Message from Mr. Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator on 2018 Human Rights Day UN in Vietnam Event to Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Event: 2018 Human Rights Day UN in Vietnam Event to Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Date: 10 December, 2018

Venue: Green One UN House

Dear colleagues,

This is not just any Human Rights Day but a special one commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. We had one joint event today with the Government, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Diplomatic Academy where we were represented by the Chair of the Governance Results Group and which I am told went well. But given this special occasion, we felt it was important to have an event just with UN staff as well.

I am very pleased to be here with you today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed and adopted on 10 December 1948.

Through the vision and resolve of drafters from across the globe, this Declaration established the notion of universal human rights for the first time in an international document. Indivisible rights, spanning civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights, were afforded to everyone simply by virtue of their being part of a humanity bound together in solidarity.

The commitment made by all States by adopting this Declaration was a mighty achievement, setting out a comprehensive and high standard for every State to respect and protect a standard of human rights below which no State should fall.

The Declaration laid down the fundamental principle, simple and powerful, that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". This principle has subsequently been affirmed in a number of human rights instruments.

Of course, human rights were not, once and for all, fully protected and respected with this Declaration. But national constitutions and legislative frameworks in the world have nevertheless seen major positive developments since the adoption of the Declaration with a growing emphasis on the progressive realization of human rights.

Progress has been achieved through the agreement, signing, ratification and coming into legal force of subsequent international human rights Conventions, changed national laws to make domestic legislation consistent with international obligations committed to by UN member states in these Conventions, in addition to improved institutional frameworks to protect and promote the rights contained in the Declaration.

Positive developments, however, continue to be offset by a number of enduring challenges such as violence and crises, shrinking space for freedom of speech and civil society, the impact of climate change on the enjoyment of rights, lack of access to basic social services and growing social inequalities, not just in wealth or income but also of opportunity, especially impacting vulnerable groups. As if that was not enough, discrimination, disempowerment and other human rights violations continue to pose formidable challenges.

With concern for human rights currently clearly in retreat in many contexts across the world, we need to highlight and advocate for the principles of this Declaration now more than ever. Though it is 70 years old today it is as relevant for the future of our society, as it was in 1948 and over the last seven decades.

Recently, here in Viet Nam, especially in 2018, we have engaged extensively with a number of human rights mechanisms, all tracing back to the Universal Declaration as their mothership. We have also supported the Government, civil society and Embassies to engage with these mechanisms, for example, the UNCT has presented its reports on the 3rd UPR which Vietnam will go through next month in January 2019, as well as its reviews under the Convention on Torture and the ICCPR and our UN reports on each have significantly informed each of these processes. This is important, and I am very supportive of the engagement of UN agencies through our UN Country Team's Human Rights Thematic Group whose work has been very impressive and whom I wish to comment on this occasion.

But human rights work should not only be viewed as the work of this group or the Governance Results Group but of all UN staff. Our work on the rights enshrined in this Declaration should not be limited to our work with human rights mechanisms. We must use this Declaration and human rights instruments as a compass guiding us in all our work in support of achieving the 2030 Agenda as well as in our endeavor to leave no one behind. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs), human rights are at the core of and cut across all the Sustainable Development Goals. This is one of the important differentiating issues between the MDGs and the SDGs.

On this important anniversary of the Declaration, we should also be reminded of the very purpose of the United Nations, outlined in the first article of the UN Charter: "promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all". A purpose, which remains at the forefront of UN work through, among other goals, SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions as well as initiatives such as the previous UN Secretary General's "Human Rights Up Front".

As the UN in Viet Nam, we must continue to work to further human rights. We must further our collective efforts to achieve development with equity through a rights-based and people-centred approach focused on achieving the SDGs and empowering the most marginalized segments of society. We must continue to work in a manner recognizing the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelationship of all rights.

While we recognize that this work will never be fully completed, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Human Rights mechanisms and principles it has subsequently engendered, the world can be seen to have attained a relatively high normative standard against which all UN Member and Observer States should be held accountable in terms of their actions and those of their citizens.

While doing so, we can find comfort in the fact that, despite the current challenges, historically, over the past 70 years, we have seen significant progress in the area of human rights. This is in substantial part because of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the work we do collectively as the UN, globally, regionally and at the country level.

As the UN in Viet Nam, we have a duty to keep upholding and defending these rights. In the words of former Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon: "Let us ensure that those people who most need their rights protected are made aware that this Declaration exists — and that it exists for them."

Today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most translated text in the world, available in more than 500 languages from Abkhaz to Zulu, making it a truly universal document. We must continue our work to make sure that these universal rights also become living reality for every human being, everywhere.

Thank you all so much for coming together to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for your tireless work to ensure that no one is left behind.

Thank you! Xin cảm ơn!