EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore
Conference ‘Live Diversity: Practice Inclusivity’
Seoul, Republic of Korea, 7 December 2023
Esteemed participants in Seoul, dear civil society friends, good morning from Brussels.
I would like to thank the Korea-EU CSO Network (KEN) and the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea for hosting this conference and for their efforts in broadening the discussion on human rights, and on non-discrimination, in particular.
It is a pleasure to address such a diverse Korean civil society audience at this conference. A few days ago, in Brussels, we hosted the EU-NGO Forum, a major annual gathering bringing together civil society from all over the world with officials from European institutions. It is always a very enriching experience exchanging with civic activists whose life and work put concrete meanings to seemingly abstract notions of human rights.
As High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell underlined, “our partnership with civil society is ingrained in our DNA”. It is very strong and it is needed more than ever in order to tackle the multiple crises we face worldwide. In just three days, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will turn 75. But many of the achievements stemming from this landmark document are now under threat.
We are living in turbulent times. Along with the rise of conflicts worldwide and their impact on people’s lives, we are witnessing a worrying surge in hate speech, intolerance and discrimination.
It is especially in such times that fundamental values such as respect of diversity and non-discrimination must feature high on the social and political agenda, along with strong institutional support to civil society organisations.
It is no coincidence that the first two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights underline equality and non-discrimination of all human beings.
Diversity and non-discrimination are also fundamental values of the European Union. They are enshrined in our founding Treaties. They drive our foreign policy; they are one of the cornerstones of our Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which is the roadmap for our human rights activities as “Team Europe” on the global stage.
“United in diversity” is our European Union motto. We are 27 diverse nations and our societies are diverse too. It is a quality we cherish and protect. We strive to leave no one behind. We strive to protect everyone from discrimination on any ground. We strive to build an inclusive Union. As the President of the European Commission put it, we are striving for a Union of Equality, not only in law but in practice. For women, men, girls and boys, persons with disabilities, or LGBTIQ persons.
The European Union and the Republic of Korea are strategic partners who share democratic values and the commitment to human rights. Promoting human rights is a task that requires partners and dialogue: not only at government level, but also with broader human rights constituencies.
The Korean civil society is growing more diverse and more globalised. At the same time, discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or based on disability – recently reported in Korea – highlight societal struggles with integration and inclusivity.
The issue of migrants and foreigner population, cultural, racial or ethnic diversity and integration are increasingly important topics for the Korean society.
As inclusivity goes hand in hand with non-discrimination, it is paramount that comprehensive anti-discrimination laws are enacted to provide a robust framework for a fairer, more inclusive and resilient society.
Along with comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, human rights activists are essential actors in promoting equality and non-discrimination as cornerstones of human rights. Korean civil society plays a crucial role in the advancing of human rights in the country and the EU fully supports their efforts.
I would like to conclude by congratulating all speakers and participants for contributing with their perspectives to broadening the debate on ‘living diversity and practising inclusivity’ and for strengthening the partnership between European and Korean civil society.
Thank you. [감사합니다 Kamsa-ham-ni-da]