Media Center



March 21, 2002 - Geneva


Mr. Chairman,

I would like first to congratulate you, Ambassador Jakubowski, on your election to the Chairmanship of the 58th Session of the Commission on Human Rights. I am certain that your ability and sensibility will be invaluable in carrying this work to a successful conclusion. I would like also to take this opportunity to praise the extraordinary contribution that Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has given to the struggle for human rights. Victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders in every part of the world have greatly benefited from her commitment, her compassion and her courage. She is a most valuable ally of civil society organizations and an inspiring force for governments committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Having spoken from this podium as special rapporteur in all sessions of the Commission on Human Rights since 1995, it is with considerable emotion that I come before this plenary as the Secretary of State for Human Rights of Brazil, a way of showing the importance the Brazilian government and civil society attach to the promotion and protection of human rights and to this Commission. My Government firmly believes that for this process to be carried out successfully, the monitoring of human rights is essential in the international community by all treaty bodies and special procedures of the Commission as well as by the national and international organizations of civil society in every member state. Thus I note with great pleasure the constantly growing and increasingly active participation of such organizations in the Sessions of the Commission. These organizations are fundamental to increase the effectiveness of the promotion and protection of human rights and to add to the effectiveness of the work in which we are engaged. Mr. Chairman,

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights meets in a particularly important international conjuncture with profound effects on human rights. We are living in perhaps the most crucial moment since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the consolidation of the architecture of international human rights law. In face of this conjuncture, all of us who work for the protection of human rights are being challenged to reflect with the greatest seriousness during this Session. Mr. Chairman, I will deal with three aspects of the present situation that I consider of the utmost relevance due to the consequences they may have on the promotion and protection of human rights. The first one refers to terrorism and to the forms taken by efforts to combat it; the second, to racism and racial discrimination; and the third, to globalization.

Since the barbaric attacks against the American society, we appear to be entering an era of Neo Cold War, in which the prevailing tendency seems to be a dangerous return to polarities, this time defined around the notions of terrorism and the methods to combat it. The threats to individual and collective freedoms are now becoming clearer, as are - the challenges to the observance of the international human rights instruments. As Mrs. Irene Khan, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, pointed out in a recent interview (and I quote), "there is a schism between the security and human rights obligations of states." At the State level, the debate has also taken shape. From the State perspective, the Brazilian government understands that the right of self-defense by States is recognized in the United Nations Charter. Nevertheless, we consider it important to understand that success in the fight against terrorism cannot depend only on the effectiveness of acts of self-defense or on the use of military force by each country acting outside the framework of the United Nations. The crimes against humanity committed on 11 September cannot be justified nor tolerated. Nonetheless, we must see to it that the combating of terror should be undertaken in full respect for human rights and rule of law. Detention without trial will not end terrorism-. its potential for injustice will nurture more terrorism. There is a - worrisome tendency to neglect the basic foundations of the rule of law when combating terrorism. The essential freedoms of the rule of law must be maintained intact in face of the terrorist threat. As President Fernando Henrique Cardoso recently proclaimed in Madrid at the Conference on Transitions and Democratic Consolidation, "if we have to abandon individual liberties, guarantees of civil rights and the prohibition of the use of torture in order to defeat terrorism, our victory will be meaningless.... Terrorism must not kill reason!" In the struggle against terrorism we must demonstrate that we operate on a different scale of values, those values affirmed by the international human rights law and by international humanitarian law. Brazil has reiterated its rejection of terrorism and its disposition to join forces with the international community to make effective the defense against crimes against humanity perpetrated by terrorist attacks. We made clear our total and active solidarity with the American society on September 11th of last year. Supporting the Security Council resolution on terrorism, we believe it should be implemented by renewed efforts to arrive at political solutions for the problems that in one way or another have to do with this question. Peace must be the responsibility of all and the result of solutions which involve all interested parties. It is imperative to find a solution to the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel. We hope that the recent resolution of the Security Council, recognizing inter alia the need for a Palestinian state will contribute to stopping the ongoing carnage. We must at all costs avoid unilateralism; the consequences of which are, all too often, borne by vulnerable groups or to the detriment of less powerful countries. We must never lose sight of the need to maintain the moral high ground of ethical standards and a human rights perspective when engaging in the war against terrorism. Otherwise, we risk facing a world far distant from the ideals that we at the Commission on Human Rights have sought to achieve. In the present conjuncture, it must be clearly stated that terrorism is just one of the issues on the international agenda and by no means the only one. The struggle against terrorism must not prevail over the agenda of cooperation among countries or over the consideration of other issues of global concern. It is necessary to consolidate peace based on a common effort on behalf of a just international order. My country sincerely wishes to join in the legitimate efforts which must be undertaken in this sense so that solutions with a wider meaning for the crisis of our time are searched for immediately. This Commission has the credentials to engage in a process of reflection in this respect.

