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Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century

Click for Video of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century,” at the Community of Democracies

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted to be here with all of you. And I thank my friend, Foreign Minister Sikorski, for hosting us here in this absolutely magnificent setting, and for an excellent speech that so well summarized what the agenda for all of us who are members of the Community of Democracies should be.

The idea of bringing together free nations to strengthen democratic norms and institutions began as a joint venture between one of Radek’s predecessors and one of mine: Minister Geremek and Madeleine Albright. And they were visionaries 10 years ago. And it was initially a joint American-Polish enterprise. And I cannot think of a better place for us to mark this occasion than right here in Krakow. Thank you, Madeleine, and thanks to the memory of Minister Geremek.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you heard from Foreign Minister Sikorski some of the reasons why Poland is an example of what democracies can accomplish. After four decades of privation, stagnation, and fear under Communism, freedom dawned. And it was not only the personal freedoms that people were once again able to claim for their own, but Poland’s per capital GDP today is nine times what it was in 1990. And in the middle of a deep, global recession, the Polish economy has continued to expand.

By any measure, Poland is stronger politically, as well. We all mourned with Poland in April when a plane crash claimed the lives of Poland’s president, the first lady, and many other national officials. It was one of the greatest single losses of leadership suffered by any country in modern history. But it is a tribute to Poland’s political evolution that, in the aftermath of that accident, the country’s institutions never faltered. And tomorrow polls will move forward with selecting a president through free and fair elections.

Now, I would argue that this progress was neither accidental nor inevitable. It came about through a generation of work to improve governance, grow the private sector, and strengthen civil society. These three essential elements of a free nation — representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society — work like three legs of a stool. They lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity.

Now, I would be the first to admit that no democracy is perfect. In fact, our founders were smart enough to enshrine in our founding documents the idea that we had to keep moving toward a more perfect union. Because, after all, democracies rely on the wisdom and judgment of flawed human beings. But real democracies recognize the necessity of each side of that three-legged stool. And democracies that strengthen these three segments of society can deliver extraordinary results for their people.

Today I would like to focus on one leg of that stool: civil society. Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Poland actually is a case study in how a vibrant civil society can produce progress. The heroes of the solidarity movement, people like Geremek and Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, and millions of others laid the foundation for the Poland we see today. They knew that the Polish people desired and deserved more from their country. And they transformed that knowledge into one of history’s greatest movements for positive change.

Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people. Not all of these organizations or individuals are equally effective, of course. And they do represent a broad range of opinions. And, having been both in an NGO and led NGOs and been in government, I know that it’s sometimes tough to deal with NGOs when you are in the government.

But it doesn’t matter whether the goal is better laws or lower crime or cleaner air or social justice or consumer protection or entrepreneurship and innovation, societies move forward when the citizens that make up these groups are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.

As we meet here on the eve of our American Fourth of July celebration, the day when we commemorate our independence, I want to say a word about why the issue of civil society is so important to Americans. Our independence was a product of our civil society. Our civil society was pre-political. And it was only through debate, discussion, and civic activism that the United States of America came into being. We were a people before we were a nation. And civil society not only helped create our nation, it helped sustain and power our nation into the future. It was representatives of civil society who were the first to recognize that the American colonies could not continue without democratic governance. And after we won our independence, it was activists who helped establish our democracy. And they quickly recognized that they were a part of a broader struggle for human rights, human dignity, human progress.

Civil society has played an essential role in identifying and eradicating the injustices that have, throughout our history, separated our nation from the principles on which it was founded. It was civil society, after all, that gave us the abolitionists who fought the evils of slavery, the suffragettes who campaigned for women’s rights, the freedom marchers who demanded racial equality, the unions that championed the rights of labor, the conservationists who worked to protect our planet and climate.

I did begin my professional life in civil society. The NGO I worked for, the Children’s Defense Fund, helped expand educational opportunities for poor children and children with disabilities, and tried to address the challenges faced by young people in prison.

Now, I would be the first to say that our work did not transform our nation or remake our government overnight. But when that kind of activism is multiplied across an entire country through the work of hundreds, even thousands of NGOs, it does produce real and lasting positive change. So a commitment to strengthening civil society has been one of my constants throughout my public career as First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State. I was able to work with Slovakian NGOs that stood up to and ultimately helped bring down an authoritarian government. I have seen civil society groups in India bring the benefits of economic empowerment to the most marginalized women in that society. I have watched in wonder as a small group of women activists in South Africa begin with nothing and went on to build a community of 50,000 homes.

President Obama shares this commitment. In his case, it led him to become a community organizer in Chicago. Both of us joined in the work of civil society because we believe that when citizens nudge leaders in the right direction, our country grows stronger. The greatness of the United States depends on our willingness to seek out and set right the areas where we fall short. For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens.

In fact, I want to recognize two women activists who are with us today from Afghanistan and Iran. If Faiza Babakan and Afifa Azim would stand up, I would just like to thank you for your courage and your willingness to be here.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, it may seem to some of us like a very nice, but perhaps not essential presence to have just one woman from each country be here. But I can speak from personal experience that, just as civil society is essential to democracy, women are essential to civil society. And these women speak for so many who have never had a chance to have their voices heard.

So, along with well-functioning markets and responsible, accountable government, progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions. But when governments crack down on the right of citizens to work together, as they have throughout history, societies fall into stagnation and decay.

