

If the international community wants to seek credible sustainable solutions the human being must be at the centre.

Indeed, the events in the recent years have shown us that we will not be not able to enjoy real development and security if these two do not go hand in hand with human rights.

Allow me to conclude by quoting again the wise words of Nelson Mandela:
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”, so, let’s climb them together.

I thank you all for your attention.