Today, we reaffirm our commitment to a 63-year-old declaration that the world’s people are “equal in dignity and rights”—words that have been fought for through the generations by heroes and heroines of every nationality, culture and creed.
In 2011, a year that will be remembered as a touchstone in humanity’s long struggle for dignity, we were reminded yet again that the ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are irrepressible. Shouts for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt reverberated throughout the region and inspired every corner of the globe. Threats and abuses in Libya drew resistance from the country’s brave citizens and isolation abroad. In Cote d’Ivoire, a crisis ended and a legitimately elected president took power. In South Sudan, a people won responsibility for their own future. Yesterday’s voices of terror and hate were drowned out by youthful calls for a more just and hopeful future.
Yet we were also reminded that justice in the struggle for human rights does not come easily. Under repressive regimes in Syria, Iran, and North Korea, far too many people remain unable to enjoy their basic, universal human rights. Activists and journalists, living examples of humanity’s deep longing to assemble and speak the truth, still face kidnapping, torture, or murder. Too many people endure discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, tearing at our common humanity. Too many innocents are consigned by traffickers to terrifying lives of bonded labor.
The United States will always stand firmly behind the principles underlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We will continue to choose engagement over isolation by participating in UN bodies in Geneva and New York. We will continue to speak out for those whose rights are threatened. And we will continue to support humanity’s inspiring march forward, knowing, ultimately, that rights are not conferred by the United Nations or any one government, but, rather, reside within the soul of every human being.