National Statement by Sweden at the Security Council Debate on Human Rights and Prevention of Armed Conflict


National Statement by Sweden, Ambassador Olof Skoog, at the Security Council Debate on Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Human Rights and Prevention of Armed Conflict. Wednesday, 18 April 2017, New York.

Madam President,

Let me begin by thanking you for convening today's meeting. Human Rights are Universal. As governments we are all obliged to promote and protect them. As the former Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, often said 'There is no peace without development, and there is no development without peace, and none of the above without respect for human rights.'

As a tribute to him and reminder to all of us, it is sometimes quite useful to go back to the perambular part of this fantastic, inspiring book (the United Nations Charter); our founders were determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. We repeat this very often here. But let's not forget that the text goes on to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights; in the dignity and worth of the human person; in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small; and to promote social progress and better standard of life in larger freedom. I could end there but I do have a few more things to say.

First, the Human Rights Council is at the heart of the UN human rights architecture and deserves our full engagement, but, human rights are also at the core of this Council's work. We see this in our discussions almost every day.

Human rights have always played a role in the work of the Security Council. However, how they can be further integrated - we need to pay them more attention and consideration. The inherent link between the protection and promotion of human rights and the maintenance of international peace and security is clear and embodied in the Charter. Violations and abuses of human rights - civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural - can be drivers of conflict. Conversely, the respect for and protection of human rights contribute to addressing the root causes of instability, thereby helping to prevent and resolve conflicts, and sustaining peace.

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his briefing. We fully support your commitment to human rights as an intrinsic part of the United Nations work across all its pillars. We fully agree that human rights are integral to successfully delivering on both the 2030 Agenda and the Sustaining Peace agenda. We are encouraged by the concrete measures you have put in place aimed at strengthening the capacity of the UN system to detect and respond early to signs of looming crisis. In this regard, the Human Rights Up Front initiative is a useful example of an approach that cuts across the three pillars to deliver early and contextualised analysis focused on prevention.

The Security Council's approach to human rights has evolved. The past 10 years, we have seen a trend, with significant growth in human rights functions within peace operations. Human rights components are now central to almost all mandates of our operations, enhancing their quality and effectiveness. This includes capacity-building for host nations and reporting to the Security Council. In February, Uruguay, Senegal and Sweden organised an Arria format meeting on human rights components in peace operations to learn from the experience and discuss how to further strengthen this work.

Another positive development has been the briefings from OHCHR on particular human rights situations. In addition, the Council has addressed human rights in relation to both thematic as well as country specific concerns.

Improved cooperation with regional organisations, such as the AU and ECOWAS, has and can further contribute to a greater emphasis on human rights within the Council, including in peace operations. These organisations have clear objectives on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, not least as part of efforts for preventing conflicts. But if these are positive trends it is clear that we need to do better still.

Madam President,

Human rights are relevant to the work of the Security Council across all three phases of the conflicts cycle: before, during and after, and we need to step up in all three phases.

Firstly, the primary responsibility for protecting the human rights of their populations lies with states. A failure to do so erodes trust within society; increases fear, suspicion and exclusion - sowing the seeds of instability and conflict. Some of the recurring causes of armed conflict relate to land ownership, language rights and minority rights.

Monitoring respect for all human rights - civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights - must be an integral part of prevention. Responding early to violations and abuses of human rights can effectively prevent conflicts, before they become a threat to regional and international peace and security.

Secondly, during conflicts, respect for international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law, must be upheld. The trend is, unfortunately, the complete opposite. The correlation between conflict and the discrimination of women has been established, making upholding women's human rights a security concern. Monitoring and reporting of all human rights are crucial, including for the protection of civilians, schools, hospitals, etc.

Human rights components must be standard in all peace operations. The protection and promotion of human rights should be a 'whole-of-mission' approach. The integration of human rights into all aspects of peace operations – as well as in reports by the Secretary-General – should be strengthened. Human rights mandates decided upon by the Security Council must be adequately and sustainably funded.

Finally, human rights are essential for consolidating peace when emerging from conflict. Building sustainable and peaceful societies requires a comprehensive approach that brings together peace and security, sustainable development, gender equality and human rights. Just as a lack of respect for human rights can be a spur to conflict, a comprehensive human rights framework that ensures that the rights of all individuals and communities within a society are recognised and respected, is critical to build sustainable peace. The United Nations, including peacekeeping operations, should better support efforts to strengthen national capacities, including on the rule of law. Ending impunity is also of key importance for reconciliation. The culture of impunity, Madam President, is a terrible issue.

The importance of ensuring accountability for human rights abuses and violations is relevant in all three phases. The Security Council must do better. There are numerous examples where grave human rights violations have occurred and where early action by the Security Council could have made a difference. The failure to act fails the victims and undermines the legitimacy of this Council. We must also not forget the important role played by ICC in this regard.

Madam President,

The Human Rights Council is the main United Nations human rights body. This should continue to be the case, and the Human Rights Council needs to have our full support in delivering on its mandate. It is equally clear that human rights are a critical aspect of the Security Council's mandate is to maintain international peace and security. These are mutually reinforcing structures.

The OHCHR as well as the Human Rights Council's mechanisms and special procedures are an independent and reliable source of information that the Security Council should make better use of in its work, inter alia by inviting them to regularly brief the Council on urgent human rights related matters, before, during and after conflicts. Early warning mechanisms and relevant and independent information from the ground is crucial in order for the Security Council to effectively assess, prevent and respond to conflicts.

Briefings by the Secretariat to the Council should always include human rights as part of broader conflict analysis, drawing on the whole of the United Nations system to support the Council's decision making.

Madam President,

Speaking in Geneva earlier this year, the Secretary-General told the Human Rights Council that 'Perhaps the best prevention tool we have is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and the treaties that derive from it.' If we are to fully live up to our responsibility to prevent conflict and maintain peace, human rights must be at the core of our business. We must and we can do better.

Thank you very much.


Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis