Dec 10, 2014





10 DECEMBER 2014


·       Moderator, Mrs. Paula Anne Porter Jones


·       Senator the Honourable A.J. Nicholson,QC,  Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade


·       Mr. Matondo Mukulu, Acting Public Defender and the staff of the Office of the Public Defender (OPD)


·       Ms. Coleen Douglas, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts


·       Dr. Ramona Biholar, Lecturer in the UWI Faculty of Law


·       Ms. Joyce Hewett, Woman Inc.


·       Government Representatives


·       Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps


·       Members of Civil Society Organizations; Private Sector Representatives;


·       United Nations Colleagues


·       Faculty and Students of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the UWI Faculty of Law


·       Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen


A very good afternoon to all of you!  On behalf of the United Nations in Jamaica, I warmly welcome you to commemorate the 66th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Thank you for coming.  We are delighted to celebrate this day in partnership with the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies, and the Office of the Public Defender. 


Human Rights Day observes the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the momentous Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles to be the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.  The Universal Declaration marked a fundamental milestone in the history of mankind as it constituted the first international agreement that asserts freedoms, rights and entitlements for all humanity to claim. The recognition of our inherent kinship in rights, of our common claim to a life of dignity, of our right to count and be counted applies to today’s realities as much as it did in 1948.


The conception of human rights is structured on the notion of a shared humanity.  These rights do not stem from citizenship of any country, or membership of any nation, they are - in Prof. Amartya Sen’s words -- taken as entitlements of every human being.  The concept of universal human rights is therefore a uniting idea.”  Universality is an essential characteristic of human rights given that they apply to all human beings independent of where they come from, where they live and what they do. Human rights are egalitarian and are the rights of people of every colour, from every race and ethnic groups, citizens or migrants, irrespective of disabilities, and no matter their sex, their class, their caste, their creed, their age or sexual orientation and they cannot be denied to anyone.  It would therefore be self-evident that human rights are not limited to Western values of liberty and freedom; these rights are upheld and are fundamental to all cultures and all nations.


This year’s theme, Human Rights 365, embraces the idea - that every-day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the Universal Declaration and reiterates that each one of us, everywhere and at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, which belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.  It is a reminder that we have to work every day to ensure that all people can gain equality, dignity and freedom.  And fittingly, today is also the day when Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai - the young school girl (she became the youngest persons ever to receive a Nobel Prize) and India's Kailash Satyarthi, who jointly won this year's Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their fight against the oppression of children and their right to education received the award at a ceremony in Oslo.  Their message in Oslo vividly expresses the significance of this year’s theme.  They said, "Even if one single child is in danger then the entire world is in danger.” "We are not here just to accept our award and get this medal and go back home. No, we are here to tell the children especially that you need to stand up, you need to speak up for your rights.”  


As the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon has expressed in his statement today – “The United Nations protects human rights because this is our proud mission – and because when people enjoy their rights economies flourish and countries are at peace.”  All programmes of development cooperation, policies and technical assistance by the United Nations agencies further the realization of human rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.   And, as we contribute to implementation of the Post-2015 development framework, we will be unequivocal in what we stand for and what we uphold: freedom from fear and want for all, without discrimination.  The “person” will be at the heart of our development efforts and we will uphold their inherent dignity and human rights as rights-holders while working for their empowerment as active partners for more sustainable and equitable development.


This forms the basis of the ongoing United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2012-2016 – a vehicle for strategic partnerships that is fully aligned with the national priorities articulated in Vision 2030 Jamaica – National Development Plan, the Medium Terms Socio Economic Policy Framework and the Millennium Development Goals.  The Framework is an expression of the United Nations system’s continuing commitment to and cooperation with the Government and people of Jamaica. We believe that sustainable and equitable development provides an excellent framework to accomplish human rights.  This is also in line with the Human Development Reports that are based on Prof. Amartya Sen’s approach and characterize human development in terms of the expansion of valuable human capabilities.  In describing human rights in terms of claims on individuals, collectivities and the design of social arrangements, Prof. Sen underscores that, for instance “the available data regarding the realization of disease, hunger and early mortality tell us a great deal about the presence or absence of certain central basic freedoms.”  “Human rights are fulfilled when the persons enjoy secure access to the freedom or resource (adequate health protection, freedom of speech) covered by the right.”


The United Nations in Jamaica continues to proudly enjoy its longstanding partnership with the Government in the promotion of human rights based approach to development.  While enhancing our own capacities in promoting development under the “Human Rights Up Front” framework, we are building upon this cooperation by working closely with the Government and people of Jamaica to put in place effective mechanisms and institutional capabilities to report progress of its compliance with obligations of various Conventions and Treaties under the Universal Periodic Review.  We also prepared a joint UN submission to Jamaica’s Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council.  We also gratefully appreciate the partnering opportunity provided to the United Nations to present to the Joint Select Committee its perspective and contribute to refining the Sexual Offences Act. 


The Government’s priority commitment to protect the human rights of all Jamaicans is reflected in part through its ratification of core international human rights instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.  It represents an ongoing work. 


Today for us also marks the concluding day of the 16 days of activism led by Jamaicans against Gender based Violence to emphasize that violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights.  The activism stressed the particular vulnerability of the girl child to sexual violence, especially to sexual predators many times their age, through support of the NGO, Eve for Life’s Nuh Guh Deh Campaign.


And, 1 December marked the celebration of the World AIDS Day. While Global solidarity, social mobilization and civil society activism have led to significant decreases in new infections and deaths, we cannot be complacent.  We have to renew our commitment and redouble efforts to fast-track our actions and close the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are left behind.  And, even though we have made advances in reaching the vulnerable populations through efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination, much more needs to be done to end this problem. 


You may be aware of the remarkable initiative undertaken by an Anglican Priest in the Church in Jamaica to celebrate the Human Rights day with the community and to share the message that discrimination in any form is not acceptable. 


Jamaica has an illustrious history of standing up for human rights not only for the rights of all Jamaicans but also globally.  It has inspired citizens, Governments of other countries and promoted the designation and celebration of human rights day and the year by the United Nations.  The achievements accompanied by continued progress are visible nationally too – these go beyond the critical legislative progress over the last years, such as the amendment of the Constitution in 2011, the adoption of the policy to end gender based violence, the recent enactment of the rights of persons with disabilities - constitute actions that I am confident are being felt by Jamaicans in the improvement of their lives.


It is therefore encouraging that the Government of Jamaica has initiated discussions with the Commonwealth Secretariat for the establishment of National Human Rights Institution.  We are committed to work with the Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat to assist, if and as, required and make this valuable initiative work and contribute to successfully achieving Vision 2030 Jamaica. 


We recognize the relationship between improved lives and livelihoods and achievement of human rights.  Hence the emphasis of the United Nations to ensure that the empowerment of the “Person” to be at the heart of its development efforts and a partner in its efforts to achieve inclusive development while ensuring inherent dignity and human rights.  


Let me close by quoting an excerpt from the address of the Secretary General of the United Nations today.  We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation.  This is a matter of individual justice, social stability and global progress.”


This is a wonderful guiding statement to celebrate this event together and in an ambiance of both reflection and joy that will continue to motivate us to achieve our mission of “Rights 365” and for all.

 Thank you very much!

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