Speech of the UN Resident Coordinator on the commemoration of Human Rights Day in Maseru, Ministry of Health.
Bo-Mme le Bo-Ntate, Khotsong, please allow me to pay my respects to:
HIS MAJESTY KING LETSIE III, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER,
HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE,
HONOURABLE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY,
HIS LORDSHIP PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL,
HER LADYSHIPSHIP THE CHIEF JUSTICE,
HONOURABLE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER,
HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT,
HONOURABLE MINISTERS OF HIS MAJESTY’S CABINET,
PARTICULARLY THE HON. MINISTER OF LAW, CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS, NT. HABOFANOE LEHANA,
THEIR LORDSHIPS JUDGES OF THE COURT OF APPEAL AND OF THE HIGH COURT,
YOUR EXCELLENCIES MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS;
HEADS OF UN AGENCIES AND DEAR COLLEAGUES;
SENIOR GOVERNMEN OFFICIALS;
MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA; DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, BO MME LE BO NTATE, ALL PROTOCOL OBSERVED
On behalf of the United Nations, I am honored to make a few remarks as we celebrate Human Rights Day 2019.
As we mark this year’s Human Rights Day, it is very important to underscore that one of the core purposes of the United Nations is to promote and protect Human Rights as enshrined in UN Charter. So, for the UN, human rights represent a duty and not an option. And because Human Rights are universal, every one of us has duties and obligations. Governments, including the government of Lesotho, have a duty to create the conditions for every Mosotho to enjoy their rights. Individuals hold rights and responsibilities.
As and individual, I have rights and my neighbor has rights, too. I have rights but I do not have the right to deny my neighbor his/her rights. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that ‘‘Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and absolute rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’’
Today also marks the end of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. Gender Based violence is a violation of human rights. Sexual violence is a violation of human rights. As we celebrate this day, we need to remind each other that GBV is an area where we need to work harder.
Today’s theme: “YOUTH STANDING UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” speaks to the rights and responsibilities of young people. Young people often face discrimination and obstacles to the enjoyment of their rights due to their age, which limits their potential, and many other reasons.
In recent years the youth have become more assertive on issues of human rights and are demanding that governments and intergovernmental organizations be more responsive to their needs. Around the world, we hear of places where the youth rise against injustice, inequality, poor governance, etc. Through their demonstrations and claims, the youth are driving a movement to review and rethink existing analytical, methodological and legal frameworks to make sure that development is people-centered and respectful of human rights.
Distinguished Guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate,
The year 2019 has been a special year for Lesotho. The Kingdom is undergoing its 3rd Universal Period Review. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a universal mechanism that all member states of the United Nations undergo to assess the status of all human rights in their country. The UPR provides an opportunity to Governments to know their own national situation through legislative and policy review and meaningful data collection. This helps to monitor progress and to promote, protect and fulfil human rights including for the youth. It helps raise awareness on human rights among its population and enlist assistance from different segments of the population.
Reporting creates an opportunity for national dialogue, ensures an intergovernmental coordinated response to address human rights concerns. The Government of Lesotho has been engaged with the UPR since 2010 and it successfully went through its first and second cycles in 2010 and 2015. From its Second Cycle, Lesotho accepted 138 recommendations. This proves Lesotho’s growing commitment to reporting on its human rights situation and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. Its 3rd cycle of review is scheduled for January 2020 where it will inform the international community on the progress made in the realization of the human rights of Basotho including the youth.
In preparation for the 3rd review in January 2020, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and Civil Society Organizations led by the Transformation Resources Centre (TRC) successfully submitted their respective UPR reports in July 2019. This was followed by the timely submission of the State UPR Report in October 2019. Congratulations!
These three reports highlighted among other things, human rights issues related to the youth in Lesotho. For instance, the Civil Society report highlighted the need to ‘revive Distance Learning to accommodate learners who cannot be in class during the normal learning hours like herd boys, teenage mothers and learners who were married very young.’ If accepted, such a recommendation would go a long way in fulfilling the right to education by youth.
Let us remember: submitting a UPR report is important but that is not all. The UPR is one part of a larger cycle, which includes follow-up to the recommendations and should improve the implementation of obligations that as set out in the human rights treaties. I use this opportunity to call on the Government to take more concrete measures to implement the human rights recommendations. One good way would be to establish a National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up (NMRF). The UN Family in Lesotho stands ready to support the Government of Lesotho with the establishment of such reporting and follow-up mechanism for human rights.
Distinguished Guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate,
On this Human Rights Day, it is worth emphasizing that the 17 SDGs and many of their 169 targets and 241 indicators are closely linked to specific human rights with most of them relating to economic, social and cultural rights. One of the key human rights principles is that of non-discrimination and equality including for the youth. The SDGs concept of Leave No One Behind is clearly premised on this fundamental principle. What we must consider, in practical terms, is how we can implement the SDGs in line with international human rights norms and standards while also ensuring that recommendations from international human rights mechanisms should guide implementation of the SDGs.
As I conclude, I wish to encourage all of us to continue working together at all levels to consistently ensure that young people’s rights are respected, realized and protected. However, I also want to call on the youth of Lesotho to be agents of social change: know your rights, promote them, protect them. Utilize youth organizations and structures to educate each other and to act.
The development of the National Youth Policy in 2018 was a step in the right direction. It is also the responsibility of young people to add another step by contributing to the implementation of the policy. Finally, allow me to share the statement of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres on Human Rights Day 2019. I quote: ‘‘This year, on Human Rights Day, we celebrate the role of young people in bringing human rights to life. Globally, young people are marching, organizing and speaking out: for the right to a healthy environment; for the equal rights of women and girls; to participate in decision-making; and to express their opinions freely.
‘‘They are marching for their right to a future of peace, justice and equal opportunities. Every single person is entitled to all rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Regardless of where they live. Regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, social origin, gender, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, disability or income, or any other status.
‘‘On this International Day, I call on everyone to support and protect young people who are standing up for human rights.’’ End of quote