Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, pictured taking part in a videoconference in June
(Photo: Ministère d'État)
Luxembourg will aim to put citizens at the centre of its campaign when running for a seat on the UN human rights council next year, prime minister Xavier Bettel has said.
“The repression of opposition or of human rights defenders is becoming common currency,” Bettel (DP) said in recorded remarks delivered at the 75th UN General Assembly, which was hosted largely in digital format because of coronavirus.
The pandemic had reduced public freedoms in many countries, the Luxembourg premier said. Opposition groups and civil society weren’t being listened to, he said.
“The involvement of civil society in the UN’s work will be one of the priorities of our candidacy to the Human Rights Council,” Bettel said. The council seat will be up for a vote in October 2021 for the period of 2022 to 2024.
The grand duchy previously ran a successful campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN security council, which it held in 2013 and 2014.
The International Press Institute in May warned that governments were exercising “control over the media on the pretext of preventing the spread of disinformation.” It has recorded more than 400 press freedom violations worldwide linked to coronavirus curbs.
The UN human rights council in a resolution passed in July expressed concern over violations of freedom of expression that “continue to occur, often with impunity, and are facilitated and aggravated by the abuse of states of emergency.”
Opposition parties in Luxembourg in May criticised Bettel’s government for holding a vote on an EU-Canada trade agreement without activists being able to stage a demonstration against the measure while the country was still under a state of emergency.
“We will not forget 2020 in a hurry,” Bettel said, warning that the “months to come will continue to sorely test us.” Luxembourg this month extended virus measures--such as mandatory nose and mouth coverings--until the end of the year and announced it would carry out 1.5m virus tests by March 2021.
The Luxembourg premier praised international scientific cooperation to combat the virus and develop a vaccine, while slamming “anti-scientific” and “irrational” discourse.
He also pledged to uphold Luxembourg’s commitments to international assistance. Developing countries risked being set back by 20 years, Bettel said of the impact of the pandemic. “We are faced with a planet-scale emergency,” he said, expressing support for a debt moratorium for the world’s poorest nations.
Despite Luxembourg debt expected to reach 30% of GDP as a result of costly virus rescue packages, the grand duchy would uphold its pledge to spent 1% of gross national income (GNI) on development assistance, making it one of the world’s biggest donors.