“There exists a harmony that is almost musical between the concepts of development and human rights”

by H.E. Ambassador Maza Martelli, 11th President of the Human Rights Council and Geneva Beyond the Council, Blog, By invitation

The convergence between human rights and the 2030 Agenda is a topic of great importance for the entire United Nations system as well as for each individual State, and especially for developing countries.

I very much welcome the opportunity that I have been given this morning to express to you my vision not only as President of the Human Rights Council, but also as an Ambassador from a developing country who strongly believes in multilateralism. In this regard, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, moves me to truly believe that the international community has found a better road for us to follow to secure the future we want.

The 2030 Agenda promotes a number of alternatives that facilitate development within our communities and inside of each State. But it is important to emphasise that without the full respect for all human rights of all persons, there cannot be development. Human rights concepts flow throughout the 2030 Agenda, and there is a strong link between international human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals. So the big question we are currently facing is how to maintain a holistic and integrated vision of human rights throughout our efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. The answer is not about which we will apply first (development then human rights, or human rights then development). Instead, the answer is about equal treatment without exclusions, but indeed with social inclusion.

There exists a harmony that is almost musical between the concepts of development and human rights. Just as all human rights are interdependent and interconnected, so the full respect for and enjoyment of all human rights is essential for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and to not leave anyone behind.

In this regard, international cooperation in the area of human rights is extremely important, and this necessitates that the international community has precise information about the map of development and poverty, and inevitably, better information about the advancement of human rights in each State — for example, the level of international commitments, legal advances, relations with the UPR and the Special Procedures, et cetera.

With better information, we can more easily identify the gaps and the achievements in the advancement of human rights in each country. The impact of cooperation at the national level would subsequently be guided on the basis of the social and cultural realities as well as the level of development and legal reality in each society and country.

In the area of cooperation, education and the roles played by youth, schools, universities and other educational programmes are extremely important to create a culture of human rights. And a culture of human rights increases the possibility of an improved internal context for the benefit of development and the advancement of human rights.

I believe that the question of how States can respect, protect and fulfil human rights within their implementation efforts towards the 2030 Agenda can also be inverted in the sense that the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals has a positive impact on human rights. That is to say, greater levels of development can lead towards greater levels of achievement of human rights.

Therefore, we must work to ensure that we link together implementation of human rights obligations and implementation of the 2030 Agenda in a mutually supportive manner.

The commitment and efforts of States at the domestic level is very important in this regard. An integrated policy of human rights has the State as the principle actor, as it is the State that guarantees the benefits that the rule of law provides to the human rights of the population.

Here I wish to emphasise the importance of States incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals and their corresponding targets in their internal development programmes.

But the implementation capacity of each individual State is a criteria that should be considered when examining integral solutions for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and human rights obligations.

We must keep in mind that not all States have the same capacity for implementation related to the 2030 Agenda, and the same can be said for human rights. In this regard, it is useful to analyse what kind of legislation is needed in relation to human rights, and from this, we can formulate a clearer awareness about our respective societies in the area of human rights and sustainable development. This will allow us to focus our attention on the urgent and priority areas for each State while acknowledging the differences in relation to development, which will in turn lead to greater results in the area of human rights.

Cooperation, therefore, must be in accordance with the needs of each State and take into consideration implementation capacities. Cooperation must also include broad discussions at the international, regional and, most importantly, at the local level, including with civil society, national institutions and community organisations. This would facilitate the integral application of the 2030 Agenda and its encouragement of the advancement of human rights.

There is indeed a strong convergence between the commitments made in the 2030 Agenda ‘to leave no one behind’ and to ‘reach the furthest behind first’ and the human rights-based approach to addressing discrimination and inequalities, both within and among States.

I am extremely pleased that interest within the Human Rights Council concerning how the Council can best support the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda is growing. We have already seen good examples of Council stakeholders working to ensure that the convergence of human rights and sustainable development remains very much in the forefront of our work. For example, panel discussions have been held and resolutions adopted that have demonstrated the convergence of human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

But I cannot stress enough the great importance of increasing dialogue and cooperation within the Council in order to strengthen our efforts directed towards the promotion and protection of all human rights for the benefit of all human beings and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Feature photo: H.E. Mr Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council, speaks during the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council. 27 february 2017. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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