Regional Conference "Building Bridges: Collaborative Networks and International Mechanisms for Human Rights Protection"

May 26, 2013

UNDP globally and throughout all of its activities has been mainstreaming human rights as an essential component of human development. It is not coincidental that the millennium edition of the Human Development Report in 2000 was dedicated specifically to the issue of human rights. It clearly underlined the fact that human rights are not, as has sometimes been argued, a reward of development. Rather, they are critical to achieving it. Only with political freedoms - the right for all men and women to participate equally in society - can people genuinely take advantage of economic freedoms.

Only when people feel they have a stake and a voice will they throw themselves wholeheartedly into development. Rights make human beings better economic actors. And it is clearly not enough for countries simply to grant economic and social rights in theory alone. You cannot legislate good health and jobs. You need an economy strong enough to provide them—and for that you need people economically engaged. People will work because they enjoy the fruits of their labour: fair pay, education and health care for their families. They will build the wealth that allows them to be compensated. But if the rewards of their labour are denied them again, they will lose their motivation. So economic and social rights are both the incentive for, and the reward of, a strong economy. That is why a broad vision of human rights must be entrenched to achieve sustainable human development.

When adhered to in practice as well as in principle, the two concepts make up a self-reinforcing virtuous circle. Human rights and human development share a common vision and a common purpose - to secure the freedom, well-being and dignity of all people everywhere. This is why the UNDP in Ukraine have taken the lead in bringing state- and nonstate actors together and fostering the national dialogue on human rights in the framework of the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review which Ukraine has recently undergone. We are pleased to see that UNDP convening and brokering efforts resulted in a more active CSOs participation in the process as well as a more open and consultative process of drafting the UPR National Report. This experience will be discussed and shared during the conference and, we hope, can inspire further activities both within Ukraine and in the CIS region to continue improving national dialogues on human rights. Achieving rights for all people in all countries require action and commitment from the major players in society. State, civil society and national human rights institutions have an essential role to play in advancing and protecting human rights. All three have been given due credit.

The actor which often stands in the shadow is the fourth actor or so called fourth estate, i.e. media. Indeed, the role of media for advancing and protecting human rights has been largely overlooked. At the same time, in many countries of the world journalists are oftentimes risking their career and - in certain situations -lives to defend human rights and restore justice to the vulnerable. By doing it, they contribute to the system of “checks and balances” for human rights observance in a country. Apart from that, international good practices in the area of journalism specify three crucial roles that underpin the mission of media – to inform, to educate and to entertain. Indeed, in addition to disseminating information and entertaining readers, watchers and listeners, the media should educate and shape (and not manipulate!) values and opinions, the function oftentimes neglected and ignored. In order to proactively alter the human rights situation, the journalist community should be more and more integrated into the national human rights architecture and augment its role as a human rights educator of citizenry and international community. We hope this conference will catalyse these processes.

We welcome you in Kyiv— the capital of the country which a week ago completed its second UPR cycle and announced its commitments in the human rights area for the next four and a half years. We hope these commitments will guide the further human rights initiatives nationally, and will sustain the momentum already in place. Of course, UNDP will stand ready to support such initiatives. I wish all of us a very productive conference.