UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zaid Ra’ad Al Hussein, delivered the 2017 JBI Human Rights Lecture, entitled “Why We Stand for Human Rights.” He expressed dismay about the recent retreat from human rights demonstrated by some world leaders, including Russia and China, and express particular alarm at rhetoric from the US President to the UN General Assembly, which he characterized as “One part chauvinistic nationalisms. One part balance-of-power swordplay and a crumbling adherence to law…”
Zeid stressed further that “time and again, the denial of human rights considerations by national leaders, diplomats and international actors alike has in the longer term proven itself to be absolutely disastrous.” Moreover, the High Commissioner suggested that limiting the international and domestic focus to security and nationalism, and failing to include human rights considerations, is certain to lead to calamitous results.
Zeid outlined a compelling response to the threats facing human rights today: “What would change the trajectory, would be the existence of a world-wide wave of popular support for universal human rights – pushing, prodding, holding their governments to the mark, and shaking-up the slumbering politicians. We must now intensify, greatly, our advocacy and expand our reach in a manner that is without precedent.”