North Korea, a country that cannot even feed its own people, has banned all civil society. In Cuba and Belarus, as Radek said, civil society operates under extreme pressure. The Government of Iran has turned its back on a rich tradition of civil society, perpetrating human rights abuses against many activists and ordinary citizens who just wanted the right to be heard.

There is also a broader group of countries where the walls are closing in on civic organizations. Over the last 6 years, 50 governments have issued new restrictions against NGOs, and the list of countries where civil society faces resistance is growing longer. In Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, physical violence directed against individual activists has been used to intimidate and silence entire sectors of civil society. Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organizations working on sensitive issues like human rights. The Middle East and North Africa are home to a diverse collection of civil society groups. But too many governments in the region still resort to intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions on NGO registration, efforts to silence bloggers.

I hope we will see progress on this issue, and especially in Egypt, where that country’s vibrant civil society has often been subjected to government pressure in the form of canceled conferences, harassing phone calls, frequent reminders that the government can close organizations down, even detention and long-term imprisonment and exile.

In Central Asian countries, constitutions actually guarantee the right of association. But governments still place onerous restrictions on NGO activity, often through legislation or stringent registration requirements. Venezuela’s leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable. In Russia, while we welcome President Medvedev’s statements in support of the rule of law, human rights activities and journalists have been targeted for assassination, and virtually none of these crimes have been solved.

And we continue to engage on civil society issues with China, where writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence because he co-authored a document calling for respect for human rights and democratic reform. Too many governments are seeing civic activists as opponents, rather than partners. And as democracies, we must recognize that this trend is taking place against a broader backdrop.

In the 20th century, crackdowns against civil society frequently occurred under the guise of ideology. Since the demise of Communism, most crackdowns seem to be motivated instead by sheer power politics. But behind these actions, there is an idea, an alternative conception of how societies should be organized. And it is an idea that democracies must challenge. It is a belief that people are subservient to their government, rather than government being subservient to their people.

Now, this idea does not necessarily preclude citizens from forming groups that help their communities or promote their culture, or even support political causes. But it requires these private organizations to seek the state’s approval, and to serve the states and the states’ leaderships’ larger agenda.

Think for a moment about the civil society activists around the world who have recently been harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted, even killed. Why did they provoke such persecution?

Some weren’t engaged in political work at all. Some were not trying to change how their countries were governed. Most were simply getting help to people in need, like the Burmese activists imprisoned for organizing relief for victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some of them were exposing problems like corruption that their own governments claim they want to root out. Their offense was not just what they did, but the fact that they did it independently of their government. They were out doing what we would call good deeds, but doing them without permission. That refusal to allow people the chance to organize in support of a cause larger than themselves, but separate from the state, represents an assault on one of our fundamental democratic values.

The idea of pluralism is integral to our understanding of what it means to be a democracy. Democracies recognize that no one entity — no state, no political party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And, depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work toward and select their own solutions. Our democracies do not and should not look the same. Governments by the people, for the people, and of the people will look like the people they represent. But we all recognize the reality and importance of these differences. Pluralism flows from these differences. And because crackdowns on NGOs are a direct threat to pluralism, they also endanger democracy.

More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill came to the United States to warn the world’s democracies of an iron curtain descending across Europe. Today, thankfully, thanks to some of you in this room, that iron curtain has fallen. But we must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.

Today, meeting together as a community of democracies, it is our responsibility to address this crisis. Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies because they have elections. But, as I have said before, democracy requires far more than an election. It has to be a 365-day-a-year commitment, by government and citizens alike, to live up to the fundamental values of democracy, and accept the responsibilities of self government.

Democracies don’t fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate, to remind those entrusted with governance that they derive their authority from the governed. Restrictions on these rights only demonstrate the fear of illegitimate rulers, the cowardice of those who deny their citizens the protections they deserve. An attack on civic activism and civil society is an attack on democracy.

Now, sometimes I think that the leaders who are engaging in these actions truly believe they are acting in the best interests of their country. But they begin to inflate their own political interests, the interests of that country, and they begin to believe that they must stay in office by any means necessary, because only they can protect their country from all manner of danger.

Part of what it requires to be a true democracy is to understand that political power must be passed on, and that despite the intensity of elections, once the elections are over, whoever is elected fairly and freely must then try to unify the country, despite the political division.

I ran a very hard race against President Obama. I tried with all my might to beat him. I was not successful. And when he won, much to my surprise, he asked me to join his Administration to serve as Secretary of State. Well, in many countries, I learned as I began traveling, that was a matter of great curiosity. How could I work with someone whom I had tried to deprive of the office that he currently holds? But the answer for both President Obama and I was very simple. We both love our country. Politics is an important part of the lifeblood of a democracy. But governing, changing people’s lives for the better, is the purpose one runs for office.

In the Community of Democracies, we have to begin asking the hard questions, whether countries that follow the example of authoritarian states and participate in this assault on civil society can truly call themselves democracies. And to address this challenge, civil society groups and democratic governments must come together around some common goals. The Community of Democracies is already bringing together governments and civil society organizations, some of whom are represented here. And it is well suited to lead these efforts. I know that the Community of Democracies working group on enabling and protecting civil society is already working to turn this vision into a reality. The United States pledges to work with this community to develop initiatives that support civil society and strengthen governments committed to democracy.

