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Statement of the MFA on the Occasion of Human Rights Day


On 10 December, one of the most important achievements of the United Nations throughout its existence is commemorated – the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. For the first time a fundamental concept of universality of human rights, firmly endorsed by the Czech Republic, was formulated. We also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose mission is to promote the principles and ideals embodied in the Declaration.

Events throughout the world unfortunately prove, time and again, that a mere declaration of human rights is not enough. To fulfill the contents of the Declaration we have to exert ourselves day-to-day. In this spirit, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout was pleased to state that human rights are in no way merely a declared priority of the foreign policy of the Czech Republic, but first and foremost they are a subject and a content of the Ministry´s daily activities in various fields.

In 2013, the Czech Republic has successfully introduced a new theme in the UN Human Rights Council, an advisory body of the General Assembly to which the Czech Republic has been elected for the second time (2011-2014). It is the theme of political participation. This Czech initiative culminated in the adoption of the Resolution of the Council in September 2013.

"Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship", a scholarship programme for young journalists, has also successfully continued and developed in cooperation with the Radio Free Europe. For most of 2013, journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Iran stayed in Prague; a few weeks ago they were replaced by their colleagues from Russia and Ukraine.

For the first time the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Very symbolically, the first laureate has been a Belarussian dissident A. Bialiatsky.

The door of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic has remained open for civil society representatives from various countries of the world throughout the year. Especially from those where non-governmental organizations and activists face harassment or the risk of penalties or even imprisonment and physical violence. Minister Kohout and other representatives of the Ministry interact with them regularly so that the activities in promoting human rights and democracy are as much effective as possible.

Naturally, in 2013 the Czech Republic has been actively involved in and worked with other universal and regional organizations (e.g. the EU, OSCE and Council of Europe) and initiatives (such as the Community of Democracies, Lifeline).

"Each partial success in the field of human rights is also a great commitment for us into the future", said Minister Kohout. The fact, that the Ministry intends to invest further its efforts and financial resources in the promotion of human rights, civil society and individuals fighting for human rights, is confirmed by the recent selection of 26 projects of non-governmental organizations which will receive a grant from Ministry's Transition Cooperation Programme in 2014.