Speech Secretary General Yoka Brandt at the Human rights council in Geneva

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Human rights are for everyone.

No matter who we are.

No matter where we are from.

No matter how much money we have.

Everybody should be able to claim their right to human dignity.

That is what this Council and all its members stand for.

That is what the Kingdom of the Netherlands stands for.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a firm supporter of all human rights – political rights, civil rights, economic rights, social rights and cultural rights – for everyone everywhere. 

Each individual has the right to live in dignity and freedom. No one should be left behind. Freedom spurs empowerment and inclusive sustainable development. It’s as simple as that.

That is why the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved if countries don’t fulfil their human rights obligations.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is deeply committed to human rights and to this Council. We believe in the importance of multilateral cooperation and dialogue.

We believe the Human Rights Council has significantly contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Council also acts effectively on many country situations where the Security Council has failed. The Council has come to be recognised as the place where governments and civil society present their views on human rights policies; where they voice their concerns over human rights situations; where victims of violations give their testimonies; and where governments are induced to enter into a dialogue to address any criticisms.

More than ever in these difficult times, we all need to work harder to defend human rights and improve this Council. We need smart multilateral engagement to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

We are convinced the effectiveness and efficiency of the Human Rights Council can be enhanced.

•      First, there is room for improvement in the roles and responsibility of its members; the members have to live up to the standards laid down in the founding resolution, both at the time of their candidature and as actors on the Council.

•      Second, the Council must respond better to human rights violations in those country situations that meet objective guiding principles.

•      And third, it is crucial that the UN’s human rights work – including that of the human rights treaty bodies – is adequately funded.

The Netherlands wants to be a reliable partner. We listen to and engage with all countries, large and small, developed or developing, like-minded or not.  And we do want to contribute to the achievements of the Council and the strengthening of the Council.

That is why the Kingdom of the Netherlands is again a candidate for a seat on the Council.

Apart from political support, we also want to contribute financially; my government has made more funds available to promote and protect human rights internationally.

This year, we will again increase our annual voluntary contribution to the OHCHR. It is largely un-earmarked, because we support the full range of the Office’s work.

And that’s not all we’re doing.

We’ve also increased our bilateral support to civil society human rights initiatives that enhance the safety of journalists, freedom of religion or belief and equal rights for women and girls, and LGBTI people. 

Because we believe that a diverse and inclusive civil society helps promote stability, development and prosperity.

At the same time, we want to highlight the work of those who strive to promote human rights around the world, because the space in which courageous civil society groups can operate is shrinking all the time.

To this end, every year we award the Dutch Human Rights Tulip to an individual or organisation that promotes human rights worldwide in innovative ways.

And back in 2012 we introduced the Shelter City Programme, which now includes 11 Dutch cities and three cities in other parts of the world.

These cities offer rest and respite to a broad range of people – from activists to scholars, and from artists to political figures. As a result, these human rights defenders can get off the radar of their own country’s authorities, or other actors, and recuperate for a while, before returning home stronger.

Mr President,

I said we want to be a reliable partner; and we also want to facilitate dialogue.

And so, at the end of my speech, I’m proud to announce that in November this year my country will organise and host the seventh meeting of the Istanbul Process, which is all about combating religious intolerance and protecting freedom of religion and belief.

We believe it’s a perfect forum for states and practitioners to exchange experiences, good practices and results. An opportunity to unite, and remind everybody of the core principle of our common humanity: human dignity.  

Thank you.