Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech during the high-level segment of the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council

Thursday, 03 March 2016 08:04

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The cross-cutting task on today’s international agenda is to form a global governance system that meets the 21st century demands and provides an adequate response to modern challenges. The stability of the world order − and this is recognised by all − can only be achieved with reliable mechanisms for collective cooperation across all fields, including equal and indivisible security, universal free trade and economic cooperation space, and the implementation of common standards in the humanitarian sphere.

Clearly, the UN Human Rights Council plays a key role in efforts to strengthen humanitarian support for the emerging polycentric international system. This morning, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the international covenants on human rights, which laid the foundation for the joint efforts of the international community in this area. Russia aims to increase HRC efficiency, promote the dialogue on how to create streamlined conditions for the all-round development of the individual, and the proper exercise of human rights and freedoms. During this session, we will present a draft resolution on the judicial system’s integrity that is essential to ensure equal access to fair justice.

We look forward to establishing productive cooperation with our colleagues while negotiating the text and adopting it by vote of consensus. The clashes of opinions regarding various aspects of the new world order will inevitably impact the human rights sphere. However, it is unacceptable to use human rights issues as a pretext for interfering with the internal affairs of other states, which leads to destabilisation in many countries and entire regions. We see grave danger in attempts to interpret unconscionably the circumstances existing in the sphere of human rights, to reformat the activities of the UN and its institutions under the slogan "the new interpretation" of the human rights concept, and to impose non-universal opinions and values to the detriment of the intergovernmental nature of the UN and the principle of the sovereign equality of states. Such attempts make it difficult to work together, and discredit the higher goal of universal respect for human rights.

The HRC has gained a wealth of experience in the sphere of mutually respectful dialogue, which should be treated with respect. For example, the excessive enthusiasm in building up the council’s activities regarding country issues undermines the concept of a universal periodic review, which has become one of the key results of a comprehensive reform of the UN activities in the human rights sphere. Today, more than ever before, it is important to respect the principle of equal treatment of all categories of rights, be they civil, political, economic, social, or cultural. Their universal nature, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness were proclaimed in 1993 at the World Conference in Vienna. However, in practice, there’s still an imbalance in relevant international discussion where civil and political rights are often asserted to the detriment of economic, social and cultural rights. This situation must be remedied with urgency. It is imperative to learn a lesson from the Arab Spring and other recent events, when making a fetish out of the external manifestations of democracy and taking them to absurd lengths as the main goal while completely disregarding the cultural traditions of societies has turned into a humanitarian disaster depriving millions of people of their rights to housing, water, food, access to education and medical services, and for many people − to their right to life. We consider it extremely important that the HRC clearly confirms the continuity and the equal value of all human rights enshrined in the international covenants of 1966, and in the Vienna Conference decisions. This should be a key goal for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are willing to assist the office in doing so, including by earmarking our voluntary contributions to financing respective programs.

Clearly, the basic standards in the human rights sphere cannot be provided in the context of armed conflicts and civil wars. However, the suffering of civilians in the countries affected by violence should not be a subject of propaganda campaigns or speculation aimed at addressing geopolitical issues. Unfortunately, such attempts are being made, including in the context of the Syrian crisis, the humanitarian aspects of which are mercilessly exploited by those who harbor goals of changing unwanted regimes and even the redrawing of borders in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Bringing relief to the humanitarian situation in Syria is one of the UN’s main priorities. In the past couple of years, there has clearly been progress in delivering humanitarian aid to the needy and expanding access to blocked areas. However, fundamentally resolving the humanitarian issues and restoring this war-torn country is possible only through a sustainable ceasefire and a truly inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue about the future of Syria, which should be determined by the Syrians themselves, without any outside interference. This is what the UN Security Council resolutions, adopted in support of the ISSG, and the initiatives of its co-chairs − Russia and the United States, as agreed by presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama – seek to achieve. Of course, any ceasefire or political settlement has no place for terrorists and extremists, whose ideology and practices are incompatible with the principles underlying human civilisation. Defeating ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the like is indispensable for upholding the rights of the long-suffering peoples of Syria, Iraq and all of the Middle East and North Africa.

A particularly important task is to sever the terrorists’ outside supply lines, for which it is necessary to block the border between Syria and Turkey, which is used to supply arms to criminals, including through humanitarian aid convoys. Importantly, the reporters who alert the public to such incidents are put on trial and sentenced to many years in prison. That is, speaking of freedom of speech.

Of particular concern is the fate of the Christian population and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region. A year ago, here in Geneva, we held a special conference on this situation, which has since been further aggravated. In this connection, I would like to draw attention to the recently signed, in Havana, joint statement by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and Pope Francis, which calls on the international community to take immediate actions to stop the mass exodus of Christians from the Middle East.

We hope that our call will receive a practical response, including in the HRC. We will do our best to make this happen. The migration crisis sweeping Europe is another damaging outcome of the reckless policy designed to achieve a forceful re-alignment in the Middle East and North Africa. It is further compounded by the lack of a coherent, unified position in the European Union, some of whose members promote their liberal policies towards migrants and thus invite new waves of migration to Europe, while others are the first in the path of such waves and are trying to separate themselves from them with walls and fences. As a result, desperate people fleeing from artificially induced wars and conflicts, instead of the promised comfortable life, run into new obstacles, and are subjected to inhumane and sometimes violent treatment, examples of which we can see on a daily basis, including on television. We believe that such methods will not resolve the problem. Clearly, relying on the European Union alone is hardly an option, especially as the migration crisis affects many countries which are not EU members, but suffer the negative consequences of the actions or inaction of EU member countries.

I think it would be advisable to involve the relevant UN agencies and the International Organisation for Migration in developing an integrated approach to this issue. It is important to consistently work to eliminate the causes of the migrant and refugee crisis, which suggests an early settlement of the conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, stabilisation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course, a just settlement to the Palestinian problem. The serious violations of the rights of national minorities in Ukraine continue unabated. In the absence of progress in implementing political reforms under the Minsk Package of Measures approved by the UN Security Council resolution, and with conniving and even instigating Kiev authorities, radical nationalists in Ukraine are becoming increasingly aggressive, openly hold neo-Nazi marches, persecute dissenters, and take over Russian Orthodox churches. Investigations into mass crimes are procrastinated, including events in Kiev and Odessa in February and May 2014, despite the Council of Europe's efforts to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

We hope that the human rights and humanitarian UN agencies will focus on these issues. There are major human rights issues in the Baltic States, where statelessness is rife and the authorities are lenient with regard to an open revival of neo-Nazism as the EU and the United States turn a blind eye to it. It is important not to forget that the modern human rights system is the result of victory over Nazism in World War II. Its key precepts were laid down in the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the 70th anniversary of which we will mark this year. You can’t hide behind concerns for freedom of speech and assembly by enabling ultra-radical movements that extol Nazis and their collaborators, practice racial discrimination and xenophobia. Awareness of the dangers of such views is becoming stronger, which, in particular, shows in the growing numbers of co-authors of the UN General Assembly resolution on fighting the glorification of Nazism that is adopted annually on Russia’s initiative.

Despite all the difficulties involved in the work of UN human rights bodies, Russia is committed to constructive cooperation with all its partners. We call for consensus on ways to promote equal cooperation in order to address the challenges in the way of the full realization of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of universal international legal instruments and with respect for the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world.

Geneva, March 1, 2016

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