Natisni vsebino

Address by the Ombudsman at a Reception on the Occasion of the Day of Human Rights

09.12.2005 19:55
Category: work and news, papers, speeches

Ladies and gentlemen!

The Human Rights Ombudsman’s eleven years of work have not only put a solid stamp on the institution, but have also finally anchored in the mindset of the people a knowledge of the rights of the individual when having to deal with state bodies. This, I am certain, needs no further proof. Nevertheless, a brief overview of the development of our society and that of our institution should not be omitted. This is a necessity, if only to remind ourselves and others of what we have learnt from the past. And moments of celebration are here so we can resolve to leave off or improve what has been bad, and keep to and develop what has been good.

A decade has almost passed since Slovenia gained its independence and independently decides upon its fate. The attainment of independence was a result of finding out that our desires in the face of development differed from the political aspirations of the other nations whose community we then shared. Even though that community helped us to achieve much of what we otherwise could not have done alone, or else with much more struggle and effort, at a given moment it nevertheless became, in more ways than one, stifling and restrictive. One such area of restriction was the attitude towards human rights and the rights of various minorities. It is with pride that we still remember today the actions in the eighties when, without any superfluous self-interest, we took up the cause of the oppressed minor nations and individuals belonging to other minorities, despite the fact that this was usually badly received in the other parts of our common nation. In this resistance, however, politics played a significant contributing role. Let us just think of the indignation that the more tolerant attitude of the Slovene society towards homosexuals, or providing shelter to a succession of “dissidents” from other parts of Yugoslavia, provoked. I am pleased with my active role in these events, which fuelled my desire for the right of nations, minority groups, and individuals to be free to choose. But it was namely this steadfast attitude towards human rights, which is in way a continuation of the fight for freedom began in the Second World War, that brought Slovenia into conflict with the others, and finally to its independence.

However, the second significant difference was in the way that we envisaged our subsequent social and economic development. That was an aspiration for economic progress which would encompass all: production as well as consumption, without exclusion. Here, however, we have not been entirely successful.

With independence and a change of political system we gained many a good thing – mainly in the field of political rights. Within that, on the other hand, individuals have unnecessarily lost too many economic and social rights. Unemployment, also as a result of unlawful work dismissals, or pre-planned bankruptcies benefiting certain individuals, residential problems due to weak residential policies and a poorly envisaged denationalisation programme, an increase in inequality and poverty, which are not a result of a lack of willingness to work, but the wrong social or geographic position of the individual, … are only some negative outcomes of the rashly conceived development of the past years. These blunders, however, have a heavy impact on each and every individual, and hence society as a whole. And without economic freedom, there can be neither political nor social freedom. Or rather: if the individual does not possess economic or social security, then political security is also of little use to him or her. This is why I still maintain that the political fear of the previous system has replaced the existential fear in the new system.

In order for us to enjoy human rights in their entirety, political freedom only is not enough, but also such a society in which an individual is not afraid for his or her own survival. By this I do not mean survival as a social case, but survival through one’s own work. I also do not mean the economic growth which benefits just those few that find their feet in the contemporary jungle of stocks and shares, resale of job vacancies, and similar know-how, but the continued economic growth from which society as a whole, and each individual benefits. And this is why, more than pure economic growth that measures itself by the margins of profit, also a reconciled social development in a clean environment is important, as well as a spiritual culture which should go hand in hand with an unrestricted, creative life of nations and the individual. We must all realize that we can begin to live a complete and creative life only if we enable others to do so. There is no such thing as a happy life in a locked cage, even though this cage may offer all the material goods that the individual in the cage may wish for.

Ladies and gentlemen!
Another glimpse or two into the future. Last year for this occasion we opened the exhibition bearing the title “The Never-Ending Story of Intolerance”, through which we looked at occurrences of intolerance within our society. The mirror made to face all of us travelled throughout Slovenia. The time has come to take a further step. In the year awaiting us, we will continue with this project in different form: our aim is to present positive examples of the coexistence of difference in our society, which I am certain, is also not lacking. The film marathon on human rights that is taking place next door is the first act of another activity through which we will try to encourage the next creative reflection. This is a reflection on the relationship between the freedom of the creative process and the responsibility towards society. We want to know where that fine line lies between the constitutionally assured freedom of speech and creativity, and the constitutional ban on the spreading of hate, intolerance, and insult towards others. I am convinced that it exists and can be identified. For the creative benefit of us all. The Group for Monitoring Discrimination, which is currently being set up, will devote special attention to the causes and consequences of social and economic exclusion, which is still too largely present in our, and not only our midst.

Matjaž Hanžek
Human Rights Ombudsman

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