With the leadership and support of countries like Lithuania, Poland, Canada, and Mongolia, I believe that the Community’s 20th anniversary could be a celebration of the expanding strength of civil society, and the true institutionalization of the habits of the heart that undergird democracy. To make that happen, our joint efforts, I believe, should include at least four elements. First, the Community of Democracies should work to establish, as Radek recommended, an objective, independent mechanism for monitoring repressive measures against NGOs.

Second, the United Nations Human Rights Council needs to do more to protect civil society. Freedom of association is the only freedom defined in the United Nations declaration of human rights that does not enjoy specific attention from the UN human rights machinery. That must change.

Third, we will be working with regional and other organizations, such as the OAS, the EU, the OIC, the African Union, the Arab League, others, to do more to defend the freedom of association. Many of these groups are already committed to upholding democratic principles on paper. But we need to make sure words are matched by actions.

And, fourth, we should coordinate our diplomatic pressure. I know that the Community of Democracies working group is focused on developing a rapid response mechanism to address situations where freedom of association comes under attack. Well, that can’t happen soon enough. When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do. We can also provide technical training that will help activists make use of new technologies such as social networks. When possible, we should also work together to provide deserving organizations with financial support for their efforts.

Now, there are some misconceptions around this issue, and I would like to address it. In the United States, as in many other democracies, it is legal and acceptable for private organizations to raise money abroad and receive grants from foreign governments, so long as the activities do not involve specifically banned sources, such as terrorist groups. Civic organizations in our country do not need the approval of the United States Government to receive funds from overseas. And foreign NGOs are active inside the United States. We welcome these groups in the belief that they make our nation stronger and deepen relationships between America and the rest of the world. And it is in that same spirit that the United States provides funding to foreign civil society organizations that are engaged in important work in their own countries. And we will continue this practice, and we would like to do more of it in partnership with other democracies.

As part of that commitment, today I am announcing the creation of a new fund to support the work of embattled NGOs. We hope this fund will be used to provide legal representation, communication technology such as cell phone and Internet access, and other forms of quick support to NGOs that are under siege. The United States will be contributing $2 million to this effort, and we welcome participation and contribution from like-minded countries, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations.

The persecution of civil society activists and organizations, whether they are fighting for justice and law, or clean and open government, or public health, or a safe environment, or honest elections, it’s not just an attack against people we admire, it’s an attack against our own fundamental beliefs. So when we defend these great people, we are defending an idea that has been and will remain essential to the success of every democracy. So the stakes are high for us, not just them.

For the United States, supporting civil society groups is a critical part of our work to advance democracy. But it’s not the only part. Our national security strategy reaffirms that democratic values are a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Over time, as President Obama has said, America’s values have been our best national security asset. I emphasized this point in December and January, when I delivered speeches on human rights and Internet freedom. And it is a guiding principle in every meeting I hold and every country I visit.

My current trip is a good example. I have just come from Ukraine, where I had the opportunity not only to meet with the foreign minister and the president, but with a wonderful group of young, bright Ukrainian students, where I discussed the importance of media freedom, the importance of freedom of assembly, and of human rights. Tonight I will leave for Azerbaijan, where I will meet with youth activists to discuss Internet freedom, and to raise the issue of the two imprisoned bloggers, and to discuss civil liberties. From there I will go to Armenia and Georgia, where I will be similarly raising these issues, and sitting down with leaders from women’s groups and other NGOs. This is what we all have to do, day in and day out around the world.

So, let me return to that three-legged stool. Civil society is important for its own sake. But it also helps prop up and stabilize the other legs of the stool, governments and markets. Without the work of civic activists and pluralistic political discourse, governments grow brittle and may even topple. And without consumer advocates, unions, and social organizations that look out for the needs of societies’ weakest members, markets can run wild and fail to generate broad-based prosperity.

We see all three legs of the stool as vital to progress in the 21st century. So we will continue raising democracy and human rights issues at the highest levels in our contacts with foreign governments, and we will continue promoting economic openness and competition as a means of spreading broad-based prosperity and shoring up representative governments who know they have to deliver results for democracy.

But we also believe that the principles that bring us here together represent humanity’s brightest hope for a better future. As Foreign Minister Geremek wrote in his invitation to the inaugural meeting of the Community of Democracies 10 years ago, “Regardless of the problems inseparably associated with democracy, it is a system which best fulfills the aspirations of individuals, societies, and entire peoples, and most fully satisfies their needs of development, empowerment, and creativity.”

So, ultimately, our work on these issues is about the type of future we want to leave to our children and grandchildren. And anyone who doubts this should look at Poland. The world we live in is more open, more secure, and more prosperous because of individuals like Lech Walesa, Adam Michnik, others who worked through the solidarity movement to improve conditions in their own country, and who stand for freedom and democracy.

I think often about the role of journalists. Journalists are under tremendous pressure. But a journalist like Jerzy Turowicz, a son of Krakow, asked tough questions that challenged Poland to do better. And Pope John Paul II, who, as Stalin would have noted, had no battalions, marshaled moral authority that was as strong as any army. We all have inherited that legacy of courage. It is now up to us.

Every Fourth of July Americans affirm their belief that all human beings are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, as a community of democracies, let us make it our mission to secure those rights. We owe it to our forebears, and we owe it to future generations to continue the fight for these ideals.

Thank you all very much.



