If some children in Southern Europe are now attending school with empty bellies because their parents and local authorities cannot afford to pay for school lunches, then the fabric of human rights has frayed even in those, once-privileged countries — and this, too, is a human rights protection concern.
Moreover, in some European countries, the ripple effects of the recession and budget cuts include increased vulnerability to extremist and xenophobic discourse, which aims to identify scapegoats for economic pain. Although these are societies that retain a healthy judiciary and stable democratic institutions, they are now stepping back into the ugly injustice of racism and discrimination on the grounds of faith, demonizing minorities and migrants. It is shocking to observe leading figures in governments, ruling coalitions and classic opposition parties integrating elements of this discourse into their policies.
Opening Statement by
Ms. Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, 27 May 2013