On the eve of the sixth Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Canada opened its doors to the world’s most courageous human rights defenders, including 2014 Geneva Summit Courage Award recipient, Chwen Guangcheng, known as the “Barefoot Lawyer”.
Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Elissa Golberg, invited human rights leaders and activists to meet with a selected group of Permanent Representatives in order to share their personal experiences and challenges, and to discuss concretely what more can be done at the United Nations Human Rights Council to enable real change in support to victims of rights’ violations around the world.
The activists urged that the UN not be allowed to be used as a platform to conceal or supress rights violations. They stressed the need for diplomats to engage directly with civil society leaders, to name individual prisoners of conscience and advocate on their behalf, and to push for concrete measures against regimes that pervasively violate rights such as travel bans and financial sanctions.
Above all, the diplomats present were reminded of their responsibilities as representatives of democratic countries not to allow impunity.
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, Ambassador Golberg commended the profound personal courage of the speakers, noting they were an incredible force of change, and an inspiration.
She also encouraged the activists to share their successes with each other, and spoke to the many tools that exist at the international level that can be leveraged to encourage change.
Participants expressed concern at the increase in attacks against human rights defenders and journalists in recent years, including reprisals against civil society activists who have cooperated with the UN.
Ambassador Golberg reaffirmed Canada’s firm commitment to continue to prevent and address serious human rights violations around the world, and to work in support of the protection of human rights defenders.