United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General…
FILE - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

GENEVA - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns human rights are under assault from a multitude of threats including the climate crisis, the misuse of digital technology and power-hungry leaders. Guterres launched a Call to Action to advance and protect the human rights of all peoples at the opening of the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.  

UN chief Antonio Guterres calls human rights the ultimate tool to help societies grow in freedom.  He laments the erosion of these rights, noting that no country is immune.

“We see civilians trapped in war-torn enclaves, starved and bombarded in clear violation of international law," Guterres said. "Human trafficking affecting every region in the world, preying on vulnerability and despair… People are being left behind.  Fears are growing.  Divisions are widening.  And, some leaders are exploiting anxieties to broaden those gaps to the breaking point.”    

Guteres says his Call to Action aims to tackle all forms of inequality and eliminate all forms of discrimination.  He says it will focus on several specific areas of particular concern, mentioning no country by name.  

He says the campaign aims to lift people out of abject poverty, so they have equal access to opportunity and choice.

He notes some of the greatest tests faced by human rights occur when conflicts erupt, terrorists attack or disaster strikes.  But he adds human rights and humanitarian law can support people even in their darkest moments.

“Let me also underscore that even necessary efforts to combat terrorism must not compromise human rights," Guterres said. "Otherwise, counter-terror actions will be counter-productive.  This Call to Action recognizes that respect for human rights is an essential crisis prevention mechanism.  But when prevention falls short and violence is rampant, people need protection.”

Guterres pledges the United Nations with the necessary support of the International Community will be there to protect those in need.  He says the U.N. with the help of others will be there to protect the rights of minorities, to ensure gender equality and equal rights for women.  

He says all necessary efforts will be made to safeguard peoples right to freedom of expression, religion and assembly.