In these frontline states and in all countries facing instability, we put a special focus on protecting universal human rights, increasing political participation, and enforcing the rule of law. It also puts an extra burden on us to live our values and to, both on the military and civilian side, demonstrate who we are as a people. Because when people feel safe and empowered to pursue their legitimate aspirations, they are more likely to reject extremism and to invest in their own societies. So human rights and global security are deeply and directly linked. We cannot sacrifice one without damaging both. And we have been working to use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to continue standing up for universal human rights on the international scene.
Now I recognize that sustainable progress on human rights and democracy can only happen from within. But we do have an obligation to help amplify those voices of those advocating for change in their own societies, including nongovernmental human rights and democracy activists. In recent years, a number of governments have taken actions aimed at disempowering these groups. And today in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere, governments are challenging the propriety of American support for civil society organizations.
In response to these charges, I need each of you – and especially those of you operating in restrictive environments – to communicate our commitment to working with and supporting individuals and groups that represent not only what we believe are our values, but universal values, freedoms, and human rights. We need to be clear that this support is a fundamental part of our global human rights policy that is aimed at supporting the building blocks of sustainable democracy. Now I do think we have to be smart about how we do it, and perhaps we can talk more about that in the town hall, because a lot of the countries have legitimate questions and particularly a lot of the transitioning new democracies. So I don’t think we can assume anything. We need to be very humble in making our case, and to do so effectively and consistently.
For full transcript, see: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/03/185675.htm