UN International Human Rights Day Speech – 10 Dec 2017

Florence Rolle, UN Resident Coordinator a.i.

UN International Human Rights Day Speech

 10 December 2017

Delivered by the UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Florence Rolle

Honourable Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Samuel Tembenu, SC
Mr Justin Dzonzi, Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission
Commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission present
Mr David Nungu, Executive Secretary, Malawi Human Rights Commission
Mr Marchel Gerrmann, EU Ambassador
Mr Robert Mkwezalamba, Chairperson of HRCC
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
All protocols observed

On 10th December we commemorate International Human Rights day, the date on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The world’s most widely translated and possibly most influential document proclaims that we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. The official theme this year also recalls everyone’s duty to stand up for the rights of others and build a human rights culture in Malawi without discrimination of any kind.

Human Rights Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the work of many individuals and institutions in Malawi who courageously stand up for the right of others including, women and girls, persons with disabilities, including albinism, persons with HIV, the LGBT community, prisoners and refugees.

Malawi has a number of achievements it can be proud of, being a peaceful constitutional democracy, with significant improvements to the legal and policy frameworks in recent years, such as the recent enactment of the HIV and Aids (Prevention and Management) Bill. However, on Human Rights Day we should also reflect on the challenges and the groups that are left behind.

Violence and discrimination, particularly against women and girls remains one of the most widespread violations of human rights. Harmful cultural practices, including child marriage and domestic violence are serious human rights violations. We need to break the vicious cycle of harmful practices, early pregnancies and marriages, school drop outs and generational poverty.

The UN warmly welcomes the progress made with the Chiefs’ by-laws framework aimed at strengthening implementation of Gender related laws and moreover the recent amendment to the Constitutional age of marriage. Implementing and enforcing gender related laws, including the Gender Equality Act, Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and the Education Act is an opportunity to change harmful cultural norms that perpetuate discriminatory practices against women and girls. We are also concerned about the increased number of mob killings in Malawi and call on the authorities to prosecute those responsible, offer remedy to victims and address the root causes of such attacks.

Today, we also stand against corruption because it is a significant obstacle to the realization of human rights and development in Malawi. Corruption disproportionately affects the poor, women, children and the marginalised. As the former UN Secretary General said: “Corruption is measured not in the billions of dollars of stolen and squandered government resources, but… in the absence of hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that would have changed families and communities”. Corruption is not one person’s fight. It is not the fight of one institution. It is a society’s fight, it is a commitment that must cross party lines and it must be supported through the public and private sector”. We welcome the strong calls from all across Malawian society to take action on the fight against corruption. We stand ready to support you in this fight.

The 2030 transformative agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, provides a framework to redouble our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in Malawi, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and improve maternal health, while leaving no-one behind and reaching the furthest behind first.

The power of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the power of ideas to change the world, inspiring us to stand up for someone’s rights and hold duty bearers accountable. Together, we can make a real difference.

Thank you for your kind attention.