Statement from Minister Paradis: Human Rights Day

December 10, 2013

The United Nations has called Human Rights Day "our common birth right, our common birthday." As a global community of seven billion people, we are all born free and equal. Human rights belong equally to each of us, without exception. Yet, in many countries around the world, human rights are still not recognized, respected or guaranteed. This makes people—particularly women and children, the disabled and other marginalized groups—vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and insecurity.

Canada ensures that its international development work is consistent with human rights. This is true whether we are funding organizations that improve equitable access to education and health services, or working with developing country governments to pass legislation to protect women’s and children’s rights.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which promotes the protection of human rights across the globe. Canada has been proudly supporting the OHCHR’s work since 2005. For example, in Colombia, where we are its largest donor, the OHCHR has helped implement a national policy to combat sexual violence against girls and women. The Office has also advocated for the development of specialized health and psychological services for the victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Another great example is Canada's work to improve maternal, newborn and child health. As part of this effort, the Prime Minister recently announced that Canada will work with global partners to advance civil registration and vital statistics in developing countries. In low-income countries, where the need for information is greatest, births and deaths often go unregistered. Civil registration gives people a legal identity and allows them to exercise the rights to which every human being is entitled, such as access to basic education and health services.

It also ensures that when Canada makes a $650 million pledge over three years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as I announced earlier this month, the investments reach those who need them most, particular marginalized groups with the least access. With Canada’s support, the Global Fund has increased access to life-saving drugs for those most in need and has saved an estimated 8.7 million lives to date, including some 100,000 lives per month in recent years.

Respect for human rights is a core Canadian value. On this day, Canadians can be proud of their government's efforts to promote human rights for all people, especially those who are most vulnerable, marginalized and poor.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie