In a joint statement with the Association for World Education, Representative David G Littman spoke at the UN Commission on Human Rights on 18 April 2005. Throughout the world, he said, there are those who have given up any hope that the UN can make a real difference to their lives, and in the safeguard of their rights. He called for a clear focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for international human rights norms.
ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD EDUCATION
Case Postale 205 – 1196 Gland – Switzerland
STATEMENT by Representative David G. LITTMAN. Monday 18 April 2005
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 61st Session (14 March-22 April)
Effective Functioning of Human Rights mechanism:
Treaty bodies/national institutions (item 18)
Joint statement with the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the Association of World Citizens.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Item 18 on the effective functioning of the human rights mechanisms is the cornerstone of our work. It is to the degree that the UN system can be an effective recourse for those whose human rights are violated that this six-week annual session will be meaningful. Throughout the world there are those who have given up any hope that the UN can make a real difference to their lives, and in the safeguard of their rights. Yet, it is only as we work together: Government representatives, NGOs, and the Secretariat, that we can translate the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into effective mechanisms.
The results of this session will be crucial to its survival, and the resolution on the Sudan will be the real litmus test.
In practice, States are bound only by limitations which they have set for themselves, based on mutual consent and enshrined in UN Declarations and treaties. These limitations must be clear and well understood by most peoples, and protected by NGOs, who are able to work without fear. This is why our Association has often stressed the need for human rights education. We have always insisted that national legislation be brought into conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which should be accepted as the common standard for all work at the United Nations. On this theme we wish to refer back to the excellent final Report in 2003 by Special Rapporteur Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, who occupied that post on Violence against Women for nine years. It has a noteworthy description:
“Cultural relativism is the belief that no universal legal or moral standard exists against which human practices can be judged. It is argued that the human rights discourse is not universal but a product of the European enlightenment and its particular cultural development, and thus a cultural imposition of one part of the globe upon another. Ironically, despite these claims, States sign international human rights instruments and agree to abide by their principles. It could therefore be argued that States have consented to be bound by certain universal principles.”
The Association for World Education, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and the
Association of World Citizens maintain that there is a real need to keep a clear focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for international human rights norms.
Our Association’s written Statement E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/NGO/15: “International Bill of Human Rights: Universality / International Standards / National Practices” is available.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.