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U.S. Human Rights Commitments and Pledges

The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected. As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, we do so cognizant of our own commitment to live up to our ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations. We therefore make the following pledges:


  1. The United States commits to continuing its efforts in the UN system to be a strong advocate for all peo-ple around the world who suffer from abuse and op-pression, and to be a stalwart defender of courageous individuals across the globe who work, often at great personal risk, on behalf of the rights of others.
  2. The United States commits to working with princi-pled determination for a balanced, credible, and effec-tive UN Human Rights Council to advance the purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To that same end, in partnership with the international commu-nity, we fully intend to promote universality, transpar-ency, and objectivity in all of the Council’s endeavors. The United States commits to participating fully in the Universal Periodic Review process and looks forward to the review in 2010 of its own record in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental free-doms in the United States.
  3. The United States is committed to advancing the promotion and protection of human rights and funda-mental freedoms in the UN General Assembly and Third Committee, and in this vein intends to actively participate in the UN General Assembly 2010 review of the Human Rights Council.
  4. The United States is also committed to the promo-tion and protection of human rights through regional organizations. Through our membership in the Organi-zation of Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of American States, the United States commits to continuing efforts to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to strengthening and developing institutions and mechanisms for their pro-tection. In particular recognition of its human rights commitments within the Inter-American system, the United States strongly supports the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
  5. The United States recognizes and upholds the vital role of civil society and human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights and commits to promoting the effective involvement of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations, including the Council, and other international organizations.
  6. As part of our commitment to the principle of univer-sality of human rights, the United States commits to working with our international partners in the spirit of openness, consultation, and respect and reaffirms that expressions of concern about the human rights situa-tion in any country, our own included, are appropriate matters for international discussion.


  1. The United States is committed to continuing its support for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2009, the United States intends to pledge $8 million to the OHCHR and its efforts to ad-dress violations of human rights worldwide, as well as an additional $1.4 million to the UN Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and more than $7 million to other funds.
  2. The United States is also committed to continuing its support of other UN bodies whose work contributes to the promotion of human rights. In 2008-2009, the United States has contributed funding to support hu-man rights efforts such as through UNICEF ($130 mil-lion), UNDEF ($7.9 million), and UNIFEM ($4.5 million). The United States also supports the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and is providing $50 million for the 2009 fiscal year as provided in the 2009 Omnibus Ap-propriations Act.


  1. The United States commits to continue supporting states in their implementation of human rights obliga-tions, as appropriate, through human rights dialogue, exchange of experts, technical and inter-regional coop-eration, and programmatic support of the work of non-governmental organization.
  2. The United States commits to continue its efforts to strengthen mechanisms in the international system to advance the rights, protection, and empowerment of women through, for example, supporting the full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security, and all rele-vant General Assembly Resolutions, particularly 61/143 and 63/155, on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women; sup-porting the work of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; and supporting the work of the Inter-American Commission on Women.
  3. The United States commits to continuing to promote respect for workers rights worldwide, including by working with other governments and the Interna-tional Labor Organization to adopt and enforce regulations and laws to promote respect for internationally recog-nized worker rights and by providing funding for tech-nical assistance projects to build the capacity of worker organizations, employers, and governments to address labor issues including forced labor and the worst forms of child labor, such as child soldiering, workplace discrimination, and sweatshop and exploitative working conditions.
  4. The United States commits to continuing to advo-cate a victim-centered and multi-disciplinary ap-proach to combating all forms of trafficking in per-sons and to restoring the dignity, human rights, and fundamental freedoms of human trafficking victims.
  5. The United States commits to continuing to pro-mote freedom of religion for individuals of all beliefs, particularly members of minority and vulnerable reli-gious groups, through dedicated outreach, advocacy, training and programmatic efforts.
  6. The United States is committed to continuing to promote human rights in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways, including through promoting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, fighting against stigma and discrimination, and supporting women’s rights. The United States is committed to preventing suffering and saving lives by confronting global health challenges through improving the quality, availability, and use of essential health services.
  7. The United States is committed to continuing its leadership role in promoting voluntary corporate so-cial responsibility and business and human rights initiatives globally. The United States intends to con-vene government, civil society and business stake-holders to seek joint solutions on business and hu-man rights, and to serve as an active participant in key multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Volun-tary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
  8. Recognizing the essential contributions of inde-pendent media in promoting the fundamental freedom of expression, exposing human rights abuses and promoting accountability and transparency in governance, the United States commits to continuing to champion freedom of expression and to promote media freedom and the protection of journalists worldwide.
  9. We are dedicated to combating both overt and subtle forms of racism and discrimination internation-ally. The United States is party to the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and is committed to seeing the goals of this covenant fully realized. Particular emphasis should be placed not only on eliminating any remain-ing legal barriers to equality, but also on confronting the reality of continuing discrimination and inequality within institutions and societies.


