News Archives

Ambassador Power at the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

Mr. Under-Secretary-General, President Ashe, Ambassador Prosor, Mr. Spielberg, Excellencies, and guests, I am honored to participate in this annual ceremony of remembrance, which is centered this year on the theme “Journeys Through the Holocaust.” Today marks the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In pondering the lessons of the past, it is worth thinking back even further, to January 27, 1939 – exactly three quarters of a century ago, when “Auschwitz” was just the German name of a Polish town.

On that day, the Polish Foreign Minister had just returned from meetings in Germany. He reported that the Nazis were unlikely in 1939 to start a war, an assessment widely shared within the European diplomatic community.

In Prague, Czech officials were also returning from Germany, having been pressured by the Nazi authorities to intensify discrimination against Czech and Slovak Jews.

In Berlin, Hermann Göring had that week established a Central Office for Jewish Emigration, designed to facilitate both the flight of Jews and the theft of their assets.

In London, the British Foreign Office was circulating a memo to friendly governments stating, and I quote, that “there is as yet no reason to suppose Hitler has made up his mind” about attacking his neighbors. The memo referred to Germany’s acute economic problems and to speculation about whether the Nazi dictator could count on his army’s loyalty.

But on January 30, Hitler delivered a speech that revealed more of his intentions. He mocked the West for refusing to accept more Jewish refugees and he predicted that a second world war, if it came, would result “in the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” Seven months later, German troops swarmed across the Polish border and the world’s most devastating conflict began.

I cite this history not to illustrate the dubious wisdom of hindsight, but because the evidence is clear that the Holocaust was not inevitable. The Shoah was not set in stone by the terms of the Versailles Treaty, or by Hitler’s rise to power, or by the Anschluss with Austria, or by the Munich Pact. What Hitler wanted was clearer than what Hitler thought he could actually achieve. He was constantly assessing the degree of resistance he might encounter – both domestically and globally. He was probing. He was planning. Early in 1939, had he been confronted by a more united and determined world community; he might well have been stopped before he truly began.

The horrors of the Holocaust have no parallel but the world continues to confront crimes that shock the conscience. In October the Security Council spoke with a united voice about the need for action to address the humanitarian devastation in Syria. There are people who are imprisoned in their own neighborhoods. They are literally being starved and bombed to death. They need food desperately and yet food cannot reach them because the regime won’t allow it.

In 1945, Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz. Sixty-nine years later, if the United Nations is to live up to the noble purposes for which it was founded, the world again needs Russia to use its influence, this time, to ensure that food reaches the desperate and starving people imprisoned in besieged Homs, Yarmouk, the Damascus suburbs, and elsewhere.

Today, as we recall the unmatched horrors of Auschwitz, the Holocaust, and World War II, we must acknowledge our responsibility to remember with honor both those who died and those who endured great suffering, unimaginable suffering, and who survived. Some of them are with us. We will never ever forget these men and women, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. We also must acknowledge as well that remembrance is the beginning – not the end – of our responsibility; and while the world has never seen anything as horrific as the Holocaust, the duty we have is an urgent and active one: to confront evil, to defend truth, to unite in the face of threats to human dignity, and to strive to stop any who would abuse their neighbors. Let us go forward, then, to meet that obligation, recognizing our own fate in that of others, and demanding always the very best of ourselves.

Thank you.

- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN

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Universal Periodic Review – 18th UPR Session

The United States believes the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has the potential to effect real change in countries throughout the world. The UPR is not just something that occurs in Geneva every four and half years. It is an ongoing, daily tool to advance human rights. Our interventions to other countries are crafted with the goal of providing useful, targeted recommendations that, when implemented, will create positive change for society.

The 18th UPR is occurring from Monday, January 27 – February 7. Please see below for our interventions to countries participating in Session 18.

Each link below will become active once its intervention is available.


Croatia Joins Global Equality Fund as a Partner

Today, the United States welcomes Croatia as a new Partner of the Global Equality Fund. Croatia joins nine other like-minded governments (including the United States), three private foundations and two corporations in a multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons globally. Since its launch, the Fund has allocated more than $7.5 million to civil society organizations in more than 50 countries to bolster their efforts to increase human rights protections for LGBT persons.

As Secretary Kerry stated last year at the LGBT Ministerial Event at the United Nations General Assembly, “our investments have helped to challenge the discriminatory laws that undermine human rights and bolster civil society organizations that defend those rights.” The Department looks forward to working with Croatia and the other partners of the Global Equality Fund to advance equality and protection for LGBT persons worldwide.

- Cross posted from state.gov

Learn More: Fact Sheet: Global Equality Fund



UPR 18th Session – Intervention for New Zealand

Learn more about the Universal Periodic Review, and see other interventions on the UPR 18th Session page.

AS DELIVERED by Peter Mulrean, Deputy Permanent Representative, U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva

Thank you Mr. President. The United States warmly welcomes Judith Collins, Minister of Justice and Ethnic Affairs, and the delegation of New Zealand to the UPR Working Group.

