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Speech by Mr. Dennis Curry, ACD, Governance & Participation at the Roundtable for commemoration of the International Human Rights Day

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Date: 9 December 2016    
Event: Roundtable for commemoration of the International Human Rights Day
Venue: Viet Nam Diplomacy Academy, No.69 Chua Lang street, Ha Noi

Ms. Lý Vân Anh, Vice Dean, Faculty of International Law, Viet Nam Diplomatic Academy;
Ms. Hoàng Thị Thanh Nga, Deputy Director General, Department of International Organizations;
Distinguished representatives of the Viet Nam Diplomatic Academy, Viet Nam National University, Hanoi Law University, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Esteemed Professors, Students, UN and development partner colleagues

Good morning and a very warm welcome to everyone who has joined today for our “Commemoration of the International Human Rights Day”. I am glad that you all could join us today.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Viet Nam Diplomatic Academy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in particular the Department for International Organizations for their outstanding partnership in organizing this event.

International Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On this same day last year, we celebrated the International Human Rights Day with students and professors of Viet Nam Diplomatic Academy, talking about the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the set of values that we hope students, soon to become young diplomats, will treasure and promote in their career.

To celebrate the International Human Rights Day this year, I am very glad that we will have an opportunity to discuss Viet Nam’s experience as a member of the UN Human Right Council – serving for the first time, over the past three years.

Countries join the Human Rights Council in order to share their experience and contribute more actively to the joint efforts of the Council and the international community, with a view to better promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.

Seeking election in 2013, Viet Nam pledged to undertake 14 voluntarily commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council. In its three years on the council many of these turned from commitments into concrete actions:
- In 2015, Viet Nam completed procedures for the ratification of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2015 (commitment #13), and procedures for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (#14).
- Viet Nam fulfilled its commitment to engage in the second Universal Periodic Review process, held in 2014 (commitment #6)
- Under the 8th commitment, Viet Nam pledged to be “participate in an active, constructive and responsible manner in the work of the Council”.

I share here just a few notable observations of this engagement

o In June this year, Viet Nam stood up for recognition and protection of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people. Viet Nam joined 22 other countries  voting in favour of the Human Rights Council’s motion to establish a specific mandate on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, the Council decided to appoint, for a period of three years, an Independent Expert mandated to assess the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination.

o At the 32nd session of the Council, Viet Nam co-sponsored the resolution on climate change and human rights, which draws on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and pays particular focus on the impact of climate change on children’s rights. This initiative is an incredibly important one in recognizing climate change as a human rights issue, and encouraging UN Members States to integrate policies on health and human rights in their national action plans on climate mitigation and adaptation. The resolution also recognizes children as among the most vulnerable to climate change, which may have serious impact on their right to health, access to education, adequate food and housing, safe drinking water and sanitation.

Against this background, certainly there were challenges to fully accomplish all the pledges and commitments, and this is why the reflection today on the experience as a member of the Human Rights Council from multiple perspectives is highly commendable. We encourage Vietnam to continue efforts to fulfill these commitments and tackle emerging human rights challenges that it faces beyond its term of membership in the Council. These include the issues of climate change, gender inequality and the area of business and human rights. The UPR continues to be a comprehensive framework under which to improve national protection of Human Rights and we encourage Viet Nam in the ongoing implementation of its National UPR Action Plan ahead of the third cycle review. The UN looks forward to offering our continued support to Vietnam in meeting these challenges.
The lessons that will be shared will be extremely important for any future attempt to return as members of the Council; and equally important, at a personal and individual level, for our students here today to be inspired for your own life and your own future career. What you are learning in school today, and how you apply it in future, will determine whether Viet Nam as a nation can navigate the complex challenges that lie in the future while promoting and protecting the rights of everyone.

Dear students - we are privileged to have here today our distinguished guest speaker Ms. Hoàng Thị Thanh Nga, Deputy Director General, MOFA.  It is a great opportunity to learn, so please don’t hold back from asking questions. That way, I am sure we will all learn something new.
As we are here today for the commemoration, we are joined by many others to celebrate and make collective efforts to educate about human rights and promote the universal values of human rights. We will also be joined by representatives of civil society, of the media and our UN colleagues at a ceremony this afternoon to award finalists of “Views of Citizens” – a contest to promote the Right to Information as a fundamental right protected by international human rights law and enshrined in the Viet Nam Constitution. The event is hosted at our Green One UN House, and we will be more than happy if you can come.

As you may know, this year, International Human Rights Day calls on everyone to “STAND UP FOR SOMEONE’S RIGHTS!” Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. More than ever, this is the time for us to reaffirm our common humanity. Wherever we are, we can make a real difference, in school, in the street, in public transport and on social media. On this occasion, let me recall the words of the UN High Commissioner for Human Right, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights. There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference. Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity.” “It starts with each of us. Stand up for someone’s rights today.”

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to meet with you and eagerly look forward to hearing your opinions and suggestions to strengthening our commitment to guaranteeing the fundamental freedoms and protecting the human rights of all. Last but not least, I wish you a very successful academic year.

Thank you!