Esther Brimmer: Remarks on Revitalizing the United Nations and Multilateral Cooperation: The Obama Administration’s Progress

Thank you, Ted, for that introduction and for the opportunity to speak here today. Before I begin, I want to recognize the contributions you and your colleagues at Brookings have made on the wide range of multilateral issues across the UN system that we work on every day.

Two years into President Obama’s first term, we see an ever-growing need for effective multilateralism, and recognize its impact on achieving U.S. foreign policy goals. We see it as we work to protect human rights in places like Iran. We see it as we work to ensure that elections in Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sudan are free and fair. We see it as we work to halt nuclear proliferation in Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

Yet despite important progress, we once again are hearing criticisms from a bygone era, which ignore our successes at the UN as well as changes to the global landscape that make effective multilateral engagement more important than ever.

So our discussion today is a perfect opportunity to review the Obama Administration’s multilateral efforts and progress, and look ahead at the challenges we face in the coming year. Today, I’ll highlight how the Administration’s engagement across the UN system has benefited the United States, and how our work to revitalize the United Nations is at the core of our multilateral priorities.

The rationale for heightened U.S. engagement at the UN is clear. In a 21st century world where threats don’t stop at borders, we tackle many of our most urgent problems with cooperation and partnership, and need shared solutions to common problems. But as any veteran of multilateral diplomacy will tell you, the importance of a global response is often matched by the challenge in getting there. It’s not always easy; it’s not always smooth. But U.S. interests benefit from our patient, dogged efforts across the UN system.

This Administration’s engagement at the UN is at the core of our efforts to build a global architecture to address the challenges of the 21st century. We’ve elevated the G-20, to successfully promote economic coordination in response to the world economic crisis. We are renewing U.S. leadership at the OECD, multilateral development banks, and the IMF. And we’re working with important regional organizations in East Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.

Yet the United Nations continues to be the most important global institution, and our robust engagement across the UN system remains essential to achieving U.S. foreign policy goals.

First and foremost, a capable and strong United Nations system advances U.S. national security. Indeed, President Obama’s National Security Strategy prioritizes multilateral engagement precisely because we cannot divorce core national security interests from robust and sustained multilateral engagement. Dangerous nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. International terrorism. Afghanistan. Iraq. Addressing these national security challenges requires cooperation, and our work in the UN system is key to that common response.

So in the Security Council, Ambassador Rice and her team in New York, working with our colleagues at the Department, negotiated the toughest and most comprehensive sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government, as part of our dual-track strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. By engaging multilaterally within the UN and with its members, we crafted a tough set of sanctions that all states must implement – even those Security Council members that voted against them. Secretary Clinton noted recently that we already are seeing the effect of those sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency, too, has been invaluable in sounding the alarm on Iran’s nuclear activities, and the IAEA’s performance is a reminder of the value of investment in international institutions.

The UN also plays an indispensible role in two countries of enormous importance to the United States: Afghanistan and Iraq. In both, the UN has established important political missions – with real risk and danger, and tragic loss of life by UN personnel – missions that work with the sovereign Afghan and Iraqi governments to strengthen democratic institutions and promote constructive political dialogue. We have close and active partnerships with the UN in both these countries. And without the UN’s work in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. efforts to responsibly draw down our military forces – as the President has committed to doing – would be all the more difficult.

As both this Administration and our predecessors recognized, the United Nations is also an important forum for counterterrorism efforts. Through Security Council sanctions regimes, we have put in place global asset freezes and travel bans on terrorists and their supporters. Such universality is needed for sanctions to be effective, and the UN Security Council uniquely offers that capability. But our broader multilateral engagement on counterterrorism –through the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, or on aviation security at the International Civil Aviation Organization – helps us get there.

Let me turn for a moment to peacekeeping, one of the UN’s most important roles and another area where U.S. engagement directly benefits our national interests. As we all know, UN peace operations no longer only are deployed to separate warring parties. These missions address some of our hardest and most challenging security situations, including Sudan, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, and others. They are charged with preventing and ending armed conflicts, protecting civilians, supporting the rule of law, and helping administer elections. To do so, UN personnel are regularly sent into dangerous situations, where states cannot ensure basic security, civilians live under threat of violence, and there is little peace to keep.

But UN peacekeeping missions can mean the difference between stability and violence, and can help transform a fragile ceasefire into lasting peace. And the stability these peacekeeping missions bring directly impacts U.S. national interests. We have learned all too well that an unstable country far away can pose a direct threat to U.S. national security. By working through the United Nations, we help bring security to countries where U.S. military operations aren’t feasible or desirable – at far lower cost to the United States – and where U.S. leadership can leverage important contributions by other states.

These are all areas where we have worked within the UN system on important peace and security issues. But our multilateral engagement has succeeded in part because it has been deep as well as broad. To achieve American objectives and bring to bear the full weight of our international partners, we must mobilize and use our leverage across the entire range of multilateral institutions.

In short, engagement cannot be à la carte.

So we have expanded the number of UN and other multilateral entities where we’re actively and seriously involved, working across the broader United Nations system to support U.S. interests and universal values.

That’s why we work at the IAEA to ensure that a nuclear lab half a world away is secure. That’s why we work at ICAO to build reliable global passenger screening mechanisms. That’s why we fight at the World Intellectual Property Organization to strengthen global copyright protection for innovative U.S. companies that are creating jobs at home. That’s why we’re ensuring that at the World Health Organization, public health officials can work together to respond to the next global pandemic.

We seek cooperation from others on issues of importance to us, so we must remain engaged when those states raise issues of importance to them.

