Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement by H.E. the Permanent Representative of Portugal, Ambassador Francisco Duarte Lopes, at the High Level Meeting on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

New York, 18 December 2018

Madam President,

Portugal welcomes the Secretary-General report on the 20th anniversary of the Declaration and endorses his assessment of the work carried by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, as well as by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN Bodies.

This Declaration reaffirms fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of association, of peaceful assembly, of opinion and of expression, as well as the right to access information and justice. These freedoms are inscribed in the Portuguese Constitution.

Within the Human Rights Council and the 3rd Committee, Portugal has expressed its support through voting and co-sponsorship Resolutions protecting human rights defenders. To mention a few, let me underline that while a member of HRC (until 2017), Portugal co-sponsor the Resolution 31/32 on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. We were also initial co-sponsors of the Resolution 32/31 on Civil society space and of the subsequent Resolution on Civil Society Space: engagement with international and regional organizations.

My country believes that Human Rights Defenders are key actors in any democratic system and have a fundamental role to achieve peace and sustainable development at all levels: local, national, regional and international – as they ensure the monitoring of economic, social and cultural rights and they identify violations and abuses.

Human Rights Defenders should be supported and shouldn’t fear consequences, such as intimidation or reprisals for their actions including for simply cooperating with the UN. That is why Portugal supports the “Guidelines against intimidation or reprisals” adopted in San Jose and condemns any practices aiming at discouraging Human Rights Defenders from pursuing their activities.

Concluding let me share our firm conviction that education is a fundamental tool to raise awareness for the promotion and protection of Human Rights. In that sense the study of Human Rights is mandatory for all Portuguese students.

I thank you.