Sixty-four years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the world came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the UDHR, the United States and governments from around the globe recognized that human beings are, by virtue of their birth, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that these serve as “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Today, we affirm this commitment and look to the Universal Declaration not just as a reminder of values, but as a guide for action.
Last Thursday in Dublin, Secretary Clinton emphasized the important role that human rights has played and will continue to play in our foreign policy. As she said, “Human rights cannot be disconnected from other priorities. They are inextricably linked with all of the goals we strive for in our countries and around the world.” Regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability, all people deserve the freedom to pursue happiness and fulfillment, to speak openly, to come together with others and organize peacefully, to believe and worship as they see fit, and to participate fully in the public life of society with confidence in the rule of law. In upholding and advancing these freedoms, we live up to our values, we honor our international commitments, and we create an environment for every individual to reach their full potential.
There is much to celebrate — renewed leadership in the international community on human rights issues, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion; systematic engagement with civil society; a landmark policy supporting respect for the rights of LGBT persons; an international effort to advance the rights of persons with disabilities; a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally; and much more. I am proud of our progress and it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with the Secretary and scores of talented and passionate human rights activists and defenders from around the world, both in and out of government. Human Rights Day is the perfect opportunity to commend their work and ask that they never tire in the fight for a more free and just world.
For those of us in government, there is a lot more to do. We must continue to support countries making the difficult transition to democracy, in the Middle East and around the world. We must continue to engage with and support our colleagues in civil society, as governments attempt to restrict their ability to operate. And, we must continue to work to ensure that no one is left behind in the struggle to realize the fundamental truth of the Universal Declaration that “all persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Cross posted from DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State.