Press Release

International Human Rights Day: Belgium remains committed to human dignity, freedom, equal rights and justice for all

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib reiterates Belgium's commitment to the protection and promotion of all human rights for all, without distinction.

As part of the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Minister Lahbib associates herself with the words of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk: "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which was drafted by representatives from all over the world – embodies a common language of our shared humanity, a unifying force at the heart of which lies human dignity and the duty of care we owe each other as human beings”.

Human rights and democracy are more than ever under pressure around the world. The international community is facing complex challenges such as the climate crisis, increasing conflicts and wars, a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability and disinformation.

Women's rights have become a target in many places. “The promotion and protection of women's rights are a priority for Belgium, they are present, across the board, in all my actions. In some countries, too often, gender discrimination is deeply embedded in legislation, policy choices and social structures. Changing these practices requires long-term work, the starting point of which is often an open, constructive dialogue without taboos. I like to start by saying that if Belgium can present a perfectly gender-balanced government today, it took almost 200 years. And that it took so many years to have a first female foreign minister. In international circles, I very often intervene on behalf of Belgium, to support women in their fight for equal rights and to strongly condemn the violence to which they are subjected in certain countries - without forgetting the violence suffered by men who stand by them," said Minister Lahbib. A recent example of Belgian support is the contribution of 350,000 euros to the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund to support women human rights defenders in Afghanistan. In Ukraine, we gave a contribution of half a million euros to the same UN fund, in order to support the fight against conflict-related sexual violence and the implementation of the important Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Human dignity and equal rights for all are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. On January 1, 2023, Belgium will become a member of the UN Human Rights Council, for which it was elected in October by the UN General Assembly by a large majority of votes. Minister Hadja Lahbib: “More than ever, human rights must be a fundamental value and not a favor granted by States. These rights commit society in all its components. Belgium's accession to the United Nations Human Rights Council is an opportunity for our country to become more involved in the promotion and protection of human rights as essential conditions for peace, security and development ". Belgium placed a strong emphasis on the positive interaction between these three pillars during its recent term on the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020.

Four thematic priorities will guide our action during our term on the Human Rights Council: the principle of accountability for the most serious crimes; strengthening civil society and protecting human rights defenders; equality and the fight against discrimination, with particular emphasis on women and girls; and the promotion of all human rights, namely civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, in their indivisibility and interdependence.

Belgium defends human rights not only within the UN Human Rights Council, but also at bilateral level, at EU level and in other international forums. “My entire commitment is based on defending the inherent rights of everyone, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, language or religion. And Belgium, by sitting on the Human Rights Council, will make its voice heard, guided by the text and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After nearly 75 years of existence, it has lost none of its strength or relevance, quite the contrary. Human dignity, freedom and justice are fundamental principles of my foreign policy, because I am convinced of their universality and because they represent the best possible guarantee for peace”, concludes Minister Hadja Lahbib.