Statement by Ambassador Chizhov at the Round Table “Evolution of Moral Values and Human Rights in Multicultural Europe”

The topic of today’s discussion is a reflection of the complexity and ambiguity of processes unfolding in modern society. Human rights is such an elaborated issue that it is difficult to add something completely new; they are commonly recognised and universal in nature. At the same time, one should not forget that, apart from the legal dimension, human rights also have a moral one that many tend – for whatever reasons – to push to the background or simply ignore.

Today we are observing an evolution of moral values and human rights in the modern multicultural Europe. The very paradigm of how these concepts are perceived is shifting in modern conditions, along with the system of instruments for their promotion and protection. And many of those changes are a source of serious concern. 

Lately, there have been increasingly frequent attempts to arbitrarily interpret human rights. Many politicians and civil society activists plead for absolute freedom, up to legitimising actions like those for which the Russian punk band with a name insulting for any civilised society earned its “fame”. A new concept of human rights is being promoted encouraging total permissiveness and impunity. The freedom to exercise own rights is being absolutised – disregarding the fact that it might infringe freedom of others. As a result, the chain of rights and obligations that is crucial for ensuring equal rights and freedom for all falls apart. What follows is no secret – decay of moral values, racial and religious strife and xenophobia. Do we really wish to create a society where certain individuals enjoy absolute freedom while others should be grateful for small mercies? History has already witnessed such precedents, and this was a rather poor experience. 

What is most important is to learn to keep in the modern society the right balance between human rights and obligations. 

Events of the last years have proven that no human rights protection is possible without lasting peace and sustainable development. Promotion of human rights should, in turn, contribute to ensuring security and human development and not serve as a pretext for illegal interference into internal affairs of states.

Russia stands for implementation of principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and respect for traditional values which serve as a foundation of human civilisation and are common to all world religions. This is a moral anchor for the life of modern society that cements nations together. 

On 27 September 2012 the UN Human Rights Council adopted by absolute majority a Resolution entitled “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind” submitted by the Russian Federation. Co-authors of the resolution included more than 60 countries where different religions and cultures co-exist. 

The Resolution confirms that understanding and respect for traditional values – going, as I already said, beyond any chronological and geographical borders – contribute to promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Family, society and educational institutions play a crucial role in establishing these values. The Resolution calls upon UN Member States to strengthen this role. 

This is exactly the interconnected evolution of moral values and human rights we need. Being so, it will contribute to enhancing trust and establishing dialogue at the level of the international community, underpinned by cultural diversity. 

In spite of Russia’s position, open to dialogue and cooperation and prepared to take into account constructive proposals of a number of other countries, the US and EU member states were among those who voted against the Resolution. The negative position of these countries, their lack of readiness to work on the text and artificial arguments against the draft Resolution are highly regrettable. 

We believe that no state or group of states has the right to monopolise the formulation of principles related to human rights. Attempts to promote, under the veil of a universal standard, its one-sided interpretation, are detrimental to popular perception of the very concept of human rights and alienate whole societies or groups of society. On the contrary, the doctrine of human rights will only benefit if it absorbs elements of different cultures, thus becoming truly universal.