October 30, 2017
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Third Committee
Agenda Item 72 (b, c): Promotion and protection of human rights

New York, 30 October 2017

Mr. Chair,

My Delegation would like to emphasize the responsibility that the various Special Rapporteurs and other human rights mandate holders have in the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons. While thanking them for their work, the Holy See reiterates that “the right to life, liberty and security of person”[1] is a central and essential right for everyone, especially for the most vulnerable and defenseless among us.

Mr. Chair,

In the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Member States of the United Nations not only reaffirm their “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women” but also their “determination to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”[2] It means that human rights and dignity are never promoted in isolation, but rather their promotion is united to social progress and better standards of living. Rights, in other words, always imply responsibilities.

A functioning international human rights framework rooted in protecting life requires a society that not only recognizes the human rights of its people but one that is also capable and resolute in meeting their basic needs. For our commitments to secure civil or political rights, they must be accompanied by a corresponding, shared, determination to achieving the common good. Such a commitment must not be based on narrow self-interest or merely on achieving a balance between competing rights, but on the principles of justice and solidarity.

Concretely, this requires not only the juridical protection for every human life from conception until natural death, but a political system with institutions and a robust civil society capable of providing for the essential needs of persons throughout their life, fulfilling their rights to food, housing, work, basic health care, education and freedom of religion. In a special way, men and women with disabilities, too often subject to discrimination and marginalization, must have their human rights protected and fulfilled, while receiving the support, attention, and care they deserve.

The principles of justice and solidarity also require addressing inequalities and creating healthy environments that allow individuals to become agents of their own development. They require concrete commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda, to invest in what is necessary for the integral human development of every individual, starting with the most pressing needs of the poor and marginalized. Promoting and protecting human rights constitute one of the most effective strategies for eliminating inequalities between countries and peoples as well as for increasing security. Respect for human rights and working toward their fulfillment are part of the pursuit of the common good. Yet human rights continue to be challenged, ignored and even despised in the name of profit, political expediency and security. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the current crisis of human mobility faced by migrants, refugees and the forcibly displaced.

In this regard, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants in his recent report calls attention to what he perceives as shallow discourse around migration. The report says that rather than recognizing that migration correlates with the prevalence of protracted conflict, extreme poverty, underdevelopment, or environmental crises, and requires immediate, concrete action, the discourse tends toward “scaremongering” that perpetuates the perception of migrants as a “burden and expense.” We must address the misconceptions surrounding the current migration narrative, and not allow them to become an excuse to avoid the responsibility that we have to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration in full respect to the human rights of those affected.

While the New York Declaration is a promising sign that this discourse is changing, it must be followed by strong commitments within the Global Compacts to address the root causes of migration that force many to leave their homes and their families. While States have the sovereign right to control their borders, they must do so in full accord with the human rights of migrants and refugees, regardless of their migratory status. And migrants have the responsibility to respect the laws and regulations of the country they are in and respect for the human rights of others toward the achievement of the common good.

Mr. Chair,

As Pope Francis reminded us during his 2015 address to the General Assembly, no matter the number of political declarations and commitments we have made, the magnitude of the situations that we currently face and their toll in innocent lives, demands that we avoid every temptation to fall into a “declarationist nominalism” that assuages our consciences but accomplishes nothing.[3] We must therefore not only talk about the need to respect, protect and promote the human rights of every individual, but we must do everything we can to ensure that those rights are effectively realized through the fulfillment of their corresponding responsibilities.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

1 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3.
2 UDHR, Preamble.
3 Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the United Nations General Assembly, UN Headquarters, 25 September 2015.