Now, some condemn our broad multilateral engagement because some UN member states are, to borrow terms used recently, “bullies, thugs, and dictators.”

But a key part of our work every day is standing up to adversaries across the UN system. If we can’t persuade them to change their behavior, we out-maneuver them, and we achieve results. We’re tireless, because we have to be. We know the consequences of disengaging. If we cede leadership at the United Nations, other states will rush in to fill that vacuum – and they will not act in our interest.

But engagement across the UN system is more than cooperating with our traditional allies and partners, or standing up to our adversaries. It’s also an important element of our efforts to work with important emerging powers that are expanding their own international influence. Indeed, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa are among many countries that see multilateral diplomacy as key to their foreign policy. These countries send their best and brightest diplomats to postings in New York, Geneva, and other UN cities, where they are formulating their outlook on the world. So to engage these states effectively, we must be able to understand and address their multilateral priorities.

Now, global respect for universal values is an enduring American interest, and one we have long championed at the United Nations.

An important setting for these efforts is the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This Administration, reversing the policy of the previous one, chose to run for – and won – a seat on the HRC in 2009. And since joining, we’ve become the most active delegation on the Council, bolstering our engagement with a dedicated human rights ambassador in Geneva and a strengthened team working on the HRC within the State Department.

But our expanded engagement does not mean we have dived in with our eyes closed. Are we frustrated with the Council’s ongoing substantive shortcomings? Deeply. Could the HRC do more to address pressing human rights issues? Far more. And does it continue an unfair and imbalanced focus on Israel? It does. Will the session in March be tough? It will. But these criticisms, like many we face, tell only part of the story.

They fail to recognize how the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies have improved as a result of U.S. engagement, and how these bodies do advance U.S. foreign policy goals. And they ignore the reality that without U.S. engagement, these bodies likely would have been dominated even more by our adversaries.

Let’s look a little deeper at the Human Rights Council, and what took place prior to the U.S. joining the Council. Five special sessions on Israel in three years. A decidedly mixed set of special rapporteurs, including Richard Falk. Flawed mandates, including the Goldstone report on Gaza. Far too many unbalanced resolutions singling out Israel, and far too few resolutions, special procedures, and other attention to the world’s most troubling and urgent human rights situations.

And since the United States joined in 2009? The challenges continue, but the Council’s improvement – through U.S. engagement – is undeniable. Timely action in 2010 on human rights crises, from Kyrgyzstan to Cote d’Ivoire. New UN special procedures on countries with serious human rights situations, for core rights like freedom of assembly, and, for the first time, on discrimination against women. A strong statement in the Council by 56 countries on human rights in Iran. We defeated an attempt by Cuba to politicize the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a proposal by Pakistan that would have restricted free speech.

And in 2010, the Human Rights Council did not hold a single special session on Israel – but did call special sessions to address pressing human rights situations in Haiti and Cote d’Ivoire.

In short, the United States took seriously our engagement on the HRC, and we already have achieved concrete results. We have more to do. But these accomplishments would not have happened without an American voice at the table.

Of course, the Human Rights Council is far from perfect, and so our hard work continues, session by session, as we knew it would when we joined. The upcoming March session will be a challenge, because Middle East issues will be raised. But at the end of the day, issues important to the United States will be debated and responses decided at the HRC with or without us. We’ve engaged with the Human Rights Council because this Administration cares deeply about international human rights – because we believe that the protection of human rights is far too important to be left to the human rights abusers.

I was proud to be the first American official to address the Human Rights Council as a member, and I remain proud of our continued engagement. The more I look at the HRC’s record – its resolutions, actions, and outcomes – the more I am convinced that U.S. membership on the Council marked a watershed moment. And even critics who disagreed with this Administration’s decision to join are admitting that U.S. membership has had a positive impact.

You actually can see some similarities between our strategy at the Human Rights Council and our approach to UN management issues.

Our policy toward UN management and reform issues has been to work in collaboration and cooperation with the United Nations toward renewal and increased effectiveness. All member states have a stake in a more effective UN, but as the largest single contributor to the UN system, the United States is particularly interested in ensuring that our taxpayer funds are effectively and efficiently used.

Our management and reform accomplishments over the past two years can be roughly divided into three categories.

First, we’re working to improve the UN’s day-to-day administration, supporting initiatives that are having a measurable impact. We won new standards that hold UN officials accountable for achieving real results. We led the charge to institutionalize the UN Ethics Office, with an American at the helm. And we worked to protect the full mission of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to carry out audits, inspections, evaluations, and, where necessary, investigations of UN activities.

Second, we are further increasing UN accountability and transparency. We led the establishment of new oversight bodies at UNDP, UNFPA, and the International Telecommunication Union. And we fought back attempts to impose restrictions on oversight reporting.

And third, we are continuing to reinforce the UN’s effectiveness in key policy areas. We have led efforts to put into place the Global Field Support Strategy, to improve the UN’s capacity to maintain complex peacekeeping missions. And we were instrumental in establishing UN Women, merging four disparate UN bodies into a single new entity to effectively and efficiently advance women’s issues worldwide.

These accomplishments may not grab headlines, but they get results. Naming and shaming, loud and brash calls for tearing down the United Nations rather than building it up – these don’t get us closer to our goal of improving the UN’s effectiveness. Instead, we work cooperatively to further embed and strengthen within the UN a culture of responsibility and transparency.

