Talking Stone Film

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I am delighted to be here both
personally and officially in her previous life and for some years I
personally was her deputy. She who was now Director-General of IDLO. I’m
immensely proud of that long period of time under her leadership. Few truly are
her equal in personal integrity, in intellectual stature, and in sheer
bloody-minded stamina… it’s an Australian term shared with New Zealanders for
human rights, with greater dignity though. And more officially, let me also bring
you the warmest greetings from the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, who would
wish you to understand what a joy it is for us to have this opportunity to
affirm here that IDLO is indeed a key partner for the UN Human Rights
system, championing the rule of law and access to justice IDLO is delivering,
delivering invaluable expertise the world over where ever they can, where
governments and communities recognize that the rule of law is an asset not a
threat to peace and a sustainability, to inclusion that legal scrutiny is
essential if those with power to do great harm are instead to do great
good. Excellencies the Rome-based international community knows well how
human beings hunger for food, how we all thirst when parched, but it is just as
true that we all long for justice. Thank you IDLO for your advocacy at such as the Human Rights Council and the UN
General Assembly for that particular justice foot for which women and girls
long. For the justice longing to of indigenous people,
people with disabilities, and of young people. Thank you
for upholding through your work on such as business and human rights that
affirmation made clear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all
organs of society have duties to rights: the right to education, to health, to
shelter, to decent work that we might all have to hand dignities essentials, the
right to life, to liberty, to security of person that we might all live and love
without fear. Freedom, freedom from discrimination, arbitrary arrest, from
torture that we might all have the confidence that governance too is fair.
The right to a fair trial which underpins or freedom. The right to speak
out, to stand up, so that we may not be by malice or neglect rendered silent.
Friends, tough as these rights standards are at times to uphold, inconvenient as
they are to power that would rather be unaccountable, and while under pressure
they remain nonetheless they endure. Forged neither in privilege nor
prosperity, but amidst rather the rubble wrack and ruin of reckless rancor. Adoption seventy years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
gifted to us merely an enduring encapsulation of what makes for a
humanizing relationship between power and powerlessness. Let’s at least put
deliberate mischaracterization to rest. The Declaration was not an impost
of the West who were in fact amongst its most reluctant drafters – it’s content and its earliest application were pressed for by estates
newly decolonized: Ghana, Liberia, Jamaica. Latin America advocated for economic and
social rights. Soviet Union called for provisions to combat race discrimination.
Pakistan and India pressed hard for recognition of equal pay, equal
distribution of property, and equal application of marriage laws.
It was India’s delegate who urged with success that the declaration’s first
article read not that all ‘men are born equal’ but rather all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and in rights. Imagine that, responding to the
gravest violent extremism in living human memory. Our forefathers and our
foremothers worked over eighty-one sessions and a hundred
and sixty-eight amendments to give to us that which the Chilean code drafter
called “an historic consensus” – a consensus on the supreme value of each
and every individual human being. The supreme value granted not by gift of
some worldly power, he wrote, but rather in the fact of our existence. The mere
fact of existing seventy years later – that consensus about what it means to be
humanized as compared to dehumanized is no less relevant, but it is under
significant strain, after all ours is a very different world: it’s more
globalized, more interconnected, more interdependent. It’s hardwired so by
finance and trade; it’s woven so by science and technology; it’s encircled
so, sky and ocean, by the results of our rapacious depletion of earth’s finite
resources. It’s connected so by information superhighways, and it’s made
more tragically so with these tough pathways trudged by so many and they’re
often perilous movement within and across borders. Pathways of flight
paved in terror’s toxic tarmac and bigotry’s brutal betrayals. Neither our
parents nor our schoolroom teachers foresaw Silk Roads redrawn, trade routes
made virtual to the local digitized, policy pivots reduced to a
tweet. The personal no longer merely the private, the local by technology made
somehow less geographical, physical distance between us contracting by a
so-called social media that is just so antisocial. Contemporary times, they’re tough times for rights because they’re tougher times for most people and turbulent
times for many. How on earth are we to steward this village planet towards
greater human solidarity – the foundation for our mutually assured liberty and our
habitat’s sustainability, to a sturdier justice and inclusive equality, the
foundation too of equitable economies, to a deeper common dignity, these things
being the building blocks for more certain peace, adjudicated to by more
resilient and inclusive democracies. The evidence is as clear as history is long. We will not get there through contempt for the
foreigner, by baseless distrust of those who love or look or worship differently.
We will not lead wealth in this world of change through intensified clamp downs
on the freedom of the press, encroachment on public movement, closure of borders to
people fleeing persecution, gagging of activists or deliberately denying
life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and care. Wrong in principle, wrong in practice, the false promises of stand apart nationalism, fact denying
popularism and law defying leadership, they won’t evolve our global governance –
our political, economic and legal systems into something better suited to this
unfamiliar world, a world of global finance, big data, extreme inequality,
intractable conflict, mass migration, ecological upheaval. Friends, if you
can’t front in life multi-dimensional unknowables, if one’s
technical competencies are stretched beyond limit, when publics are driven to
fear and to anxiety, when the world’s largest ever generation of young people
are locked out of hope, when we know what the solutions are but can’t deliver them,
when what must be done is more than what can be done,
it’s then, it’s now that core values matter most. Values of who we are
regardless. Values for today and tomorrow.
