Ambassador Berger’s speech at the National Council for Human Rigths
Yesterday, 10 December was Human Rights Day which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
That day serves as an opportunity to recall that human rights are universal, indivisible, inalienable, interdependent and interrelated. Whilst their promotion and protection is an imperative to uphold human dignity, the genuine respect and fulfilment of human rights is also indispensable for peace, democracy and sustainable development.
It is only befitting to commemorate the Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by launching this new EU project in support to the National Council for Human Rights. This is the fruit of a constructive and - I must say passionate - dialogue with Ambassador Moushira Khattab, since the very moment of her appointment last January. Our respective teams have been striving over the course of the entire year to make it happen.
This is a special moment. I wish to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 74 years ago. Egypt was one of the countries contributing to the drafting. It is a milestone document for its universal values, encompassing and transcending all particular political, economic, social and cultural systems.
Striving for the protection of Human Rights has been, ever since, a long, challenging path. If we are here today, it is because we have definitely walked along the same road until now, at times with a different rhythm or with different means and in different contexts. Yet, inspired by the same convictions, ideals and values.
This year’s Human Rights Day slogan worldwide is “Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All”. I would like to recall that the EU was founded on these principles aiming to secure basic rights for all its citizens. This as a result of World War II, its disastrous effects and the gravest human rights violations that emanated from our continent. Since then, the EU and its EU Member States ensure to be driven by the same principles of Human Rights and fundamental values, as embedded in Article 6 of the European Union Treaty.
Today, the EU aims at being a responsible global actor and promotor of Human Rights and democracy. The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for the period 2020 – 2024 is the key compass for the EU external action in this field. It identifies priorities, including the support to national Human Rights institutions worldwide.
That is why our partnership with the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt particularly matters to the EU.
I am very eager to launch this EU project with Ambassador Moushira Khattab, who has distinguished herself in the promotion of women’s and children rights. When we met at the beginning of the year, we found it essential to build on the adoption of the first National Human Rights Strategy for Egypt, published in September 2021.
We are also aware and mindful to promote the values enshrined in the joint declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in 2019 by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. A declaration of an unprecedented significance, which should inspire our joint work to promote tolerance and fraternity among people and societies.
Today, with this new project (funded by the EU with a budget of 750.000 Euros), we jointly commit to take further the Egyptian Human Rights agenda from now to the next two years and a half. In practical terms, we aim to contribute to the following outcomes:
Enhance the Council’s mandate;
Build capacities of the Council’s administrative and technical staff in different departments;
Advocate on Human Rights and recommend legal/structural reform/amendments;
Boost the Council’s partnership with civil society in monitoring the implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy;
Create strategic partnerships to advocate for Human Rights and specific issues, such as the right to a fair trial, conditions of prisons and access to justice;
Strengthen the Council’s legal assistance and complaints services;
Enhance outreach and wider awareness of the Egyptian citizens on Human Rights.
Let me recall that the EU partnership with the National Council for Human Rights is not new. This project is going to build upon a previous one, funded by the EU and the German Cooperation and ended in December 2021, which had the merit of digitalising the Council’s legal complaints management system. Previous projects were funded by the EU since 2005, helping, among others, the creation of a Complaints Office within the Council.
The EU is eager to start the implementation of this new project, confident about the added value and commitment of the National Council for Human Rights in the field of Human Rights. 2022 was declared by President Al Sisi as the year of civil society in Egypt. I personally believe that the Council holds a pivotal role in involving civil society organisations and youth around the Human Rights discussion table.
Let me conclude that the EU shall continue to support and advocate for a society, in Egypt, in Europe and elsewhere, where all citizens can benefit from the same rights and freedoms.