Now, there has been some talk in recent weeks about UN funding, calls in some quarters for reducing our dues and withholding a portion of our assessments – despite our legal treaty obligations under the UN Charter. As someone who worked on multilateral issues in the Clinton Administration, I feel a little bit of déjà vu. These same calls were made fifteen years ago, and then as now, they were supposedly called “UN reform.”

Now, let me be clear: this Administration takes seriously our obligation to guard taxpayer dollars. We are second to none in pushing for a more efficient and effective UN. But gutting our assessments isn’t “UN reform.” It’s just paying less. And trying to avoid paying our bills hurts our ability to deliver results at the UN that the American people want, and that the United States needs. The United States must be a responsible global leader, and that means paying our bills and working for real renewal at the UN.

How could we have won tough Security Council sanctions on North Korea and Iran if we were continuing to incur arrears? How could we have championed any of our management and reform achievements just over the past two years if we had failed to keep current on our assessments? How can we work with other leading contributors to maintain UN budget discipline and hold down costs if we do not meet our own obligations?

No longer can our adversaries at the UN change the subject to our arrears when we press them on an important policy matter, as they did for so long. The President’s decision to pay our UN assessments in full means that we have had more political capital to galvanize support from allies, partners, and others for achieving our goals at the United Nations.

So given all this, our multilateral work in 2011 will consolidate innovation and the advances we’ve made in revitalizing the United Nations.

On peace and security issues, we’re continuing to work to close gaps that too often plague peacekeeping missions – gaps between ambitious mandates and the UN’s capacity to carry them out, between political support needed and that provided, and between material needs of the missions and the resources provided to them.

We also will continue our work to ensure that Security Council sanctions are respected and enforced, by bolstering the capacity of key states and drawing attention to sanctions-busters and peace spoilers.

But as the first QDDR made clear, we must continue to prevent conflicts and atrocities before they arise. This includes further enhancing the UN’s capacity to anticipate and address crises before violence erupts, through mediation, election assistance, political missions, and crisis response. And we’re increasingly looking at peacebuilding as a complement to UN peacekeeping missions.

But conflict prevention also means addressing human rights situations as they arise. I pointed earlier to some of our victories in pushing the Human Rights Council to play this role, and we’re working to expand the Council’s timely action on pressing human rights concerns. The ongoing 2011 HRC review is an important opportunity to move the Council closer to its envisioned role in defending universal human rights.

We’re also working multilaterally on global development. We give more official assistance than any other country, but cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals unilaterally. Although the first responsibility lies with people themselves, international support can help.

So from our $3.5 billion “Feed the Future” food security initiative, to our $63 billion Global Health Initiative, U.S. development strategy recognizes that by working multilaterally, American leadership and resources can leverage a greater global effort to address the root causes of poverty advanced through country-led plans.

Ladies and gentlemen, I began today by noting that we live in a changed world. It has changed from just ten years ago, and certainly changed from when the UN was founded in 1945.

As Secretary Clinton said early in her tenure, “if we didn’t have the United Nations, we would have to invent one.” Given the many areas I’ve outlined where the United Nations system is critical to U.S. national security and foreign policy, it’s a good thing we don’t need to invent it today.

But just as we cannot hide inside our borders and disengage, nor can we address 21st century threats and challenges with 20th century tools. As the President has said, our international architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats, and new challenges. So the United Nations does need to reinvent itself – and it is doing so – to better meet the demands of our time. And in that effort, the United Nations will have no better partner than the United States.

Our work in this area is ongoing. But this Administration is proud of our achievements to date across the UN system.

Faced with tough challenges, we have chosen to lead, not retreat.

And given the continued need to develop cooperative responses to the shared threats and challenges of our time, we see no choice but to continue to work multilaterally, to ensure that the United Nations is strong enough to bear the burdens we must place upon it in the decades to come.

Thank you.


Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict resolution

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict resolution

Human Rights Council 16th Session

Thank you, Mr. President.

The Council is too often exploited as a platform from which to single out Israel, which undermines its credibility. The United States strongly encourages the Council to seek an alternative to highly politicized resolutions and a permanent agenda item focused on one country. There are serious human rights issues to be addressed in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but in the Human Rights Council, the human rights record of all states should be addressed under a robust common rubric. Moreover, consistent with our dedication to a universal application of international human rights, we urge both parties to examine and improve their own human rights records.

The best way to truly address human rights issues in Israel and the Palestinian territories is to end the underlying conflict and forge a comprehensive peace. For this reason, the United States continues to work vigorously on a simultaneous two-track strategy: a political negotiations track which ultimately results in a two-state solution, with a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestine living side by side in peace and security, and equally a Palestinian institution building track in preparing for a future Palestinian state. We also are committed to supporting the efforts of humanitarian agencies, such as UNRWA, which address critical needs of the Palestinian population, and we urge our fellow Council members to join us in doing so.

We must all do our part to help shape an environment conducive to meaningful and substantive negotiations and create an atmosphere of trust that can help the parties reach an agreement on all final-status issues. And so the United States again urges this Council to take a balanced, objective, and constructive approach to the human rights situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. We look forward to working together to promote peace and protect human rights in the Middle East and around the world.

Israel has been conducting its own process of credible investigations, and Israeli officials have been actively engaged in scrutinizing doctrinal issues. Israel has also established an independent public commission to examine the Israeli mechanisms for investigating complaints and claims raised in relation to violations of the laws of armed conflict. The commission has completed the first segment of their work, and we look forward to their next report.