We commend New Zealand’s long-standing leadership on and commitment to human rights internationally.  We commend the government’s efforts to strengthen its partnership with the Māori (PRON: MAO-ree) to realize durable and fair settlements of historical claims under the Treaty of Waitangi (PRON: why-TUNG-ee).  We support the Government of New Zealand’s continued efforts to protect children against abuse and neglect, as well as its efforts to counter domestic violence.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of New Zealand to promote and protect human rights and democratic institutions in the region and around the world.

At the same time, New Zealand continues to face challenges related to human trafficking, such as identifying trafficking victims and prosecuting perpetrators.

Bearing in mind these concerns, we recommend that New Zealand:

  1. Continue efforts to address gaps in societal service delivery and education programs and to address societal discrimination against indigenous persons  and individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups;
  2. Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking offenders, and adopt legislation that will expand New Zealand’s current anti-trafficking legal framework to prohibit and adequately punish all forms of human trafficking.

Thank you Mr. President.



UPR 18th Session – Intervention for Afghanistan

Learn more about the Universal Periodic Review, and see other interventions on the UPR 18th Session page.

AS DELIVERED by Peter Mulrean, Deputy Permanent Representative, U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva

The United States welcomes the Afghan delegation to the UPR Working Group.

We commend the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which, despite extremely difficult circumstances, continues to make significant progress in increasing awareness about human rights issues, documenting the current human rights situation, and speaking out about abuses. However, we are concerned that the government did not consult with civil society in the appointments of new commissioners (as required by the Paris Principles) and has only disbursed a small portion of the money it promised for its operation.

Afghans continue to face high levels of violence. We are alarmed by the increase in incidents of violence against women, including elected female officials and other women in high profile positions, as well as the punishment of victims of trafficking, family abuse, and other crimes.

We remain concerned by allegations of human rights violations by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Bearing in mind these issues, we recommend that Afghanistan:

  1. Take measurable steps to fully implement the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, and investigate thoroughly all suspected cases of gender based violence and violence against defenders of women’s rights and bring those responsible to justice;
  2. Thoroughly investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the ANSF, and hold perpetrators accountable;
  3. Allow the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to safely operate and carry out its mandate in an independent and effective manner.

Secretary Kerry on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

“It was so terrible. It was hard for the mind to absorb it.” Those were the words of U.S. Master Sergeant Marvin Josephs as he entered Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, along with military chaplain Rabbi Herschel Schachter.

Decades later, Josephs still remembered vividly the words “You’re free” reverberating from Rabbi Schachter’s bullhorn. He remembered seeing the crematoria and the house of the commandant and his notorious wife, Ilse Koch, the “Beast of Buchenwald.” Above all, he remembered the survivors — emaciated and tortured — coming forward at the sound of the rabbi’s bullhorn.

The scenes of liberated prisoners were so overwhelming that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered every man in the U.S. 4th Armored Division to walk the grounds of Buchenwald. Josephs immediately understood why: “He didn’t want people to ever deny what happened.”

Nearly 70 years after World War Two ended, 70 years after the world’s collective horror at the Holocaust, anti-Semitism remains a global menace. It is not enough to remember the millions of innocent lives lost in one of the darkest chapters in all of world history. We must reaffirm our vow never to forget the evil that comes from bigotry and intolerance and turn that commitment into action.

Many of us in the United States have personal and family connections to this difficult history – and to the cause of action now. My brother’s interest in our family’s genealogy took him back to the Czech Republic just months ago to learn more about the history of ancestors we had never even heard about until the last decade, stories of a great uncle Otto and his sister Jenni who perished in the Holocaust.

I’ll never forget, on my first trip to Berlin as Secretary of State, meeting with a group of young Germans. They told me something I never knew about the city where I’d spent time growing up in the aftermath of World War Two. Throughout the city, they’ve placed “stumbling stones” to mark where Jews were murdered in the streets and other victims of the Holocaust. Every day, passers-by remember what happened — and equally important — they never forget or deny it.

Holocaust Remembrance Day calls us to condemn anti-Semitism in every form – whether it’s the disturbing rise of xenophobic and anti-Semitic parties in Europe or the uptick of violence against Jewish people anywhere in the world.

The EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights 2013 Report on Anti-Semitism underscores the stakes. One third of those surveyed experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment over the past five years, with 26 percent enduring verbal assault or harassment over the past year alone — just because they were Jewish.

What’s more, 4 percent reported physical violence and 23 percent said they avoid Jewish events or sites because they don’t feel safe.

Of course, the numbers don’t tell the full story.

In Italy, police are tracking down the culprit who sent pig heads last week to Rome’s Grand Synagogue, the Israeli Embassy, and a museum sponsoring a Holocaust exhibit.

In Romania, a government-owned television channel aired a profoundly anti-Semitic Christmas song, which claimed that Jews are only good “in the chimney as smoke.”

If these acts of hate don’t hit you in the gut, I don’t know what will. If this isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is.

We need to be forceful about what is right and what is wrong. But we also need to work to recognize our common humanity in others, and to start the conversations that will help others recognize ours.

