Statement by the Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett on 2021 Human Rights Day

As Human Rights Day was observed in 2020, focus was on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights, and I underlined the Community of Democracies’ belief that human rights must be central in recovery efforts. A year later, with the pandemic far from over, this belief remains relevant. As we look ahead to 2022, this year’s Human Rights Day theme, Equality: Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights, speaks to the need for renewed political commitments to accomplish these goals.

Equality is at the heart of the Warsaw Declaration, the CoD founding document which outlines core values of democracy, including equal access to education, equal access to public service, equal protection of the law, and calls for all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – to be promoted and protected. The CoD Bucharest Ministerial Declaration, adopted at its 10th Ministerial Conference in September 2021, highlights that ‘social cohesion, inclusion, equality, gender equality and the well-being of the population are essential components of a resilient democracy.’ Equality and non-discrimination, including equal opportunities for meaningful citizen participation in political life, should be at the heart of building inclusive, just, and more resilient societies, better prepared to face future crises.

Across the world, dictatorships that continue holding power through gross human rights violations remain a significant threat to the international human rights system. Arbitrary detentions, restricted access to independent information, suppressed right to freedom of opinion and expression remain a grim part of life in countries from Africa to the Americas to Asia to Europe. Peaceful but determined citizen protests in Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar, and Nicaragua, were among 2021’s examples of aspirations for freedom met with harsh and repressive means. New political commitments and renewed democratic spirit are needed to advance the protection of the human rights of people living under authoritarian regimes.

The Community of Democracies stands in solidarity with all people fighting for their fundamental freedoms to be respected. In 2022, I am looking forward to cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. We will also continue to work with Governing Council Member States, civil society, CoD Youth Leads, and partner organizations to promote democracy as the best and the only system of governance that fully benefits all human rights.