Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Thomas Melia conducted a productive working visit to Moscow from June 13th to the 15th with his counterpart on the Bilateral Presidential Commission Civil Society Working Group, Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov. He also met with independent journalists and bloggers, human rights defenders, including LGBT activists, and other civil society figures. Other meetings included the Head of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov and other Council members, as well as Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.
Mr. Melia and Ambassador Dolgov discussed cooperation within the framework of the Civil Society Working Group in areas ranging from combating corruption, protecting children, addressing legal and illegal migration as well as trafficking in persons, and improving conditions in prisons. The two co-chairs reviewed ongoing work of the sub-groups in these areas, agreeing that this should continue. Melia also proposed ways in which the U.S. and Russian governments along with civil society could broaden the dialogue on fostering a vibrant and independent civil society.
During his consultations, Melia reiterated U.S. support for fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association. He expressed concern about recent developments in Russia, including controversial legislation on assembly, and apparent harassment of opposition figures to preclude their participation in peaceful demonstrations. Melia also raised U.S. concern about the application of the law on extremism.
Melia noted that he looks forward to a fruitful plenary session of the Civil Society Working Group in the months to come as part of the overall work of the Bilateral Presidential Commission.
Originally posted on the U.S. Embassy Moscow website.
The United States and Africa face enormous opportunities and challenges in the 21st century—and thanks to President Obama’s U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, we are in a stronger position to meet them together. The President’s strategy commits our nation to a proactive partnership with the African people. It builds on more than three years of Administration efforts to help Africa strengthen, together with international and regional organizations, the peace and security of its communities and unlock opportunity through sustainable economic development, and directs the United States to expand our efforts to bolster democratic institutions and spur economic growth, trade and investment. The new policy also prioritizes engagement with Africa’s next generation, continuing a conversation begun by the President with young African leaders.
In 2009, President Obama traveled to Ghana to deliver the message that the boundaries between the United States and the African continent are “overwhelmed by our connections.” As the President said, “I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world—as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children.” As we look together to Africa’s future, let us recommit ourselves to the path of growing promise, opportunity and peace for all of our people.
We congratulate the Greek people on conducting their election in this difficult time. We hope this election will lead quickly to the formation of a new government that can make timely progress on the economic challenges facing the Greek people. As President Obama and other world leaders have said, we believe that it is in all our interests for Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitment to reform. Going forward, we will engage Greece in the spirit of partnership that has guided our alliance and the friendship between our people.
Thank you, Madame President.
Thank you, Madame High Commissioner. The United States would once again like to thank the High Commissioner and your office for all the work that you do throughout the world in order to promote and protect human rights. Your statement highlights the vital role your office plays as an independent monitor and first responder to human rights situations worldwide. Civil society actors, citizens, and governments look to you for leadership, and the significance and impact of your office depends upon your ability to speak out for victims in real time and hold governments accountable.
During this session, the United States will work with partners to consolidate and build upon the progress the Council has made in the protection of women, children, and victims of trafficking. The United States will work with Botswana, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Slovakia, and Turkey to pursue a resolution on the right to a nationality, particularly for women and children, in order to underline the importance of the right to nationality for all – without discrimination. We hope that all states will join in our initiative, keeping in mind that the protection and promotion of the human rights of women reverberates positively throughout societies and brings about positive change and progress for all.
Recent events continue to underscore the fundamental importance of free speech and the power of peaceful demonstrations. The world has watched as governments tightened restrictions on communications as a means to suppress national dialogue and dissent. During this session, we are pleased to join with Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Sweden to present a resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet. As an open platform for ideas and innovation, the Internet is a catalyst for economic growth and development. We will continue to call upon governments to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms both online and off.
Some believe that the Human Rights Council should not address country-specific situations. We disagree. The credibility of the UN’s human rights machinery depends on its capacity to address urgent and persistent human rights situations where and when they emerge; to make a difference in the lives of the people who suffer under oppressive governments; and to protect those around the world who work to advance the cause of human rights.
The United States is gravely concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus since the last presidential election, particularly the continued suppression of the rights to freedoms of association, assembly, and expression; the right to a fair trial; and continued politically-motivated detentions.
The Council recently held a fourth Special Session on the human rights situation in Syria, with a particular focus on the tragic massacre in Al Houleh. We welcome the recent report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry for Syria, and look forward to its focused report on the events in Al Houleh. Once again we call on the government of Syria to allow full and unfettered access to the COI. The United States demands an end to the Asad regime’s outrageous crimes against the people of Syria. Those who committed these atrocities must be identified and held accountable. The United States will work with all who are willing to demand justice for the people of Syria and we especially urge countries that have influence with Syria to join us in this and in other efforts that will help halt the violence.
Thank you, Madame President.