Statement by Mr. Yemane Ghebreab at the Interactive Dialogue
(UNGA, Third Committee, New York, 27 October 2016)
Eritrea sees little value in entering into a polemic with the Special Rapporteur. We prefer an altogether different and positive approach. We wish to explain our situation, point to our modest achievements, describe our challenges, elaborate on our programs, reaffirm our responsibility and commitment, emphasize the importance of solidarity and express our readiness for constructive engagement and cooperation.
We wish to remind this important gathering that the Commission of Inquiry does not exist as its mandate was terminated at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council last July in Geneva. The Council had considered its report, took note of it and decided to reject its key recommendations, which included astonishingly sending yet another African country, Eritrea, to the International Criminal Court, which is not only unwarranted for Eritrea, but is a gross insult to Africa, which has made its firm views on the institution very clear.
Eritrea strongly believes that the most appropriate international forum for the discussion of human rights on the basis of universality and equality is the Human Rights Council. Like most UN member states and almost all developing countries, we oppose double-standards as well as selective, politically-motivated, country-specific approaches that reject dialogue and cooperation in favour of confrontation and escalation. If it weren’t for these short-sighted and ultimately counter-productive approaches, whose first casualty is human rights, Eritrea would not be on the agenda today.
Eritrea, as it will keep stressing, is a nation born in the struggle for human rights. Its number one priority remains ensuring the welfare and dignity of its people.
Eritrea is a safe, peaceful, stable nation with remarkable harmony among its diverse population. Its evolving political system, which has suffered some setbacks, is based on citizenship. It seeks to foster the broadest participation of its citizens, at home and abroad, at all levels and in all affairs of the nation. It is working to build a justice system, based on a body of laws, including the supreme law of the land, at the center of which is broad popular participation, including equitable participation of women, in the form of locally elected community courts.
Eritrea is committed to development, sustained, sustainable and equitable development which supports the material, social and cultural aspirations of the people, and in particular the youth. After years of difficulty, the basis for broad-based growth is being laid lesson by lesson, brick by brick and institution by institution. As many who have partnered with Eritrea will confirm, it makes judicious and effective use of available resources.
Eritrea is an independent, constructive, active and consciously modest regional and global actor. We are strong believers in solidarity between nations and peoples as well as in genuine and mutually-beneficial partnerships. We favor dialogue, engagement and cooperation. Unfortunately, the policy of seeking to isolate and undermine Eritrea has limited our role. It has also deprived the Horn of Africa of the positive contribution we would have been able to make.
National ownership and national responsibility are the pillars of the Eritrean approach to nation building. We first look to ourselves, mobilize our own human and financial resources and only then seek friends and partners. This approach also applies to the important issue of human rights.
Despite hostility and challenges, Eritrea is working steadfastly to advance the political, civic, economic, social and cultural rights of its people. The length and quality of life of Eritreans have improved. We are providing free and universal education up-to the tertiary level, strides have been made in health, women’s and children’s rights are protected. The policies of citizenship, unity in diversity and prioritizing disadvantaged areas and sections of the population have strengthened national cohesion and solidarity. Eritreans also enjoy many civic and political rights and have access to information.
Yet, as Eritrea is first to stress, our achievements are modest, fall far short of our aspirations; and we have a long way to go. We are never complacent. We are determined to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals ahead of schedule, build a nation worthy of the heavy sacrifices made to bring it to existence and contribute to a peaceful, cooperative and integrated Horn of Africa region.
As Eritrea carries on with its national agenda, it welcomes and encourages solidarity and partnerships. It is keen to shoulder its international obligations in the areas of peace, development and human rights. It is a willing and proud participant in the Universal Review Process. It is cooperating effectively with the United Nations, UN human rights bodies and other partners to implement the recommendations it has accepted. It is a critical, but also effective participant in the fight against human trafficking and for effective solutions for irregular migration.
You are well aware that over six decades, Eritrea has been treated most unfairly by the United Nations and the international system. The continued occupation of our sovereign territory has been met with deafening silence and detrimental inaction. Sanctions against Eritrea continue although everyone agrees that there is no case and no justification. Eritrea is singled out for attacks on human rights when the grossest violations of others are glossed over.
Yet, Eritrea does not seek favored treatment. It seeks fairness. It asks for a level playing field. More importantly, it encourages mutual solidarity and support.
I thank you.