That’s why the Obama Administration has launched the Atrocities Prevention Board. That’s why we’re working hand in glove with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide so that we can detect and highlight this global scourge.

And that’s why, last year, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman and President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain joined an historic interfaith visit to the concentration camps at Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The United States is committed to having the difficult conversations across cultures and religions that can actually change people’s opinions. Pope Francis calls it “the dialogue of life,” and we reaffirm today that there are indeed millions of lives that depend on it.

We — each of us — have a responsibility to stand up and affirm human dignity. In an interconnected world, anti-Semitism that goes unanswered anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. That is a collective challenge we all face in the 21st century.

- Cross posted from DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State

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Vice President Biden Calls Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych

Vice President Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to express U.S. support for on-going negotiations between the government and the opposition to end the current standoff and bring about a peaceful, political solution to the crisis.

He underscored that the U.S. condemns the use of violence by any side, and warned that declaring a State of Emergency or enacting other harsh security measures would further inflame the situation and close the space for a peaceful resolution.

Underscoring that no time should be lost, the Vice President urged President Yanukovych to pull back riot police and work with the opposition on immediate measures to de-escalate tensions between protesters and the government.  He also urged the government to take concrete steps during tomorrow’s parliamentary session to respond to the full and legitimate concerns of the Ukrainian people, including by repealing the anti-democratic laws passed on January 16.

Finally, the Vice President reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for a Ukraine that rejects violence and that respects the human rights and dignity of its citizens in accordance with their European aspirations and their desire to restore their country back to economic health.

- Cross posted from WhiteHouse.gov


President Obama on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Each year on this day the world comes together to commemorate a barbaric crime unique in human history.  We recall six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims who were murdered in Nazi death camps.  We mourn lives cut short and communities torn apart.

Yet even on a day of solemn remembrance, there is room for hope.  For January 27th is also the day Auschwitz was liberated 69 years ago.  The noble acts of courage performed by liberators, rescuers, and the Righteous Among Nations remind us that we are never powerless.  In our lives, we always have choices.  In our time, this means choosing to confront bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, especially anti-Semitism.  It means condemning any attempts to deny the occurrence of the Holocaust.  It means doing our part to ensure that survivors receive some measure of justice and the support they need to live out their lives in dignity.

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Michelle and I join the American people and our friends in the State of Israel and around the world as we reaffirm our obligation not just to bear witness, but to act.  May God bless the memory of the millions, and may God grant us the strength and courage to make real our solemn vow: Never forget.  Never again.

- Cross posted from WhiteHouse.gov

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Fact Sheet: Global Equality Fund

View this page as a PDF.

Protecting universal human rights is at the very heart of our diplomacy, and we remain committed to advancing human rights for all, including LGBT individuals…As Secretary, I join with my colleagues at our embassies, consulates, and USAID missions around the world in saying, no matter where you are, and no matter who you love, we stand with you…Through the Global Equality Fund, the State Department has already provided critical emergency and long-term assistance to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons in over twenty-five countries. And our support will continue to grow, in cooperation with other equality-minded governments, foundations, and corporations. – Secretary John F. Kerry

The Department continues to pursue partnerships with foreign governments, foundations, and corporations in this important effort. Current Partners of the Fund include: Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the Arcus Foundation, the John D. Evans Foundation, LLH: the Norwegian LGBT Organization, the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund, Deloitte LLP, Out Leadership, and USAID.

Mechanisms of Assistance

Civil society organizations access funds through:

  • Requests for Proposals: The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor conducts open competitions for proposals based on the bureau’s program areas and target countries and regions.
  • Small Grants: Leveraging the global reach of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, the Fund supports local civil society organizations with direct small grants to undertake short term projects.


Programming Areas

  • Emergency funding for advocates, civil society organizations, and LGBT people;
  • Technical assistance in the areas of human rights documentation and legal assistance;
  • Institutional capacity building and development;
  • Protection from violence;
  • Combating societal discrimination.

“Dignity for All”

“Dignity for All,” the Fund’s rapid response mechanism, provides emergency and preventative assistance to civil society organizations under physical threat or unable to operate freely without serious harassment due to their work related to advance the human rights of LGBT persons. Implemented by a global consortium of organizations, “Dignity for All” enhances the capacity of organizations to respond to security concerns and enables advocates to respond quickly to events signaling a human rights backsliding. Support includes emergency assistance to civil society groups and victims of abuse, small grants for advocacy initiatives, and assistance to enable advocates to develop long-term security plans.

Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

The Fund builds long-term capacity through programs providing technical assistance to local and national civil society organizations. In sub-Saharan Africa, programs focus on strengthening the skills and knowledge of local organizations to systematically document human rights violations targeting LGBT persons. In the Americas, programs support local and regional law reform efforts to increase legal protection for LGBT persons. The Fund supports groups globally including in the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.

Partners Committee

Comprised of Fund contributors, the Partners Committee discusses priority programming areas and goals, reviews activities of the Fund, identifies future donors for the Department of State to consider for Fund solicitation, and raises international awareness about the Fund.


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