Mr. Chairman,

The second matter to which I attribute great importance in the present conjuncture refers to racism and racial discrimination. Last year, more specifically in August- September, the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance took place in Durban, South Africa. A Declaration and a Program of Action were adopted and finally approved by the United Nations General Assembly. The combat against racism and discrimination is a task whose importance has been intensified even further because of the struggle against terrorism. It requires incessant effort by the State, by the organizations of civil society, by all men and women. According to René Cassin, the struggle for human rights is a struggle of those without power. I would like to add that recognizing, rather than denying, social inequality and structural racism, as well as proposing public policies with aspects of affirmative action, seems to us to be an essential step in the struggle for equality and in the fight against discrimination. Brazil has one of the largest populations of African origin in the world. Therefore I may say to our brothers and sisters in Africa that we are proud to consider ourselves an African nation in the Americas. On December 19, 2001, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso publicly recognized that the slavery practiced for nearly four centuries in Brazil constitutes, in the parameters of the present, a crime against humanity and urged the State to seek to redress such injustice through affirmative action policies for promoting the rights of people of African descent. We have made considerable progress in Brazil in the struggle against discrimination. Much remains to be done, and to advance this process is a solemn promise of this government which I reiterate now. The Brazilian government recognizes the 230 native populations as indigenous peoples. They are entitled to roughly 12 per cent of the national territory, corresponding to more than 80 million hectares. Brazil is committed to supporting training of indigenous lawyers, sociologists and teachers for the effective promotion of their rights and cultural identity. In the national preparatory process for Durban, a coalition between people of African descent and indigenous peoples was established for the first time in Brazilian society. This initiative was a most valuable feature of the Brazilian participation in the Durban Conference. We would like to commend the United Nations for the establishment of a permanent forum on indigenous issues, whose work Brazil intends to support. My Government considers that it is fundamental to proceed, also on the international level, to the struggle against racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. For this reason, the Brazilian delegation to this Session of the Commission will raise once again, by means of a new proposed resolution, the need for declaring the incompatibility between racism and democracy. The rule of law does not permit racist and discriminatory political platforms. This is the sense of the Brazilian initiative, for which I am sure we may count on the support necessary for its adoption.

