"Promoting human rights is a daily fight"
Opening of Exhibit on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Remarks by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
United Nations – 6 December 2018
Monsieur le Secrétaire général,
Madame la Présidente,
It’s a great pleasure and honor for my wonderful team and for me to be here with you tonight on this very special occasion, as we are gathered here this evening to attend the opening of this exhibition on the 70-year anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
There is a strong French touch here as it was in Paris that this text was adopted, 70 years ago, and the Nobel Prize winning French jurist, René Cassin, was one of its major architects, alongside many others of course. And this text is based also on the 1789 Declaration of the rights of man and the citizens, and profoundly rooted in the universalist ideals of the enlightenment and the humanism of the European Renaissance.
That is why we will celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights again, at the Palais de Chaillot, at the heart of Paris, on Monday. This is why France hosted the world summit on Human rights defenders last October and awarded the Franco-German Human Rights Prize to 15 human rights and women rights activists from literally all over the world.
What makes this text so powerful is its universality, which is reflected in the title of this exhibition but also engraved in the text itself. Let’s not ever take it for granted: this is a fight.
Men and women from all over the world have worked tirelessly to achieve this universality. Indeed, I would like to pay a special tribute to the role of women in this regard, as you eloquently said, Madame la Présidente : Eleonore Roosevelt of course, the President of the Drafting Committee as you said Mr. Secretary general, but also delegates from Lebanon, Poland, Denmark, Dominican Republic, India, were pioneers, as was the French woman Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, whose portrait can be seen in this exhibition and who chaired the Commission on the Status of Woman in 1948.
Rebecca, you just told me that Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux was also honored as a Resistance fighter during the Second World War. She fought for freedom, for human rights and for women’s rights.
Despite the differences between member states, and despite the episodic resurgences of nationalism, which is inherently selfish, how far we have come since the Declaration’s adoption!
On the crucial issue of women’s rights, for instance, we adopted a Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women ; we witnessed the landmark Beijing conference ; we created UN Women, which is doing a great job ; we developed the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the Security Council, which is one of France’s key priorities at the Council. Every year, we are making women’s rights more comprehensive, encompassing the recognition of sexual and reproductive health rights, the promotion of women’s empowerment, and the call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.
This year, we have opened an important front together, to eliminate sexual harassment. The UN will continue to be a fabric in order to advance human rights and dignity.
My dear friends, promoting human rights is a daily fight, a work in progress, even more so as we have to address new challenges such as migration, new technologies and terrorism. The environmental emergency, including climate change, is one of these challenges. The Global Pact for the Environment that we actively promote is an opportunity to recognize the right of individuals and indeed of all people to a healthy environment.
Let’s be lucid among us, and let’s avoid sugar-coating the reality: Human rights are challenged like never before in some respect across the world - including in this very institution. And the winds, my dear friends, the winds are to some extent against us. So now, more than ever, all of us need to be strongly committed, each and every one of us, each and every one of our countries, on a daily basis, to defend and promote human rights, that are at the heart of the UN’s DNA.
Alors mes chers amis, vive les droits de l’Homme !