Remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres

I am very honoured to join you for the launch of the Good Human Rights Stories initiative.  I thank the many leaders here today representing every corner of the world.  Often, the world’s spotlight is focused on the bad news – the human rights challenges and setbacks, the human rights agenda losing ground mainly to the national sovereignty agenda.  That is for many good and understandable reasons.  But we know there is more to the story. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we should never forget the profound progress that has been made over the decades – and, indeed, that is happening as we speak. These good stories deserve to be shared – not only to celebrate the achievements of those who made it happen.  But to serve as an example and inspiration for others around the world.

Just as the denial of human rights is part of the problem, the active promotion of human rights is part of the solution.  So, too, is spreading the stories and the lessons learned of doors opened, rights secured and victories won. Leaders here today will be sharing experiences that cover the spectrum – from gender issues to migrants rights to the rights of prisoners and detainees and much more.

The gains remind us of the essence of human rights as a tool to help societies grow.  To empower women and girls.  To advance development.  To prevent conflict and ensure a just, equitable and prosperous world. Human rights are for all and everywhere – they belong to all of us – and that’s what makes them universal. Your presence today underscores this universality. Your stories also serve as a reminder that the corpus of human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – is indivisible and interdependent. And they highlight that human right are human – that they are about real people with real stories of real world change on the ground.

I am convinced that the sharing of these stories can have an exponentially positive effect. Progress in one corner of the world plants a seed of hope in another. That is indeed my own life [experience]. I grew up under the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal and did not know democracy until I was twenty-four years old. I saw the dictatorship oppressing not only its own citizens, my own compatriots, but also the people of the African colonies. But it was the human rights struggles and stories of others around the world that inspired and moved us to believe in change at home, and to make it happen in large ways and small.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
The respect and the promotion of human rights is at heart about expanding the horizons of hope – pushing the boundaries of the possible, bringing out the best of ourselves and unleashing the best of our societies. Human rights drive progress and change the course of history.

Thank you once again for launching the Good Human Rights Stories initiative. Let us share these stories. Let us showcase successes.And let us do even more to write new chapters of triumph in securing all human rights for everyone, everywhere. Thank you.

Watch on