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Speech

The Government of Jamaica is pleased to join the rest of the world in celebrating and recognizing Human Rights Day 2013.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 as Human Rights Day in 1950 in order to bring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the common standard of achievement for all nations, to the attention of the peoples of the world.  The day holds special significance this year, the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). That mandate includes preventing human rights violations, securing respect for all human rights, promoting international cooperation to protect human rights, and coordinating related activities throughout the United Nations.

The United Nations has fittingly themed the day:  20 YEARS: WORKING FOR YOUR RIGHTS. The OHCHR take pride for the work it has undertaken over the 20 years of its existence, to the benefit of vulnerable groups across the World. It has worked to uphold women’s rights, children’s rights, migrant rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. The OHCHR has brought human rights issues to the fore in the development of important Treaties, in promoting Freedom of Expression and tackling the scourge of Trafficking in Persons, and through its individual complaints mechanisms.

Human Rights and Justice are indivisibly inter-connected. Human Rights are fundamental, derived from our basic humanity. Justice involves protecting those rights, and balancing them proportionately where there are competing interests.

The Government of Jamaica is committed to the promotion and protection of Human Rights.  While the State is the principal agent of protection and promulgation of Human Rights, individuals and communities must also be engaged in promoting and protecting Human Rights. The first article of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”  This “spirit of brotherhood” requires each of us to be his brother’s keeper, prepared to speak out and act against injustice whenever we encounter it.  We must be especially mindful of the plight of the most vulnerable in our society, who are particularly exposed to risks of Human Rights violations.

The Constitution of Jamaica declares that citizens have a right to security and to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of its functions.  Agents of the Jamaican state, including our security forces and correctional officers, must recommitment themselves to protecting the Human Rights of all persons within Jamaica. Jamaica must work steadfastly and courageously to improve our performance and record in this vital area.

The foundation of a secure society is the pursuit of justice for all. Human Rights and Justice must form the platform on which Jamaica becomes the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.  Human Rights Day provides an opportunity for us to remind ourselves that this is the right path for our national journey.

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