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UN rights chief laments decline of human rights priorities

[JURIST] In his speech [press release] marking the 25th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, "human rights all around the world are no longer a priority to countries."

His speech was given to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action [text], adopted on June 25, 1993. Its purpose was to emphasize the responsibilities of all countries to "develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all." The declaration was created by the office the High Commissioner now heads.

Zeid opened his speech by declaring, "the legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked. The practice of human rights norms is in retreat. Here in Europe, ethno-populist parties are in the ascendant in many countries—fuelling hatred and scarring their societies with deepening divisions."

He went on to say, "there will be no peace for any country until there is respect, and justice. There will be no sustainable prosperity unless all can benefit. Human equality and dignity are the path towards peace in the world: the path of real patriotism, building societies grounded in harmony, not divisiveness and hate." European countries, according to Zeid, are just as susceptible to lacking on human rights as other countries around the world. He talked about the political climate of Europe and made a point to show the etho-nationalists of Europe are not respecting the Vienna Declaration and the human rights of others.

At the end of his speech, he called the convention to use the anniversary as a way to protect the purpose and mission behind the Vienna Declaration. He said, "we need to use this anniversary to begin to mobilize a much broader community to defend human rights with our fierce, and passionate commitment. We need to make clear the vital, life-saving importance of human rights for the daily lives and global future of our fellow human beings."

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