HUMAN RIGHTS VISION AND PROMISE UNDER CONSIDERABLE STRAIN, SAYS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
9 December 2004
The vision and promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under considerable strain, the top United Nations human rights official said Thursday, calling the response to the threat of terrorism “confused”.
Speaking in Geneva on the eve of International Human Rights Day, Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that today, “Few of us are free from fear; many of us are still not free from want. The sinister shadow of terrorism is generating a confused response, unanchored in the principles that have guided us in the search for a proper balance between our desire for collective security and our need for liberty and individual freedom”.
“The vision and the promise contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under considerable strain”, she said.
Mrs. Arbour underlined that the United Nations High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change had captured well the global threats the world faces. “International terrorist groups prey on weak States for sanctuary”, she said. “Their recruitment is aided by grievances nurtured by poverty, foreign occupation and the absence of human rights and democracy; by religious and other intolerance; and by civil violence - a witch’s brew common to those areas where civil war and regional conflict intersect”.
The High Commissioner cautioned against becoming “prisoners of a culture of fear and an ideology of exclusion and arrogance”. “More than ever”, she said, “the international human rights agenda creates a forum, may be the only universal forum, in which conflicting views, aspirations and beliefs of a most fundamental nature can confront each other in a respectful environment”.
She continued: “We must preserve the space that we have created, through our international human rights instruments and institutions, for this interaction to take place. And we must embrace the future boldly as we seek to improve these instruments and institutions.”
Much depends on the readiness of the international community to act on its responsibilities, Mrs. Arbour said. She urged all Member States to ensure that the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration on 10 December 1948 are properly promoted and protected.