High level statement to the 55th session of the Human Rights Council

  • Speech

President, Secretary-General, High Commissioner, Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is grounded in a simple fact: human rights apply equally to all people, no matter who you happen to be or where you happen to be born.

The principles that underpin the Declaration – universality, indivisibility, non-discrimination – are relevant and contemporary. They have a practical value for sustainable economic and social development, for peace and security.

And for that reason, they remain central in Australia's international engagement.

Because human rights are universal, all of us should welcome scrutiny of our human rights records.

And where we fall short, we ought be open to constructive feedback and strive to do better - accepting the message, not attacking the messenger.

We demonstrate our respect for each other by upholding the same rules.


Australia is deeply alarmed by the conflict in the Middle East.

The humanitarian catastrophe is dire and worsening.

We repeat our condemnation of Hamas and its abhorrent October 7 attacks.

The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians.

Australia reiterates our call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and humanitarian access, the release of hostages, and for the protection of civilians.

There is no lasting peace or security for the region that doesn't start with all sides respecting each other's human rights – including each other's right to exist. 

There is no lasting peace or security for the region without a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state.

More than two years since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Australia continues to support a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine.

We must not waver in our response – to do so would be to validate Russia's egregious breaches of the UN Charter.

Russia's contempt for human rights is also seen in the treatment and death of Alexei Navalny.

We hold the Russian Government solely responsible. And we call on Russia to comply with its international human rights obligations, including to protect opposition voices.

Ongoing human rights violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans and other minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet and across China, remain of grave concern, as are the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

Australia calls on China to urgently cease suppression of the freedoms of expression, assembly, and religion or belief, address the credible findings of UN experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and implement the recommendations from its recent Universal Periodic Review.

We also remain gravely concerned about the human rights situations in Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the DPRK.

Civil society and independent institutions play an invaluable role through their first-hand understanding of local contexts, to challenge injustices without fear for their safety.

Australia has established a Civil Society Partnership Fund to support and expand civic space across the Indo-Pacific.

Of course, Australia is most focused on the work we need to do in our own country.

We are determined to make real progress on our national journey of reconciliation with First Nations Australians.

We will also continue to progress the rights of Indigenous Peoples globally, including the right for Indigenous Peoples to participate, and be heard, at this Council on issues that affect them.

With an estimated 50 million women, children and men living in slave-like conditions around the world, Australia is taking strong action at home and abroad to combat modern slavery - by strengthening our Modern Slavery Act, establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner and working in partnerships across our region.

However different our politics systems, economies and cultures, it is the responsibility of this Council – and every UN Member State – to uphold the vision of the UDHR to protect and promote the human rights of everyone, everywhere.

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