  1. The United States executive branch is committed to working with its legislative branch to consider the possible ratification of human rights treaties, includ-ing but not limited to the Convention on the Elimina-tion of Discrimination Against Women and ILO Con-vention 111 Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation.
  2. The United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty body members.
  3. The United States is committed to cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other regional human rights bodies, by respond-ing to inquiries, engaging in dialogues, and hosting visits.
  4. The United States is also strongly committed to fighting racism and discrimination, and acts of vio-lence committed because of racial or ethnic hatred. Despite the achievements of the civil rights move-ment and many years of striving to achieve equal rights for all, racism still exists in our country and we continue to fight it.
  5. The United States is committed to continuing to promote human prosperity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons within the United States, including enforcement of the Ameri-cans with Disabilities Act and its amendments, en-gaging religious and community leaders to uphold religious freedom and pluralism, and encouraging the private sector to serve as good corporate citizens both in the United States and overseas.

Human Rights: A Commitment to Action

In democracies, respecting rights isn’t a choice leaders make day-by-day, it is the reason they govern.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Obama Administration is committed to promoting, supporting and defending human rights and democracy worldwide. Human rights are not only fundamental to American society, but are the birthright of all the world’s people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for governments and societies to guard their citizens’ basic freedoms and to offer them the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.

Human rights, democracy, and development are interwoven and are key State Department priorities. Upholding democracy and liberty are part of the daily work of many Department Bureaus, but especially of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

Acting to Advance Human Rights

  • The State Department conducts formal, systematic Human Rights Dialogues with various countries.
  • The Department advances the Administration’s engagement policy by talking to leaders in countries like Syria and Iran, and reaching out to bodies like the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
  • The State Department supports the efforts of regional organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Union that are strengthening their institutional capacities to combat human rights abuses.
  • Globally, the Department seeks to defend and promote human rights and democracy through the United Nations system. As a full member of the Human Rights Council, the U.S. works to enhance the constructiveness and objectivity of the Council. 
  • Complementing diplomatic efforts, DRL has vital programmatic tools for human rights and democracy promotion. It oversees $400 million in the Human Rights and Democracy Fund to support human rights and democracy programs around the globe. Funds go to U.S.-based NGOs working with international partners on innovative projects that build democracy.
  • DRL issues the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, and the Report on International Religious Freedom, all of which carefully evaluate the progress made and progress needed of human rights and democracy worldwide.
  • The Office of International Labor and Corporate Social Responsibility promotes labor rights through a variety of mechanisms, including through membership in the International Labor Organization.

The Administration’s Approach to Human Rights

Accountability – A commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves.

Principled Pragmatism Promoting human rights requires pragmatism and agility, not compromising on principles, but doing what is most likely to bring practical results.

Partnering at All Levels – The U.S. supports change driven by citizens and their communities and encourages and provides support for local grassroots human rights leaders. We also partner with multilateral and regional institutions to secure human rights.

