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Human rights ‘success stories’ shared at the UN to serve as example, and inspire others

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is 70 this year and since then, it’s helped improve the rights of vulnerable women, children and men worldwide. The “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative was launched by 14 countries and the European Union to highlight the strengthening of rights, and inspire nations worldwide to follow suit. 

At a high-level event held in that spirit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, in New York, on Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, drove home that point: “We should never forget the profound progress that has been made over the decades – and, indeed, that is happening as we speak.”

“Progress in one corner of the world plants a seed of hope in another,” he stated, referencing his own personal story. “I grew up under the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal and did not know democracy until I was twenty-four years old…But it was the human rights struggles and stories of others around the world that inspired and moved us to believe in change at home.”

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who also delivered opening remarks cited recent human rights advancements across the world including in India, the Horn of Africa, South Africa, Georgia, Liberia, Tunisia and Chile.

“In many countries, things are moving in the right direction, sometimes not quickly enough, sometimes it’s not perfect, but nevertheless, they are moving and the broader impact is clear,” she said. 

The event went on to showcase several initiatives and progress made to strengthen human rights in various countries, including the promotion of diversity in Indonesia, the role played by civil society in Korea, new legislation for gender equality in Tunisia, and prison reform in Georgia, to name a few. 

On Wednesday, the UN held another high-level event marking the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, to highlight how making the text a reality, can be a powerful tool for nations across the world to prevent conflict and poverty.



Remarks at the opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly

Permítame empezar esta intervención felicitando una vez más su Excelencia María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés de Ecuador por su elección como presidenta de la sesión setenta y tres de la asamblea general.
She brings wide-ranging diplomatic and inter-governmental experience to the role, as well as deep knowledge of the international agenda.
She already knows the United Nations quite well, having served as Permanent Representative in Geneva.
And of course in addition to being the first woman to become her country’s Permanent Representative, she is now the fourth woman to serve as President of the General Assembly – and the first in more than a decade.  I am sure that this additional perspective will enrich and advance our work.  Your presence Madame President is the guarantee that gender parity is on the move.
We have a busy session ahead of us.
We need action for peacekeeping, gender parity, financing for the 2030 Agenda, empowerment for the world’s young people, urgent steps to end poverty and conflict, and much else.  I encourage you to tell your leaders to come to next week’s high-level week ready to be bold and ready to forge solutions for our global challenges.
Looking farther ahead, there are important gatherings on the calendar that can solidify progress on key global challenges.
The Conference of Parties to the climate convention will gather in Poland in December.  Climate impacts continue to worsen and accelerate – and our actions and ambition are nowhere near where they need to be to avoid catastrophe.  Fortunately, technology is on our side, and much is happening towards a green economy that we can build on.  Let’s make sure that Katowice is a success.
Also in December, Heads of State and Government will meet in Marrakech to formally adopt a landmark Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  Implementing this Compact can help us reap the widespread benefits of migration while protecting people against dangerous journeys, exploitation and discrimination.  I look forward to its formal adoption. 
This Assembly has a vital role to play on these and all other issues.
At a time of fragmentation and polarization, the world needs this Assembly to show the value of international cooperation.
The Secretariat and I are committed to supporting you and strengthening the ways in which we work together.

Madame President, I wish you and all Member States every success as we strive to achieve our shared goals.
Thank you.

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