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Prolusione del Sottosegretario Boniver in occasione del conferimento della Laurea Honoris Causa (Baku, 25 maggio 2005)



Prolusione del Sottosegretario Boniver in occasione del conferimento della Laurea Honoris Causa (Baku, 25 maggio 2005)

Distinguished Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me, first of all, thank the academic authorities of this eminent University of Baku, for having bestowed this important, and particularly welcome, honour on me. I consider it not only as a tribute to me personally, but - as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic - a tribute to my country's work and commitment worldwide, in the matter of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Distinguished Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is now a universally acknowledged principle that democracy and human rights constitute both the form and the substance of good governance and of a State at the service of its citizens. Democracy is the only system, which is able to guarantee respect for the people's fundamental rights, as well as prosperity, advancement and sustainable development. Without such a guarantee, any State would only be form without substance. Protecting and fostering democracy and the rule of law is a fundamental priority for the international community. The idea that there might exist cultures, social or economic systems, religious precepts or development processes that are incompatible with democracy and respect for human rights, is no longer acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century.

Equally unacceptable is the idea that a system guaranteeing the widespread protection of political and civil rights is the sole prerogative of countries with high levels of development and social and economic prosperity. Neither is it acceptable that, in order to be able immediately to meet a country's primary needs, the recognition of its people's individual freedoms and rights be deferred to some later phase.
On the contrary, in countries, which have shaken off dictatorial and oppressive regimes, the population's yearning for a better quality of life and greater prosperity is always accompanied by a heartfelt demand for freedom and for the recognition of their own individual rights.
It is therefore essential to foster conditions worldwide so that democracy can take root where it has never previously existed, or where it has been wiped out by war, dictatorship or civil strife. Equally essential is the need to shore up the democratic institutions in the transition countries, and to defend democracy in all the countries that have only recently achieved it. But the daily practice of democracy and overall meticulous respect for fundamental rights is a complex undertaking, which often requires difficult decisions and sacrifices to be made. We only need to think, for example, of to the threat of international terrorism, and the sense of insecurity which it fuels in public opinion in every country in the world, and its destabilising effects on governments .

It happens often that some people may be convinced that the only appropriate response to certain heinous crimes is to introduce tough, exceptional repressive measures; and some may sympathise with those who consider that the threat to society justifies introducing exceptional measures in the higher interests of the whole community. Yet it is precisely in these circumstances and in these emergencies that we must emphatically reiterate our endorsement of the values and principles that constitute the bedrock of democratic societies. For we must not tolerate the idea of allowing counter-terrorism measures to be detrimental to fundamental guarantees and rights. No crime could ever justify any government's resorting to torture or to meting out inhumane and degrading treatment to those responsible.

Distinguished Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Issues relating to the protection of human rights are high on the agenda in the current debate on the reform of the United Nations. The Secretary General's proposals for reforming the Geneve based Commission for human rights, are currently being examined by the membership, which is well aware of their importance for guaranteeing basic humanitarian principles. Protection and respect of human rights are emerging as the basis that should regulate not only domestic activity of Nations, but also international relations. With the Cold War over, we can now devote our efforts towards consolidating peace based on commonly shared values. There is an evident linkage between peace and human rights, just as there is between conflict and the violation of human rights.
A cursory glance at the state of the world shows that the denial of freedoms, the trampling of individual rights, violations and abuse are all sources of crisis and conflict, which seriously undermine international security.

Distinguished Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am strongly convinced that one of the main tasks facing governments today must be to encourage respect for cultural pluralism. Let us be clear about it: cultural pluralism is a source of wealth. This means that we must foster familiarity, acceptance and tolerance of others, and strive to establish a multicultural society based on democracy and pluralism. Combating racism, anti-Semitism, Islam phobia, xenophobia and religious intolerance must be a priority for every government and every civilised community in the world. We must all share common principles and values based on a single, simple understanding: no civilisation, no culture and no society can feel free to ignore fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Is this not what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines? Its principles codify the pre-existing fundamental values lying at the very heart of humanity, above and beyond cultures and traditions. And this makes them the heritage of all peoples and all societies. The need to focus attention on the individuals implies for modern States the recognition and protection of their dignity, freedom and respect for their political, cultural and religious allegiances. This requires enabling individuals to deploy their full potential and fulfil their aspirations in respect for the rights of everyone else. To this respect, it is unacceptable to claim that the precepts of Islam are in some way incompatible with the principles of democracy and the protection of human rights.

Political and civil rights are no longer the sum total of universally recognised human rights. Economic and social rights, the right to development, the right to food, and the rights of migrants are nowadays the most significant contribution that the new countries are making to the process of codifying universal rights. Guaranteeing them is also a challenge to the older and more entrenched democracies, too. Today, no system can be exempt from criticism in terms of the protection of and respect for fundamental rights. Perhaps this is the most outstanding achievement of the international community to date; and it is also the most evident demonstration that the international community has fully adopted a set of universal rules and norms which are above any ideological manipulation, or partisan political interests.



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