Human Rights Day 2018
Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator Ms Christine Evans-Klock at Human Rights Day event 2018
I would like to start out by thanking CHRAJ for organizing this commemoration, which is so special given that today we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
It is also special because we are also commemorating International Anti-Corruption Day, which is 9th December.
So, thank you for giving all of us the opportunity to commemorate two important dates in one event that highlights the connections between the recognition and protection of human rights with commitment to good governance that is transparent and accountable to citizens.
And, as this is my last official address before leaving Ghana, I feel very humble that I have this opportunity to offer a few remarks on a subject that is of fundamental importance to the work of the United Nations worldwide and in Ghana: promoting human rights and promoting good governance.
I would like to begin by sharing with you the message from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the 2018 commemoration of Human Rights Day, and I quote
“For 70 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a global beacon – shining a light for dignity, equality and well-being … and bringing hope to dark places.
“The rights proclaimed in the Declaration apply to everyone -- no matter our race, belief, location or other distinction of any kind.
“Human rights are universal and eternal.
“They are also indivisible. One cannot pick and choose among civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
“Today we also honour the human rights defenders risking their lives to protect people in the face of rising hatred, racism, intolerance and repression.
“Indeed, human rights are under siege around the world.
“Universal values are being eroded. The rule of law is being undermined.
“Now more than ever, our shared duty is clear:
“Let us stand up for human rights -- for everyone, everywhere.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today marks the culmination of a year-long UN campaign, where human rights defenders all over the world have demonstrated how the Declaration is as relevant today as the day it was signed. It is a revolutionary document giving rights to every person everywhere.
In Ghana, the relevance of the Declaration is especially apparent in the commitment to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The SDG agenda is a human rights agenda which is grounded in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Human Rights stands as a cross-cutting priority for the UN Country Team in Ghana. They are at the center of our collaboration with the government as set out in our harmonized One Programme, the UN Sustainable Development Partnership, which will guide the work of 24 UN Agencies in Ghana through 2022.
By applying a human rights-based approach, we are working with Government, Civil Society and the Private Sector to make sure that no one is left behind because their human rights are not recognized and protected. We are especially concerned to amplify the voices of those groups in society that are at particular risk of facing discrimination.
Today we are also celebrating the 15th anniversary of the UN Convention on Anti-Corruption, which is marked on the 9th of December. The Convention has been adopted by 186 state parties. It has inspired transparency and accountability and has created a foundation for the development of national laws against corruption in nearly every country in the world.
As noted in the Secretary-General’s message for international anti-corruption day,
Corruption is present in all countries, rich and poor, North and South.
Its effects are felt in underfunded schools, medical services, and roads.
It sustains trafficking of people and drugs, tax evasion and money laundering.
Corruption divert much-needed resources for sustainable development.
How significant is this effect?
- The World Economic Forum has estimated that the cost of corruption is at least 2.6 trillion dollars. – or 5 per cent of global gross domestic product.
- According to the World Bank, businesses and individuals pay more than $1 trillion in bribes each year.
- And UNDP has estimated that funds lost to corruption are 10 times the amount of official development assistance.
This is sobering, no country can invest sufficiently in development with this magnitude of losses.
The Convention’s peer review mechanism provides a way for countries to work together to build a foundation of trust and accountability, to learn from each other’s efforts to change a culture of complicity and impunity. It shows the way to educate and empower citizens to demand transparency and the rule of law. It also strengthens international cooperation to recover stolen assets.
I am sure that other countries will be interested to learn about the NACoRD as a monitoring tool and will be keen to follow its implementation. This presents another opportunity for Ghana to lead by example.
In 2018, the African Union launched the African anti-corruption year recognizing the ways corruption undermines democratic governance and enjoyment of human rights. Aspiration 4 of the AU 2063 Agenda recognizes that corruption erodes the development of a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of the law.
The need to dramatically mobilise domestic resources to invest in development has drawn attention to corruption and in particular to illicit financial flows, as the source of substantial leakages in government resources. The cost of plugging those leaks – by investing in security services, criminal investigations and judicial systems - pays for itself. It has no opportunity costs – it is not a matter of spending on education vs spending on health. Spending on stopping corruption yields substantial domestic resources to invest on both education and health, and all the other critical public services.
Pervasive corruption is a principle reason why vulnerable groups are at risk of “being left behind”. Groups whose rights are not recognized and protected have no access to duty bearers. Corruption hinders the ability of governments to expand quality social services to all. It interferes with peoples’ social and economic rights - their right to food and health care, their access to justice, their right to use natural resources sustainably and protect them for future generations. This is why an efficient anti-corruption strategy must be informed by key human rights principles.
Last year, in its third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council, the Government of Ghana committed to continue to make progress across a broad range of human rights issues, including
- protecting the rights of children, women and workers;
- promoting gender equality and combatting domestic and gender-based violence;
- ending child marriage, child labour and human trafficking;
- protection against discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation; and
- protecting the rights of migrants, refugees, persons with disabilities, detainees and prisoners.
Pursuing gender equality and ending gender-based and domestic violence featured particularly prominently in these commitments, and it is appropriate that we acknowledge this commitment as we draw to a close the 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence on Human Rights day today.
It is the responsibility of UN Country teams to work with Government and Civil Society to support their implementation of their human rights commitments.
I am confident that the UN team in Ghana will continue to do that. It has been a privilege to work with CHRAJ, human rights groups, and development partners in our joint commitment to ensure that basic human rights are enjoyed by all Ghanaians.
I appreciate the support of UNODC and UNDP to support the anti-corruption campaign. I also acknowledge the work of the UN as a team to improve the collection and use of data to monitor SDG implementation.
We understand that it is important that everyone be engaged in holding Government to account – to meet its commitments to the Regional and the Global Goals that no one be left behind, that they not be left behind from contributing to and benefiting from economic transformation and growth.
Stopping petty and organized corruption is a key factor in any effective national strategy to mobilise public financial resources on the scale that is needed to invest in sustainable and equitable development.
I am confident that when I have opportunity to visit Ghana in the future that I will hear from UN colleagues and human rights groups that this progress is being made. That I will hear that investigations into public corruption have been followed through, with due process under the law and that meaningful consequences have been meted out to those that deserve them, that they result in recouping public financial resources, restoring confidence in public administration, and creating substantial disincentives to others from using public office for private gain.
I am confident I will hear that local and national elections have been conducted in transparent and inclusive manner, again yielding credible and respected results.
And I am confident that Ghana will maintain its image as a beacon for democracy by showing that the rule of law pertains to everyone, by ending corruption and vigilantism, by sustaining its remarkable respect for diversity of religious beliefs, by extending protection of basic human rights to all its citizens regardless of their gender, disability, HIV/AIDS status or sexual orientation, and I am confident that I will hear that Ghana has acted on human rights commitments by passing and implementing legislation on affirmative action for gender equality and on right to information.
I look forward to coming back and seeing you again soon.