UN move a chance to make human rights central to development debate - Higgins


Ireland’s recent election to the United Nations Human Rights Council provides a significant opportunity for a meaningful international discourse, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Mr Higgins said there was also an opportunity to return to some basic considerations of issues neglected, and to put human rights in an indivisible way into the development debate.

“In the much overdue reform of the multilateral institutions and the debate surrounding it, Ireland has a mandate for the assertion of a human rights perspective,” he added.

Delivering the international human rights day annual lecture in Dublin last night, Mr Higgins said Ireland’s election, for the first time for a three-year term, having secured 124 votes at the UN general assembly, was both a great honour and a tribute to the State’s foreign policy and its human rights component.

Mr Higgins said the United Nations, which adopted the universal declaration of human rights more than 60 years ago, had a very different membership then than today.

In succeeding decades the experience of decolonisation alone brought dozens of new members with memories of oppression and struggle, hopes and aspirations.

In the years that followed, they found themselves invited, or forced, to exercise a choice between competing sources of global power, new imperialisms, ones without physical occupation but ideologically authoritarian, and military inspired, in the atmosphere of the cold war.

The impact of the earlier powerful foundational apparatus of empire, its insatiable appetite, one that devoured the rich diversity of what was indigenous and different, was succeeded by a materialist philosophy of modernisation, built on the earlier, but surviving, myth of progress that fractured the world, said Mr Higgins.

He said the work of the Joint Committee of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish Human Rights Commission had been of great value in delivering a context in which the work of building a peaceful future could be grounded.

Mr Higgins said an opportunity existed for moving the human rights discourse to centre stage.