Speech by H.E. David Daly at the Inauguration of the Asia Pacific Masters Degree Programme on Human Rights and Democratisation

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1 Speech by H.E. David Daly at the Inauguration of the Asia Pacific Masters Degree Programme on Human Rights and Democratisation University of Colombo (20/01/2014) Distinguished guests, As you know Human Rights and Democracy lie at the heart of Europe's construction and constitute one of the keystones of the EU's international cooperation programme. The EU is based on fundamental values of democracy, the Rule of Law, the protection of Human Rights. But... What exactly does this mean? It means that these concepts are fundamental to the EU ever being born; the very existence of a democratic club of 28 European countries working so closely together is dependent on these concepts. But...again...Why is this the case? Because without democracy, the Rule of Law, the protection of HRs, justice and so on, we could never have had the degree of reconciliation between European States and peoples which enabled the EU to be created. Without these concepts there would have been no reconciliation between Germany and France, no reconciliation in Northern Ireland, no reconciliation in the Balkans. These three examples show: The huge success of post-war reconciliation in Europe. The great progress which has been made in Ireland, which is still ongoing. The big challenge of the Balkans, where there is still much more to do. 1

2 For these sorts of reasons the EU was awarded the Nobel peace Prize. So, this is why we say that democracy, the Rule of Law, the protection of HRs, etc. are fundamental to the EU, fundamental to understanding the EU. But...Don't misunderstand me; this is not to say that everything in the EU is perfect. There is no room for complacency in any country, anywhere, when it comes to the daily application of these values; vigilance is needed by both Governments and HRDs in Europe just as elsewhere. Nonetheless a key thing to understand is, firstly, that all the 28 governments of the EU MS subscribe to these values and, secondly, that they have given themselves both national and European tools to help monitor that these HRs are safeguarded for their citizens: Legal frameworks, including submitting themselves to an independent European court system (ECHR Strasbourg): Strong institutional frameworks to ensure that justice is done, even if it takes time. Sometimes I hear the argument that the respect of HRs is somehow a European or a Western thing and that it does not apply in countries with very different cultures. I do NOT agree with this because I believe in the universality of HRs. Should the Police deal with me correctly just because I'm British or Irish? Should I be allowed to freely gather with likeminded citizens, even to protest against the Government, just because I'm French or Italian? Should my property rights be safeguarded just because I'm German or Hungarian? No, of course not! My rights should be respected: Irrespective of my country: Irrespective of my religion: 2

3 Irrespective of my sex or sexual orientation. The protection of our human rights requires people: To draft and adopt appropriate laws: To work in institutions to ensure that these laws are implemented and enforced: In Government, in NGOs, in the Media etc. This work is hard; it needs people of dedication and courage; it is sometimes dangerous. But... It is also intensely rewarding, though rarely lucrative, because it addresses such basic issues for citizens, for society and for states. Where do such people come from? You know better than I! You are such people and I pay tribute to you. I see that you come from a variety of countries and this is itself enriching: Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines. You chose to come to Colombo; so did I it s a great choice! People such as you deserve great teachers. I'm delighted that this excellent programme continues with the University of Sydney. I happen to know this project from my previous posting as EU Ambassador in Australia and I pay tribute to Prof. Dany Celermayer and her team. It is a great joint European and Australia venture. I also pay tribute to the University of Colombo which is today starting with its 4 th batch of Masters' students in human rights in collaboration with the University of Sydney. This Masters programme will help strengthen the international and regional framework for the protection of human rights, justice, the rule of law and the promotion of democracy. And the mixed background of its students will without doubt allow for a fruitful cross-fertilisation of cultures, experiences and perceptions. 3

4 The EU wishes to praise the efforts of Sri Lanka, Australia and all the other countries involved in this curriculum along with their implementing Higher Education Institutes. In particular I wish to congratulate the University of Colombo for organizing the imminent semester of study and research here in Sri Lanka. In an increasingly competitive society it is essential to provide students with skills to increase their knowledge of the specific issues at stake. Universities also benefit greatly from mutual networking, which often results in the internationalization of their campuses, introduction of new teaching methods and services, and the building up of their research and management capacities. That is the reason why the EU strives to provide students and education institutes alike with growing opportunities for mobility and cooperation. I would like to stress that this Masters programme is by no means a stand alone initiative. The EU has been promoting two initiatives in the field of Higher Education, the well known Erasmus Mundus and the Jean Monnet Programs. Both are aimed to enhance the quality of education and promote dialogue between people and cultures through cooperation amongst universities and research institutes of different countries. Still in terms of research, Horizon the successor of FP7 or the 7th Framework Program on Research and Technological Development was recently launched in the EU's Headquarters in Brussels. The launch for the South Asia region is due to take place very shortly, this coming Friday the 24th in Colombo. Horizon 2020 is the EU's flagship program in research and development. The program promises new breakthroughs. It aims to boost knowledge-driven economies through research and innovation and to further increase the participation of key researchers from the South Asia region. Under these programs scholarships and fellowships are offered to students, researchers and university staff to carry out varying periods of study at bachelor, master, doctoral or postdoctoral levels in European universities and other higher education institutes. Individual research opportunities are also provided. As a matter of fact, about one hundred and seventy 4

5 Sri Lankan students and academic staff have benefited from EU sponsored scholarships and fellowships through the Erasmus Mundus. We want to improve further on this. Sri Lankan researchers have also already participated in 10 collaborative projects of the EU Framework Programme FP7. In addition, 12 researchers from Sri Lanka received individual research grants to European institutions under the 'Marie Curie' program. Participants from Sri Lanka who have so far benefited from the programs include the Ministry of Health and Nutrition, the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities, the International Water Management Institutes and the Universities of Colombo, Peradenyia, Moratuwa and Kelanyia. I would like to underline that within the new EU budget allocations for both Education and Research & Development have been substantially increased despite the recent financial crisis in Europe and elsewhere; this shows the full measure of Europe's commitment to the reinforcement of knowledge-based societies with its partner countries. Let me then take this opportunity to encourage all Universities and higher education institutes in Sri Lanka to make the most out of the possibilities of cooperation offered by the EU so that we can repeat the successful results we have achieved today. In conclusion I would like to congratulate again the University of Colombo and wish the very best to all your students. Thanks you. 5

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