DCSIMG

President Obama Addresses Human Rights

Parliament House, Canberra, Australia



Excerpt from President Obama’s remarks (see entire remarks on the White House web site):

As we grow our economies, we’ll also remember the link between growth and good governance — the rule of law, transparent institutions, the equal administration of justice. Because history shows that, over the long run, democracy and economic growth go hand in hand. And prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty.

And this brings me to the final area where we are leading — our support for the fundamental rights of every human being. Every nation will chart its own course. Yet it is also true that certain rights are universal; among them, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the freedom of citizens to choose their own leaders.

These are not American rights, or Australian rights, or Western rights. These are human rights. They stir in every soul, as we’ve seen in the democracies that have succeeded here in Asia. Other models have been tried and they have failed — fascism and communism, rule by one man and rule by committee. And they failed for the same simple reason: They ignore the ultimate source of power and legitimacy — the will of the people. Yes, democracy can be messy and rough — I understand you mix it up quite well during Question Time. (Laughter.) But whatever our differences of party or of ideology, we know in our democracies we are blessed with the greatest form of government ever known to man.

So as two great democracies, we speak up for those freedoms when they are threatened. We partner with emerging democracies, like Indonesia, to help strengthen the institutions upon which good governance depends. We encourage open government, because democracies depend on an informed and active citizenry. We help strengthen civil societies, because they empower our citizens to hold their governments accountable. And we advance the rights of all people — women, minorities and indigenous cultures — because when societies harness the potential of all their citizens, these societies are more successful, they are more prosperous and they are more just.

These principles have guided our approach to Burma, with a combination of sanctions and engagement. And today, Aung San Suu Kyi is free from house arrest. Some political prisoners have been released, and the government has begun a dialogue. Still, violations of human rights persist. So we will continue to speak clearly about the steps that must be taken for the government of Burma to have a better relationship with the United States.

This is the future we seek in the Asia Pacific — security, prosperity and dignity for all. That’s what we stand for. That’s who we are. That’s the future we will pursue, in partnership with allies and friends, and with every element of American power. So let there be no doubt: In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.

Still, in times of great change and uncertainty, the future can seem unsettling. Across a vast ocean, it’s impossible to know what lies beyond the horizon. But if this vast region and its people teach us anything, it’s the yearning for liberty and progress will not be denied.

It’s why women in this country demanded that their voices be heard, making Australia the first nation to let women vote and run for parliament and, one day, become Prime Minister. It’s why the people took to the streets — from Delhi to Seoul, from Manila to Jakarta — to throw off colonialism and dictatorship and build some of the world’s largest democracies.

It’s why a soldier in a watchtower along the DMZ defends a free people in the South, and why a man from the North risks his life to escape across the border. Why soldiers in blue helmets keep the peace in a new nation. And why women of courage go into brothels to save young girls from modern-day slavery, which must come to an end.

It’s why men of peace in saffron robes faced beatings and bullets, and why every day — from some of the world’s largest cities to dusty rural towns, in small acts of courage the world may never see — a student posts a blog; a citizen signs a charter; an activist remains unbowed, imprisoned in his home, just to have the same rights that we cherish here today.

Men and women like these know what the world must never forget. The currents of history may ebb and flow, but over time they move — decidedly, decisively — in a single direction. History is on the side of the free — free societies, free governments, free economies, free people. And the future belongs to those who stand firm for those ideals, in this region and around the world.

This is the story of the alliance we celebrate today. This is the essence of America’s leadership; it is the essence of our partnership. This is the work we will carry on together, for the security and prosperity and dignity of all people.

See entire remarks on the White House web site

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