Statement by DPR, Jeanne d’Arc Byaje, at the UN General Assembly High Level meeting on Human Rights

Let me join others in thanking the President of the General Assembly for convening this important debate to reflect on how to strategically move forward in ensuring full enjoyment of human rights and how this contributes to peace, security and development.

Allow me also to thank previous speakers, including the High-level delegates whose invaluable contributions enabled us to share useful lessons. Today’s high-level debate is indeed of crucial importance if we are to nurture stable and peaceful societies. In this respect, our views are in line with the concept note that clearly highlights the intrinsic nexus between Peace, Security and Development as key pre-requisites to the attainment and safeguarding of sustainable development.

This debate is therefore timely as we mark this triple milestone; the 70th anniversary of the creation of the UN, the 50th anniversary of the international human rights covenants as well as the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. However, it is not enough to make this statement if abject poverty, serious human rights violations, deprivation and exclusion continue to be reported in many countries around the world while international responses appear to be inefficient.

We believe that respect for human rights, freedoms, and the rule of law are essential elements in fostering inclusive societies, which is one of the key pillars to warrant sustainable peace and development as outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

In this context, Rwanda reaffirms its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all our citizens and beyond and has vowed to address special needs of vulnerable groups namely children, youth, women, genocide survivors, people with disabilities and the elderly by putting in place inclusive, representative and responsive institutions.

For Rwanda to build a resilient state and a peaceful society sustainably from a failed state while ensuring that no one was left behind, the promotion and respect of human rights and of the socio economic wellbeing and capabilities of all citizens irrespective of class, gender, ethnic origin or religion emerged as an urgent imperative to embrace in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Central to overcoming all hurdles associated with our tragic encounters were also accountability mechanisms put in place to tackle all inequalities depriving people from leading a dignified life. In addition, ensuring participation and empowering citizens to shape their development, monitor and review their progress enabled them to take informed decisions that impacted their lives positively. Finally, the development of appropriate mechanisms to build community capacity for citizens to identify, assess and assert their priorities in local development planning and to hold their leaders to account served as a corrective measure while engaging in on-going consultations related to peace and security was rather preventive.

This dual approach giving a platform to citizens was sustained through a strong commitment to the rule of law, human rights, transparency, participation, inclusion and democratic governance to foster unity and reconciliation and the promotion of social cohesion as well as of sound economic institutions that support the private, public, and civil-society sectors in a productive and balanced manner.

At the same time, we also put in place, as a matter of priority, legal and policy frameworks and institutional mechanisms to facilitate the process of gender equality and empowerment of women. These laws, policies and mechanisms are translated into projects and programs to make sure that both, our men and women, boys and girls benefit and enjoy their rights equally.

In that experience, we have learnt how inclusion of previously marginalized population, including women and youth has not only strengthened our governance structures, but also been essential in furthering reconciliation and promoting opportunities for positive change towards peace. In addition, inclusion has been our cornerstone strategy in building consensus and has led us to a common and shared vision of a prosperous and peaceful Rwanda.

We therefore believe that each legal and policy making process should put people at the center and make sure their human rights are respected and recognized regardless of their race, gender, status, country of origin among other things.

Like many others who shelter refugees, we are also alarmed by increasing acts of racial discrimination, violence and abuse, including those directed towards migrants, refugees, women and girls, but also men and children living in vulnerable humanitarian settings. After all, human lives matter before human rights, and when we talk of rights, we must ensure that lives are protected and preserved.

In closing, let me draw from our experience once again to commend initiated collaborations done at different levels through multi-stakeholders partnerships particularly between non state actors, national human rights institutions and our government that were instrumental in tracking down and empowering the marginalized to know their rights and to seek redress when they are violated.

I thank you