That’s where rights come in – global values for globalized times – universal, indivisible – tried and tested in the modern era over seven
decades. Never has a system of principles spread so far, so wide, so fast as have human rights in the post World War Two era. These are
values we have to stand up for, and in their defense and for their application
we need the rule of law and we need rules based multilateralism. Friends, only
concrete plans enabled time bound action on timeless promise. Thanks also to the
United Nations member states we have just such a plan
in the form of the sustainable development agenda. It’s a plan that
make tangible and universal these core values to make that work in a turbulent
world. It’s a promise to greater equality, it’s
a commitment that no one be left behind, but I want to share with you a view that
its failure to adhere to global values that is actively obstructing delivery of
the SDGs just as the same impediments undermine fulfilment of the Millennium
Development Goals. Most notably in the aftermath of 9/11 and of global
financial crises there has emerged a powerful competing counter development
agenda. It takes the form of policies and practices of hyper securitisation on the
one hand and deep public purse austerity on the other. Hyper securitisation is
doing to civil and political freedoms what austerity has done to economic and
social rights, and done it for millions. UN Special Rapporteurs have pointed this
out repeatedly that the counterterrorism regime is slipping into place a new
human rights defying legal regime, weakening international human rights and
humanitarian law guarantees, being now so unanchored in the guarantees of procedural and substantive law that today even certain
humanitarian assistance has been criminalized – de facto, a rewriting of the
Geneva Conventions. That surveillance culture has escalated to the point where
the very pillars of democratic society are under threat: civil society,
independent press, independent judiciary, free and fair elections, even
universities under attack as an enemies of the state, enemies of the people and contemporaneously the afflictions of
widespread austerity measures affecting all regions of the world by one means or
another these have cut away at the dignity of millions. These have deepened
inequality, escalated wealth for the few and fed a newly toxic resentment of the
other – of those coming to take our jobs, robbing us of social security, of those
stripping us of our identity, inventing new old scapegoats – the migrant and the
Muslim. There isn’t a population untouched by these toxic policy twins.
You can see it in every gallup poll, you can feel it in every ballot box. What we do to address deepening
inequality and to prevent violent extremism too must answer hate not spread it, must tackle unconscionable greed not celebrate it, enhance personal security for
people living insecure lives not weaken it, build dignity and trust between
an among communities not tear that down. We are not made justice-prosperity or
peace-capable by disabling the human rights regime. You know today global wealth
distribution is largely uncontested by any form of governance or law whatsoever. Social inequality is largely left
without social protection or legal remedy, and yet no one’s hope can be
rooted in the hopelessness of the other. That’s why the work of IDLO with
the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights to strengthen gender equality and
rights for vulnerable groups is so important – it is a pathfinder. We must
deliver more security but fear of acts of terror loom large in public
consciousness and yet in most places totally disproportionately so, yet in all
places the betrayal that our crimes committed by the powerful that is what
is eroding public trust, whether those perpetrators be high priests of
culture, church or commerce, that’s what the hashtag #MeToo movement tells us:
intimate personal security must be addressed, more authoritatively, more
convincingly, more lawfully. That’s why IDLO’s work at the municipal level in
Honduras is a pathfinder. We must also challenge
narratives of hate more effectively. Why are we failing to tell a truer, stronger
story about our connections? Why are our narratives not more robust about our
capacity for compassion, of how capable we are as co-operators more than
competitors, of how most of us would prefer to be living in a world in which
everybody was treated with respect and with decency? It’s why IDLO’s work in Afghanistan to promote access to justice and local ownership is
a Pathfinder. And finally, why are we not more competent at change leadership?
Management guru Peter Drucker has said “you know the greatest danger in
times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s
logic”. For this we need breakthrough thinking and breakthrough leadership, we
don’t need to look any further than around us. Few scientific literary
artistic technological or political breakthroughs and even fewer acts of
courageous compassion have ever been made, would have ever emerged from those who will not stand up to orthodoxy. From civil society: absent civil society – no
end to slavery. Absent civil society – no affordable antiretrovirals, no
protection of endangered species, no public exposure of child sexual assault,
no legislation against child marriage or rape in marriage, no access to emergency
contraception, no marriage equality, and yet just when
we most need that creativity, that breakthrough thinking, that talent, that
contribution all over the world, civil society is facing unprecedented clamp
down. Assassinations of human rights defenders are running at rates that
shame us all, and our largest renewable energy source – young people are largely
locked out of decision-making under the pretext of countering terrorism ninety
eight countries have passed laws restricting civil society. IDLO’s work
in places like Ukraine, South Sudan, Myanmar to enhance the technical capacity of
civil society organizations is a pathfinder – we know it can be done. I don’t
want to suggest that significant change for the better hasn’t happened: poverty
has been halved, today fewer women die when giving life and many more newborns
survive their first months to thrive as children in their early years, and many
more of us are living much longer. Racism has been called out in law for the
scourge that it is and always has been. Torture has been criminalized even if
unevenly. The death penalty increasingly is abandoned on the dust heap of history
where it belongs. International jurisprudence has given greater material
strength to ethereal ideas of universal human rights. But the report card of our
progress is troubling. The pounding of malicious fists may grow louder and
louder on the doors of our equality, our dignity, our privacy and against our
freedom. They’ll have to be resisted again – in this there’s no north or south,
there’s no right or left, there’s neither east nor west, there’s only the humane and the inhumane. In the words of the extraordinary literary
force, Ursula Le Guin, “you know hard times are coming when we will be wanting
the voices of those who see the alternatives to how we live now, can see
through our fear stricken societies and our obsessive technologies to other ways
of being, can imagine real grounds for hope, for this we need those who can be
realists of a larger reality”. Realists of a far larger, more generous, more
compassionate, more justice-loving reality, but for that we need leaders of
courage – the courage of the 1948 generation to imagine a world in which
that recognition would always be held to, that born we all are free and equal in
dignity and rights, but in the interests of this larger reality we’ll have to lower the fist, we’ll have to extend the hand, and we’ll have to
stand up, use our rights to stand up also for theirs. Thank you

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