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Statement at the Norad Conference 2014

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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

1. Developments at the global level

  • In a world facing numerous challenges,  we must not forget the progress we have witnessed over the past decades. Not the least the halving of extreme poverty in only a few years. Who would have thought that possible 10 years ago.
  • Global cooperation and a rules-based world order have been crucial for the progress that has been achieved.
  • As human rights have evolved, they have played an increasingly important role in this context.
  • Today, however,  human rights are under increasing pressure in a number of countries.
  • Peaceful protests are being suppressed.
  • Minorities are being persecuted.
  • Censorship and political control of the media are widespread in many parts of the world.
  • Journalists and  human rights defenders  have become the target of threats and intimidation or subject to arbitrary arrest.
  • The political space for civil society is shrinking  and civil society organisations are being more closely monitored.
  • In addition, repressive legislation appears to be spreading.
  • We must continue  to defend human rights  and to develop and strengthen strategic alliances – across regions  and with civil society.
  • In international forums, human rights are subject to increasingly intense debates, which question the definition and content of these rights.
  • A growing number of countries are working actively to gain acceptance for restrictive interpretations  of human rights.
  • And this is surprising,  that in the 21st century, in international forums,  they are forming strategic alliances to this end – often across regions, and across religious and political divides.   
  • We can never accept relativism when it comes to human rights.  Authorities must not be allowed to evade human rights obligations by referring  to traditional values or the principle  of non-intervention in domestic affairs.

2. Human rights and conflict

  • A worsening human rights situation is often a telling sign of an impending crisis.
  • The international community saw the signs in South Sudan. But we didn’t act accordingly. Why didn’t we react sooner?
  • We must learn to respond to human rights violations  very timely, in order to prevent armed conflict and mass atrocities. To create a climate that is conducive to economic growth and development.
  • Governments have the primary responsibility for promoting and protecting human rights.  And we must do so before conflict erupts.
  • Look at Syria. Three years ago, a middle-income country. Today, a humanitarian catastrophe.
    • This insight is embedded in the United Nations’ Human Rights Up Front initiative.
  • This initiative calls for the UN to integrate human rights across the board.  It calls for a strengthening of the UN’s ability to respond adequately to complex challenges in the field.  We should recognise  that any society will be fragile, unless it is built on the pillars of human rights and democracy.

3. White paper on human rights

  • The Government intends to present a white paper to the Storting tomorrow,  which will be our own Human Rights Up Front initiative for integrating human rights into all aspects of Norway’s foreign and development policy.
  •  This is the first white paper on human rights in 15 years.
  • We will work to narrow  the gap between  the human rights obligations countries are committed to and the reality that exists for individuals on the ground.
  • This requires a concerted effort, and we will work with others multilaterally in the Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe, and in other arenas, and bilaterally.  A democratic society needs watchdogs: human rights defenders, independent media and  civil society organisations. 
  • We will strengthen our efforts to ensure that these watchdogs are empowered and listened to.  We will build knowledge and respect for human rights through education and capacity building . And next year the Government is doubling Norway’s investment in education in developing countries.  With a special focus on girls.
  • We will develop and uphold institutions that enforce human rights.
  • We will promote the rule of law, and fair and effective legal systems.
  • We will promote the rights of girls and women.  Specifically, we will educate girls and fight child labour. We will battle early marriage and female genital mutilation.
  • We will counter discrimination against people who are vulnerable due to disabilities,  religious beliefs, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Norwegian support shall make it possible for states  to ensure that all individuals have the same rights in practice.

4. Human rights and development policy

  • We apply a human rights-based approach to development.  Both because it is the right thing to do, and because it works.
  • Norwegian development assistance will strengthen  the ability of partner governments to implement their human rights obligations, and the population’s ability to claim their rights.
  • Rights-based development is sustainable development.
  • Democratic and transparent societies tend to be less corrupt,  more peaceful and more open to innovation. Good governance, respect for human rights and development are interlinked. We must promote them all.
  • Therefore,  our development partners must demonstrate willingness to govern in accordance with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
  • We work in close partnership with development partners. Where we provide substantial aid, we will also be more actively engaged.
  • This is a matter of mutual obligations and mutual benefits.
  • We commit to being an active partner and a predictable donor.  Our partners commit to meeting their obligations.
  • We expect them to pursue policies that promote gender equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
  • Serious violations  of basic conditions  for development assistance will have consequences.
  • We will not subsidise  bad policies.  In countries where developments are negative, we will consider reducing bilateral aid, or look into alternative channels for support.
  • Nevertheless,  we acknowledge the difficulties this may involve, and our aim is to stay engaged while holding our partners accountable.
  • At the global level, we call for human rights to be at the heart of the new sustainable development goals, the post-2015 development agendathat the UN General Assembly will adopt  in September next year. The intergovernmental process has begun. Referring to meeting in Addis Ababa.
  • We believe  that good governance should be a standalone goal among the post-2015 SDGs. We will promote this in the course of this spring. We want every country to deliver on good governance.
  • I took it for granted – that good governance would be highlighted this way.  But it is not, and so we will have to work on that.
  • Strengthening human rights and good governance  is about human dignity and equal opportunities.
  • But it is also about sustainable peace and inclusive growth.  This is why this conference and our new white paper is so timely.
  • Thank you.
 

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