GENEVA – United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk on Monday deplored the weaponization of human rights in the context of geopolitical shifts.
Turk, who took office as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last October, was speaking at the opening of the 52nd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He called for a "new world-wide consensus on human rights", arguing that it is a question of survival that nations and communities should arrive at a common understanding.
Our institutions — which exist to advance all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, on an equal footing, as well as the right to development and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment — are in a unique position to rebuild this shared respect for each other's dignity.
Volker Turk, United Nations human rights chief
"Our institutions — which exist to advance all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, on an equal footing, as well as the right to development and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment — are in a unique position to rebuild this shared respect for each other's dignity," he said.
He urged all the UN member states to overcome their differences through solidarity and genuine dialogue, working across geopolitical divides with a clear vision to advance the needs of every country and the rights of all.
"We can rise above the fray, and use human rights, not as a weapon in the context of geopolitical shifts — not as a nice-to-have for sunny days in the future — but as what it is and was always meant to be: a solution to help us get out of the harms that are destroying our world," he said.
The event, which will last for five and a half weeks, kicked off with a minute's silence in honor of the victims of the recent earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
During the first four days, 146 dignitaries will deliver their interventions, with most of them due to appear in person.
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Vaclav Balek, president of the UN Human Rights Council, appealed to all participants to engage in open and frank discussions, enabled by a constructive and cooperative atmosphere.
"All delegations and participants should commit to these principles," he said.
Csaba Korosi, currently serving as President of the 77th UN General Assembly, said at Monday's session that the UN Human Rights Council, like the General Assembly, is "at a crossroads."
"Will it go about business as usual, compounding the crisis of trust in multilateralism? Or will it translate the political consensus on the need to cooperate into transformative solutions?" he asked.
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in July, together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he will launch a new Agenda for Protection, which will seek to strengthen support to member states to protect people and their rights, both in times of peace and in times of crisis and conflict.
"Human rights are not a luxury that can be left until we find a solution to the world's other problems. They are the solution to many of the world's other problems," he said.