Through its ongoing inquiries and changes in combat doctrine, Israel is demonstrating its ability to conduct credible investigations and serious self-scrutiny. We urge all parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibilities to pursue accountability for alleged human rights abuses. We note that both reports from the Committee of Experts did not endorse the recommendations in this resolution or any further UN follow-up on this matter. Extension of this issue in the UN is unhelpful and further evidence of the ongoing bias at the Council.

With respect to the present resolution, we object, in particular, to the following elements: (1) the recommendation for the Swiss government to convene the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in what is bound to be a highly politicized and counterproductive session; (2) the one-sided call for the High Commissioner to take the unprecedented step of determining the “appropriate modalities for the establishment of an escrow fund” for the provision of reparations to Palestinians; (3) the invitation to the ICRC to consider launching a discussion on the legality of the use of certain munitions, which risks a politically-motivated outcome, and (4) the resolution’s recommendation for the UN General Assembly to suggest to the UN Security Council that it consider referring the situation to the ICC Prosecutor. Further UN consideration of this matter is not productive. We cannot support international oversight of these domestic legal processes absent any indication that they are manifestly failing to deal seriously with alleged abuses. The parties’ ongoing domestic processes should be left to play out of their own accord.

Accordingly, we must call a vote, and vote against this resolution.


Fact Sheet: Key U.S. Accomplishments at the UN Human Rights Council

This September will mark the two-year anniversary of U.S. membership on the United Nations Human Rights Council. U.S. engagement at the Council has led to a number of new mechanisms to spotlight and address serious human rights concerns and focused international attention to some of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers. Much work remains before the Council can fully realize its mandate as the international community’s focal point for the protection and promotion of human rights. The United States will continue to work hard to diminish the Council’s biased disproportionate focus on Israel. The United States maintains a vocal, principled stand against this focus, and will continue its robust efforts to end it.

Key accomplishments over the past two years include:


Iran: The Council took bold, assertive action to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation by establishing a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. The rapporteur will investigate and report on abuses in Iran and call out the failure of the Iranian government to meet its human rights obligations.

Cote d’Ivoire: U.S. leadership led to a Special Session on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, sending Laurent Gbagbo a clear message that the world is watching what he does and that atrocities and human rights violations would not go unnoticed. At its most recent session, the Council established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate these abuses and amplified the international community’s unequivocal message that President Ouattara must be allowed to serve as the elected head of state.

Libya: The United States played a pivotal role in convening the Council’s Special Session in February 2011 during which the Council condemned the recent human rights violations and other acts of violence committed by the Government of Libya, created an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate those violations, and recommended to the UN General Assembly that it suspend Libya’s membership rights on the Council. The UN General Assembly acted on that recommendation several days later.

Kyrgyzstan: The United States worked with Kyrgyzstan to draft and galvanize support for the first-ever resolution to address human rights violations there in the wake of the killings and abuses that took place in June 2010. It called for a credible investigation by the Government and international assistance for victims and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide follow-up reporting. The resolution paved the way for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate these events.

Guinea: The United States led the Council to adopt several resolutions on Guinea. The Council condemned the September 2009 violence, welcomed the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ decision to open a country office, and requested technical assistance from the international community for the transition to democracy, which produced concrete results on the ground.

Tunisia: The United States worked with the EU and the interim government of Tunisia to adopt a resolution that welcomed the process of political transition that has started in Tunisia, invited the UN to provide technical assistance to the transitional process in Tunisia, and encouraged the government of Tunisia to implement recommendations of the High Commissioner from its report on its mission earlier this year.

Burma: The United States has worked to ensure the continuation of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma. The Special Rapporteur plays a critical role in reporting on the ongoing human rights abuses in Burma, including calling for a commission of inquiry into the situation.

North Korea: The United States has worked to ensure the continuation of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea. While the government of North Korea strongly opposes this mandate, the number of votes in favor of the resolution increased this year, demonstrating the level of international concern with the situation there.

Sudan: The United States led efforts to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert tasked with monitoring human rights throughout Sudan, including Darfur, over the Sudanese government’s strong opposition.


Protecting Freedom of Assembly and Association: The U.S. Government co-sponsored a resolution to create the first-ever Special Rapporteur to protect Freedom of Assembly and Association, to monitor crackdowns on civil society groups and advance protection of the right to free assembly and association through its vigilant exposure of state conduct.

Combating Discrimination Against Women: The United States championed the establishment of a Working Group of Independent Experts to prevent Discrimination Against Women; the five independent experts will address discrimination against women in law and practice. One of the experts is the first Israeli citizen to be appointed by the Human Rights Council President to a special mechanism.

A Strong Statement on LGBT Rights: The United States led a group of 85 countries to sign a statement entitled “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” It represents a landmark moment in UN efforts to highlight human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people around the world.


Protecting Freedom of Expression in the Context of Religious Intolerance: The United States was instrumental in galvanizing support for a consensus resolution that marks a sea change in the global dialogue on countering offensive and hateful speech based upon religion or belief. The “Combating Discrimination and Violence” resolution underscores the vital importance of protecting freedom of expression and ends the divisive debate over the highly problematic concept of “defamation of religions.”


