Podgorica, 8 December, 2023 – The most severe human rights violations today occur in the shadow of numerous conflicts worldwide, endangering communities and emphasizing the urgent need to return to the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for collective action and empathy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even 75 years after its adoption, remains a solid foundation for joint efforts in protecting fundamental freedoms and the dignity of all people.
This was emphasized at the “Human Rights Talks”, an event organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro, commemorating two significant milestones: the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Human Rights Talks were organized with the support of the Embassies of the Austria and the Czech Republic.
The event highlighted the ongoing significance and important role of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in addressing contemporary local and global challenges.
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Minister of Human and Minority Rights Fatmir Gjeka stated that this document remains a key foundation for protecting basic freedoms and the dignity of all people. He congratulated International Human Rights Day, observed on December 10, representing one of the most important dates in modern history.
According to him, Montenegro is committed to promoting and realizing human rights, following the principle that every person has the right to freedoms outlined in the Universal Declaration, regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or any other status. “In May of this year, we presented the National Report on the state of human rights in Geneva during the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is the fourth report Montenegro has submitted since 2008”, emphasized Gjeka.
“The Human Rights Talks are now taking place on the occasion of two important anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of the UDHR and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. This global human rights initiative aims to promote the universality of human rights and strengthen the United Nations human rights system. We are here as an important resource to help improve human rights, regardless of the challenges we face”, stated Gjeka. “Montenegro continues to strengthen its legislative and strategic framework for the protection, promotion, and enhancement of human rights. Accordingly, new laws and strategies have been adopted, the result of broad consultations, and are continuously implemented with accompanying action plans, with a special focus on the situation of the most vulnerable groups”, Gjeka concluded.
Anjet Lanting, UN Human Rights Advisor, noted that the daunting challenges many people face around the world are not signs that human rights have “failed”. She noted that these happen when human rights are not respected, not implemented and not prioritized, and exactly in such times, there is an urgent need to re-commit to the universality and indivisibility of the standards and principles that are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She expressed appreciation of human rights pledges the Government will make next week in Geneva, and pledges already made by children and youth in Montenegro, and by journalists and editors in Montenegro, together with colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, to tackle discrimination and hate speech, among other things. Ms Lanting called on all to use the UDHR as a starting and end point for dialogue on how to tackle today’s global, regional and national human rights challenges.
Ekaterina Paniklova, UNDP Resident Representative in Montenegro, highlighted that today we witness the highest number of conflicts since 1945, where some of the most severe human rights violations occur, with a particular focus on gender-based violence against women and girls.
“This is not just statistics but a devastating reality affecting lives and communities. At the same time, the poorest and most marginalized among us face the most severe impacts of the rapidly intensifying climate crisis. All these challenges are deeply interconnected, emphasizing the urgent need for collective action and empathy. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UDHR, and at first glance, it seems we don’t have much reason to celebrate. However, the UDHR remains the most effective tool for preventing conflicts worldwide while simultaneously providing a solid foundation for ambitious efforts to combat climate change, the greatest challenge to human rights ever faced. UNDP in Montenegro will continue its mission and remain unequivocally committed to promoting the human rights of all citizens, without exception”, stated Paniklova.
In the first panel on the topic “The Role of the UN Human Rights System in Improving Human Rights Standards and Sustainable Development”, Anjet Lanting highlighted how the UN human rights system provides for sustained oversight and through dialogues in Geneva but also at the country-level that include all parties – Government, the National Human Rights Institution, civil society, the UN and international community - to resolve human rights issues. She offered support to Montenegro to establish a national mechanism for reporting and follow up to ensure stronger implementation of human rights standards and principles. Sarah Rattray, Senior Human Rights Adviser, at UNDP, spoke about the interconnectedness of human rights and the advancement of sustainable development goals.
It was emphasized that human rights and UN Sustainable Development Goals are closely linked and inseparable processes. Achieving sustainable development goals, such as poverty eradication, decent work, education, and gender equality, goes hand in hand with respecting basic human rights, such as the right to life, freedom of expression, and access to basic needs. Therefore, integrating human rights into the planning and implementation of development initiatives and policies is crucial for creating a sustainable society that promotes equality, justice, and a dignified life for all citizens.
In the second panel on the topic “Impact of the UN Human Rights System – Examples from Countries”, experiences from their countries were presented by Karl Miler, Ambassador of Austria to Montenegro, Janina Hřebíčková, Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Klara Laurenčikova, Government Plenipotentiary for Human Rights of the Czech Republic, Jakub Mačaka from the Department of Human Rights of the Government of the Czech Republic, and Ištvan Lakatoš, former Ambassador for Human Rights of Hungary and Senior Human Rights Advisor in the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights.