Gender discrimination, the rise of xenophobia and hatred, poverty and inequality and climate change – all this, according to the UN Secretary-General, violates basic human rights. Speaking in Geneva at the opening of the regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, Antonio Guterres called for putting human rights at the forefront in all spheres of life.

Noting the increase in the number of women in the public sphere and politics, the empowerment of girls in the access to education, progress in reducing maternal mortality, the head of the UN recalled that many women are still daily exposed to discrimination and violence and face obstacles on the labour market. "With the current trends, it will be possible to achieve equality in the economic sphere only in two centuries," - said the Secretary-General.

 

The head of the UN expressed concern over the frequent attacks on journalists and human rights activists. Only in the past three years, more than a thousand human rights defenders and journalists have been killed around the world. Last year, on average four people  among environment defenders - first and foremost, the indigenous inhabitants - were killed each week.

"Activists and journalists are being targeted by surveillance, misinformation campaigns and physical threats that often lead to violence,"  - said Antonio Guterres. According to him, the use of "big data" and facial recognition technology for surveillance and restriction of freedom of speech sows fear and leads to the fact that the field of civil society activity and the opportunity for dialogue is narrowing. The head of the UN called to protect those who speak in defense of the deprived.

He noted with concern the rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, including anti-semitism and islamophobia. "The language of hatred is a threat to democratic values, social stability and peace,"  - said Antonio Guterres. - Thanks to social networks, the Internet and conspiracy theories, it spreads like wildfire."

"Moreover, hatred and enmity from the margins of society penetrate into the mainstream, into the official environment – both in liberal democratic and authoritarian systems",  - Guterres warned. Parties that were once considered outsiders are gaining more and more influence. The Secretary-General reported that he had instructed his Special adviser on the prevention of genocide to develop a strategy and plan of action to counter the language of hatred.

"Poverty is a denial of human rights," - the UN Secretary - General said, adding that "despite the reduction in the proportion of extreme poverty, inequality is deepening in the world. And the social divide not only prevents  economic development, but also causes instability and conflicts. António Guterres reminded world leaders of their promise to "leave no one behind".

Addressing the representatives of the Human Rights Council's member states, the UN- Chief praised the role of this body in the protection of citizens ' rights. He highlighted the Council's approach to climate change as a human rights issue.

"More than 150 states have recognized the right of citizens to a safe environment," the Secretary-General said. - "At the same time, 90 percent of the urban population breathe polluted air. As a result, 7 million people die each year, including 600,000 children." Guterres recalled that climate change leads to starvation  and particularly affects the most vulnerable groups. He said that on September 23 he will convene a summit on climate change and counts on the support of he UN Human Rights Council's member states.

"In many parts of the world, human rights are losing support, but I am not losing hope," - the Secretary - General concluded and stressed that he considers human rights to be essential for the promotion of peace and security and the right to development, as enshrined in the Sutainable development goals. 

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