Australian Statement to the High-Level Segment, Human Rights Council – 52nd Session

  • Speech, check against delivery

Thank you, High Commissioner

President, Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives

In this 75th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I’m proud to address the Human Rights Council.

Australia played an important role in the creation of the multilateral human rights system, and we will continue to work to advance and defend it.

The Australian Government seeks to shape the world for the better.

We are committed to advancing human rights globally – and at home.

We have appointed Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for Human Rights to elevate Australia’s leadership on human rights globally.

The Ambassador will work with the UN human rights system and all partners to advance human rights for all, including for Indigenous Peoples, people living with a disability, women and girls and LGBTI persons.

The Australian Government is determined to make real progress on our national journey of reconciliation with Indigenous Australians. We are committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

The Government will deliver specific and tangible actions to close the gap and to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People will help bring First Nations perspectives into Australian foreign policy and diplomacy, and progress Indigenous Peoples’ rights globally.

Australia’s Ambassador for Gender Equality will continue to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. A new Australian gender equality strategy will guide our international approach.

The role of the Ambassador to Counter Modern Slavery, People Smuggling and Human Trafficking has been expanded to reflect our focus on ending all forms of modern slavery.

The Australian Government will develop a new international disability equity and rights strategy this year to ensure better responses to the needs and aspirations of persons with disabilities.

We are invested in advancing and protecting the rights of LGBTI persons. We are proud to be hosting Sydney WorldPride taking place now, including the largest LGBTI human rights conference ever held in the Asia-Pacific region.

Increased global ambition and urgent and impactful action on climate change is a priority for Australia.  We are concerned that the effects of climate change will have a direct impact on the human rights of people around the world.

This is why we announced our bid to co-host COP31 in 2026 in partnership with the Pacific.

Pacific Island countries are among the most climate vulnerable communities in the world.  We need these voices at the centre of international climate discussions.

We will continue our strong leadership on the global abolition of the death penalty. The General Assembly resolution we led with Costa Rica last year received the strongest support ever.

Last year, Zambia, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Papua New Guinea all made progress towards abolishing the death penalty.

We urge all countries to follow in their footsteps.

Australia is committed to playing its part to strengthen adherence to international rules and norms – and to ensuring the multilateral system delivers for all.

This is why we seek a seat on the UN Security Council for 2029-2030.

And it is why we seek Security Council reform and greater permanent representation for Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We also continue to support the participation of small island developing states and least developed countries in UN forums, including here in the Human Rights Council.

Australia recognises that the multilateral human rights system is under strain because some states seek to undermine international law.

Some cite sovereignty and non-interference and rely on misinformation to avoid accountability for human rights violations and abuses.

We will work with partners to combat this and to protect and strengthen the system.

All UN Member States agreed that Council members should be held to a high standard on human rights.

For this reason, the General Assembly decided last April to suspend Russia from the Council in response to its unilateral, illegal, and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

In far too many places around the world human rights are under attack.  Civic space is shrinking and hard-won gains are being wound back.

We strongly condemn the heavy-handed repression of protests by Iranian authorities and support the UN’s independent fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in Iran.

The ongoing, systemic discrimination against women and girls in Iran continues to be a matter of grave concern for Australia.

We also remain deeply concerned by Iran’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Baloch and Kurdish peoples, and members of the Baha’i faith.

We condemn in the strongest terms the February 2021 coup by the Myanmar military and support efforts to ensure accountability for mass atrocities and human rights violations.

Australia continues to condemn human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. We reiterate our call for China to address the credible and concerning findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report.

We are very concerned by reports of the erosion of educational, religious, cultural and linguistic rights and freedoms in Tibet.

Australia also calls for the Taliban to uphold the human rights of those in Afghanistan, especially women and girls, ethnic and religious minorities and their political opponents.

And we remain gravely concerned by the continuing and widespread human rights violations perpetrated by North Korea.

Australia recognises that no country has a perfect human rights record and no country is above fair scrutiny of its human rights obligations.  Where we fall short, we strive to do better - accepting the message, not attacking the messenger.

This is why we have a standing invitation for all UN Special Procedure Mandate Holders to visit Australia and we encourage all states to do likewise.

Civil society is crucial to international scrutiny and accountability and should be heard without fear of reprisals.

Our goal should be to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous world in which every person is able to enjoy their human rights.

This must be the aim of every UN Member State and of the Human Rights Council.

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