Mr. Chairman,

I now turn to globalization, the third and final aspect I would like to address in referring to those elements present on the international scene whose impact on human rights should be carefully analyzed by this Commission. I will recall what President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said to the General Assembly last year. I quote-. "There is an undisguised malaise in the process of globalization. I am not referring to the ideological malaise of those who are opposed to globalization on principle, or to those who reject the idea of universal values that inspire freedom and the respect for human rights. I refer to the fact that globalization has fallen short of its promises. There is a lack of governance on the international level, and this derives from a lack of democracy. Globalization will only be sustainable if it incorporates the dimension of justice. Our slogan has to be that of "globalization with solidarity", in distinction to the present asymmetrical globalization. In trade relations is already time that multinational negotiations result in greater access of the products of the developing countries to the markets of the more prosperously Within this concept of "globalization with solidarity' or "ethical globalization", as the High Commissioner Mary Robinson has termed it, let me indicate inter alia the following elements to which Brazil attributes great importance: guarantee greater access to markets and better humanitarian conditions for the combat of diseases; reform the Bretton Woods institutions, so as to prepare them for the challenges of the twenty-first century; provide the IMF with more resources and the capacity to be a lender of last resort; attribute to the World Bank and the regional banks the role of more active promoters of development; reduce the volatility in international capital flows and assure a more predictable financial system, less subject to crises; establish practical forms of cooperation to lessen the drama of Aids, which falls in a particularly grave manner on developing countries and, among these, on the very poorest. Poverty is as flagrant a violation of human rights as torture. All human rights should be treated equally. Governments may establish priorities for the use of their resources but they cannot choose to respect some rights in detriment of others. As the High Commissioner of Human Rights has said, of we must not be selective, given that these rights are interrelated and interdependent'. It is necessary to rethink the sums of financial resources presently destined to international aid. Brazil attributes importance to the question of development and to its realization within the framework of the observance of human rights and, therefore, I hope that the negotiations will be successful regarding the proposed resolution on the right to development which will be considered at this Session of the CHR. The Brazilian delegation hopes to be able to participate actively in the debates and contribute positively toward effective advances in the realization of this basic human right.

All the elements referred to above form the background against which the Brazilian government has been carrying on a frank and transparent dialog with the international institutions dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights. At the regional level, we are a party to the instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights, among which I single out the American Convention and the consequent recognition of the jurisdictional competence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Brazil has defended the need for the Inter-American system of promotion and protection of human rights to be effectively applied to all members of the OAS. Otherwise, the defense of such rights will continue to be hampered by the virtual existence of a two-track system composed of those countries who participate fully in the system and those who accept it with qualifications. Besides, we are beginning a process of negotiation with petitioners in all cases of human rights violations in Brazil submitted to the Inter-American Commission, which is assisting us in this undertaking. At the international level, Brazil has been focusing on dialogue with the mechanisms created by the CHR. We have received in the last two years two official visits by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with a view to designing and implementing a technical cooperation programme. Since 1995 we have received missions of six special rapporteurs of the Commission. It is the wish of the Brazilian government that the visits by representatives of conventional and non-conventional mechanisms of the United Nations in the area of human rights are held without any bureaucratic obstacles. For this reason, the President of the Republic announced on 19 December 2001 the decision to extend a standing invitation to these mechanisms. I therefore have the honor to officially extend such an invitation in this meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

I turn finally to the struggle we have been carrying on against AIDS, an exemplary case of government efforts in the face of obstacles of all sorts. We have developed the so- called generic drugs, for which it might have been necessary to circumvent patents, since it was a matter of high and immediate public interest and the fulfillment of international obligations assumed by Brazil in the area of economic, social, and cultural rights, among which the right to health is particularly relevant. The Commission on Human Rights understood the importance of this issue and, sensitive to the truly relevant questions, adopted, in a historic decision, a draft resolution proposed by Brazil that recognizes access to medication as a fundamental element to the full realization of human rights. In that spirit the Brazilian delegation will present a draft to update last year's resolution regarding access to medication. Moreover, we will propose, as a new initiative, the creation of the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, thereby promoting as balanced treatment between the rights set forth in both International Covenants. Mr. Chairman,

In closing, I want to reiterate our best wishes for the success of this work and renew the expectation that the present Session of the Commission on Human Rights may contribute effectively to improving the standards for the promotion and protection of human rights through an intense interaction not only among governments, but also between governments and civil society organizations. You may also be certain that the Brazilian delegation is ready to cooperate with the Chairman of the Commission and other members of the Bureau in contributing toward reaching a positive substantive outcome in this Session. Thank you very much.