Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator on Human Rights Day
Bo Mme le Bo Ntate Khotsong! Allow me to pay my respects to:
HIS MAJESTY KING LETSIE III
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER, Dr. MOEKETSI MAJORO WHO IS OUR MIDST,
HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
HONOURABLE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
HIS LORDSHIP PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL
HIS LORDSHIP THE CHIEF JUSTICE
HONOURABLE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
HONORABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT,
HONOURABLE MINISTERS AND DEPUTY MINISTERS OF HIS MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT, ESPECIALLY HON. MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS, Pr. NQOSA MAHAO,
THEIR LORDSHIPS JUDGES OF THE COURT OF APPEAL AND OF THE HIGH COURT
EXCELLENCIES MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,
HEADS OF UN AGENCIES AND DEAR COLLEAGUES
SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
OUR DISTINGUEST GUESTS AND PANEL MEMBERS
MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA,
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, BO MME LE BO NTATE
ALL PROTOCOL OBSERVED
On behalf of the UN Family in Lesotho, I am honored and pleased to make these few remarks as we gather here to celebrate International Human Rights Day.
Human Rights Day is observed every year on the 10th December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The day marks a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Declaration sets out universal values for all people across the globe. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. While its promise is yet to be fully realized, the very fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the enduring universality of its values of equality, justice and human dignity.
Human Rights Day is celebrated by all people across the globe to reflect on the human rights for all. This day is celebrated to improve the physical, social, cultural and spiritual well-being and welfare of all, but most importantly, the vulnerable groups. The Kingdom of Lesotho is no exception. Commemoration of this day takes place through various activities such as seminars, public gatherings and other awareness raising campaigns.
The theme for this year is “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights”. The theme focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges associated with its presence. The pandemic has exacerbated poverty, increased inequalities, and discrimination and other gaps in the human rights protection system. The world is struggling to recover from the pandemic and address the devastation it is causing to humanity. While the world is struggling to overcome the pandemic, there is potential for undermining human rights and leaving others behind. This year’s theme emphasizes the human rights framework as a cornerstone and integral part to worldwide recovery plans. It is the responsibility of everyone to stand up for those whose human rights are violated using the pandemic as an excuse. The 2030 Agenda plays a pivotal role in recoveries. It is no coincidence that Human Rights Day marks the end of 16 Days of activism against Gender-Based Violence. It is because GBV is one form human right violation.
As a member of the International Community, the Kingdom of Lesotho has decided to celebrate the International Human Rights Day by embarking on two activities, fused into one main event.
In the first session, based on the 2020 Theme on Human Rights Day: “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights”, the collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and Law, UNDP and OHCHR is commemorating the day by raising alarm and awareness on both potential and actual human rights abuses and discrimination of those who might have contracted Covid-19. This is done in the interest of leaving no one behind to create awareness on the stigmatization of COVID 19 survivors and patients. The awareness creation will also reflect on COVID-19 restrictions on movement and assembly vs. public health, and how these have socially impacted on the movement and access of those affected. The awareness will further shine light on the erosion of rights of some vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV or other chronic diseases to health services; children’s right to education and the increasing inequality of access to service. It also attempts to raise awareness of citizens on the establishment of the Human Rights Commission.
The kingdom was forced into a complete lock down for a number of months in 2020 due to the breakout of the pandemic. Thousands of workers in both formal and informal sectors were forced to stay at home. The socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is known to be national while studies are still out on how exactly it impacted on the nation specifically. However, thousands of children have been forced to abandon schools, borders closed, and regional and international trade suspended until recently. How Lesotho will survive the impact is yet to be determined but there are bleak prospects of overcoming the challenge in the very near future.
The second session of today’s commemoration will see a high-level seminar on the National Human Rights Commission, whose aim is to further deliberate on topics such as ‘'Recovery and strengthening of national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights in Lesotho: roadmap to establishment of the HRC’'; National Human Rights Institutions' response to covid-19: best practices and lessons for Lesotho’'; Complementarity between the judiciary and NHRIs in ensuring recovery from the pandemic; and the revival of the economy and effects of human rights limitations during state of emergency’'. We learn that the latest developments on the Bill is that the existing one has been repealed, paving the way for the for the revised version to be presented in Parliament. This has also necessitated an amendment to the Constitution (10th amendment).
Honorable Minister, Distinguished Guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate
The awareness session indicated that Basotho are looking forward to the passing of the Act with the amendments.
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a State Party to nine core International Human Rights Treaties, and State party to several Regional Human Rights Instruments. Acknowledging the progress made, the UN and its agencies continues to support the relevant Ministries in building their capacity to implement their treaty obligations, through the provision of advisory services, technical assistance and capacity building to State parties and other stakeholders, including different institutional and civil society organization active in the areas of human rights. We would like however to indicate that the Kingdom is behind with her reporting on a number of these Treaties. With the proposed establishment of a National Reporting Mechanism, some of these challenges can be overcome.
Numerous local and regional reports including media within and outside Lesotho borders have also raised issues of human rights violation including police brutality. With the Human Rights Commission in place and as a watchdog of human rights abuses, these unfortunate incidents and challenges can be largely overcome. In this case, the involvement of local authorities including chiefs and village headmen, civil society entities, religious leaders and national leadership cannot be overemphasized.
UN stands shoulder to shoulder with the Government and people of the Kingdom. We cannot over emphasize the importance of respect for human rights, and establishment of the Human Rights Commission.
On behalf of UN, I wish you a successful International Human Rights Day and active participation in today’s event.