Dear Madam Commissioner, dear colleagues and friends,
Allow me to wish you a warm welcome to Russia.
Once again, I would like to congratulate you on your birthday. I am very pleased that are you are celebrating your birthday at work here in Moscow.
Russia is firmly committed to upholding all international standards in the area of human rights and all its international commitments in this regard. Madam Commissioner, your work has always had and will always have Russia’s support. You have our support above all because we are all too aware of how complex today’s world is and we realise that even as we seek to resolve the complex problems we face today for the benefit of people, we see, unfortunately, that everywhere there is a very frequent temptation to resolve problems to people’s detriment rather than to their benefit. I therefore want to assure you once again that your work can always count on Russia’s most consistent and effective support.
We have already established a whole system of instruments in this area. You are no doubt already acquainted with Mr Lukin, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation. Some time ago I signed a decree and we set up a special presidential body that also works in the area of human rights. Today you will be meeting with Ms Panfilova, who heads this body.
You have a very busy schedule here in Moscow and are to meet with a whole number of ministers and the heads of various agencies. I am sure that you will establish good working contacts with all of them.
Russia is still in the process of developing its democratic institutions. Of course, we do need the views of qualified and independent specialists, including in the area of human rights. We will listen and react with respect to all objective comments and objective analysis in this area.
There is only one thing we consider unacceptable and that is when people, no matter who they may be, use human rights issues as a means to pursue their own political and sometimes economic goals. In this respect I want to stress that we hope to establish a real working partnership with your department and with yourself, Madam Commissioner, all the more so as Russia does have its own ideas about how human rights are being observed and protected in the world overall, also including in the context of anti-terrorist operations; how they are being observed in some regions and countries where Russia does definitely have clear and significant interests. In this respect, I think that joint work to develop common standards and a common set of references in this very sensitive and important area is of paramount importance. I know that in this regard you are also a good specialist and an excellent lawyer.
Un High Commissioner For Human Rights Louise Arbour:
Thank you very much, Mr President. Thank you especially for your kind wishes on my birthday. My trip was not planned to coincide with my birthday, but a better choice could not have been made.
As you know, I have been in this post for only seven months. This is, of course, my first visit to your country and I hope to make maximum use of all the opportunities I have here. I have come here above all in order to understand the situation in Russia and lay the foundation for cooperation that I hope will be very productive while I hold this post. And please let me assure you that, given my professional background, I approach human rights issues above all as a lawyer and not from a political point of view.