A Wide Focus – Positive change must be reinforced and strengthened over time. Where human lives hang in the balance, the U.S. will do all it can to tilt situations toward a future of hope and dignity.

U. S. Department of State • Bureau of Public Affairs  www.state.gov


Tracking Human Rights Worldwide: The State Department Country Reports

“We stand for democracy not because we want other countries to be like us, but because we want all people to enjoy the consistent protection of the rights that are naturally theirs, whether they were born in Tallahassee or Tehran.”

— U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

The values the United States embraces – the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are grounded in a universal truth. They are not an American inheritance, but are the birthright of every woman, man, and child.

Country Reports on Human Rights

What’s new about the Country Reports this year?

  • Reporting on prison conditions reflects new legislation for assistance to governments that make progress on improving prison conditions
  • Reporting on countries’ initiatives to expand press freedom and their results
  • Broader coverage of child soldiers
  • Expanded coverage of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons, as well as a section on “Other Societal Discrimination” covering persons with HIV/AIDS

The Country Reports are an essential element of the U.S. effort to promote respect for human rights worldwide. They inform U.S. government policymaking and may serve as a reference to other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and journalists. The Country Reports aim to advance worldwide efforts to end abuses, to help strengthen the capacity of countries to protect the human rights of all, and to shine a spotlight on countries that fail to live up to international human rights standards.

The Country Reports assess each country’s situation independently against universal human rights precepts and each Country Report is intended to stand on its own. They are not compared to each other or placed in any order other than alphabetically by region.

Human Rights in the United States

America’s open, democratic system allows U.S. citizens and people abroad to comment on U.S. policies without fear. The American system of government is not infallible; it is accountable. The U.S. democratic system provides a variety of self-correcting mechanisms, such as a robust civil society, a vibrant free media, independent branches of government – including the courts – and a well established rule of law.

The focus of the Country Reports is on the human rights performance of other governments. However, the U.S. does examine its own human rights record in periodic reports required by treaties to which it is a party. For example, the U.S. reports to a range of UN bodies, including the Committee Against Torture, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as the Human Rights Council.

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process is a unique way of evaluating the human rights records of each of the 192 UN Member States once every four years. The United States human rights record will be reviewed in December of 2010 based on a report submitted by the U.S. Government as well as input from civil society organizations.


United States Assistance for Roma Issues

The United States has committed to a variety of tools in promoting the success of Roma.

One such tool is development assistance, and we currently undertake Roma-focused programs across Central and Eastern Europe.

  • For example, our Roma education program in Macedonia provides preschool education for 250 children each year and has provided tutoring and out-of-school support to 1,500 primary school students. So far, 95 percent of these students have remained in school.
  • In Slovakia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia, we provide Romani communities and leaders with training to help them more effectively take part in elections and political processes.
  • This summer, we will be launching a new initiative to provide Roma with better access to legal services in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia.


Another way we work to promote Roma rights is through international visitor programs, which have provided Roma from across Europe opportunities to visit and study in the U.S. to gain a firsthand view of how the rights of every individual can be ensured both in law and in practice.

  • Recent programs have focused on social, political and economic empowerment for Roma from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania.
  • In August, we welcomed 24 Romani high school students for a month-long exchange emphasizing self-respect, community development and minority advocacy, and we will soon be embarking on a similar exchange for Romani political leaders from countries including Italy and Slovakia.


One further aspect of promoting Roma rights is helping to facilitate constructive interaction between law enforcement and minority communities.

· At the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, we provide training and assistance to police to help them more effectively investigate and prosecute crimes against Roma.

· Following a string of unsolved killings of Roma in Hungary last year, the Hungarian government asked for investigative support from the F.B.I., which we were pleased to provide.

The U.S. Government stands ready to explore similar forms of assistance to governments in the future.

Further information on U.S. efforts to assist Roma can be found on the State Department’s website at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/race/index.htm.


Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.