Human Rights Council Calls for Establishment of Commission of Inquiry on Cote d’Ivoire

Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 16th Session

U.S. Statement General Statement on the adoption of the Côte d’Ivoire Resolution

Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States thanks the African Group and especially the Delegation of Cote D’Ivoire for proposing this very important and timely resolution. As an early Co-Sponsor of both this resolution and the December 23, 2010 Special Session, we hope that as it was the case then it will be adopted by consensus. As we said during the Interactive Dialogue on the 14th of March the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is grave and deteriorating. We deplore the gross abuses of human rights and trampling of fundamental freedoms in Côte d’Ivoire. We fully support this resolution’s call for the immediate establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry and we hope that through their work, all those who lost their lives during this troubled period will find a measure of justice.

I would also like to note that the crisis in Cote D’Ivoire is the result of the inability by Mr. Gbagbo to accept the result of an election which he agreed to hold. This is a challenge to democracy not only in the Ivory Coast and in West Africa, but to the democratic community as a whole. This situation is a critical test for democratic institutions and values across Africa and the United States will continue to support the efforts by the African Union and ECOWAS to resolve the crisis peacefully.

As the State Department’s spokesman noted yesterday the United States has, since the beginning of the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, strongly supported African-led efforts to achieve a peaceful transition of power between former President Gbagbo and his elected successor, Alassane Ouattara. I want to once again underline that we firmly stand behind President-elect Ouattara.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Secretary Clinton: The Human Rights Council’s Creation of a Special Rapporteur on Iran

We applaud today’s action by the Human Rights Council to create a Special Rapporteur on Iran who will help the international community monitor and respond to Iran’s continuing human rights abuses. This is the first new country mandate established since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006.

The United States worked closely with Sweden and a broad group of over 50 co-sponsors to establish this mandate, which passed by a margin of more than three to one. The Special Rapporteur will investigate and report on human rights abuses in Iran and will speak out when the government there does not meet its human rights obligations to its people.

Independent investigation and reporting by the Special Rapporteur will help the international community responsibly address the serious human rights abuses in Iran. It will also give voice to the many Iranians who long not only for reform, but for their government to respect their most basic of human rights and freedoms.


Secretary Clinton: Statement on the Adoption of Resolution at Human Rights Council Combating Discrimination and Violence

The United States welcomes today’s action by the UN Human Rights Council to further the international community’s efforts to combat religious intolerance. The consensus resolution adopted by the Council today represents a significant step forward in the global dialogue on countering intolerance, discrimination, and violence against persons based upon religion or belief. We appreciate the leadership shown by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and member states on today’s landmark achievement.

The United States strongly supports today’s resolution, which rejects the broad prohibitions on speech called for in the former “defamation of religions” resolution, and supports approaches that do not limit freedom of expression or infringe on the freedom of religion. This resolution demonstrates a desire to move the debate on these shared challenges in a constructive and affirmative direction. Our divides can be bridged through an effort to listen to each other and to seek common ground. This resolution is a direct result of this type of engagement with the global community.

Today’s adoption of this resolution by the UN Human Rights Council is an important statement that must be followed by sustained commitment. At a time when violence and discrimination against members of religious minorities is all too common, we urge the international community to continue to uphold the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As I said last month in Geneva, we must support those who are willing to stand up on behalf of the rights we cherish.


White House Statement on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

President Obama believes that advancing the human rights of minorities and the marginalized is a fundamental American value. The President was pleased to announce during his trip to Brazil that he and President Rousseff agreed to promote respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals through the establishment of a special rapporteur on LGBT issues at the Organization of American States. This special rapporteur will be the first of its kind in the international system.

Over the past months our diplomats have been engaged in frank, and at times difficult, conversations about the human rights of LGBT persons with governments from around world. This morning, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, some 85 countries joined the United States in reaffirming our joint commitment to end acts of violence and human rights abuses on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The President is proud of the work we have done to build international consensus on this critical issue and is committed to continuing our determined efforts to advance the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Fact Sheet: Joint Statement on the Rights of LGBT Persons at the Human Rights Council

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC

At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 85 countries joined a Joint Statement entitled “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” This follows previous statements on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons issued at the United Nations, including a 2006 statement by 54 countries at the Human Rights Council, and a 2008 statement that has garnered 67 countries’ support at the General Assembly. The United States is amongst the signatory states to both previous efforts. The United States co-chaired the core group of countries that have worked to submit this statement, along with Colombia and Slovenia.

Key facts about the new statement:

A core group of over 30 countries engaged in discussions and sought signatures from other UN member states for the statement. In many places, United States diplomats joined diplomats from other states for these conversations.
This statement adds new references not seen in previous LGBT statements at the UN, including: welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights fora, encouraging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue addressing LGBT issues, and calls for states to end criminal sanctions based on LGBT status.
20 countries joined this statement that were neither signatory to the 2006 or 2008 statements.
The statement garnered support from every region of the world, including 21 signatories from the Western Hemisphere, 43 from Europe, 5 from Africa, and 16 from the Asia/Pacific region.
The full list of signatories and text of the statement follows:

Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity

Delivered by Colombia on behalf of: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela

1. We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;

2. We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;

3. We recall the joint statement in the General Assembly on December 18, 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by States from all five regional groups, and encourage States to consider joining the statement;

4. We commend the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms including relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies and welcome continued attention to human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. As the United Nations Secretary General reminded us in his address to this Council at its Special Sitting of 25 January 2011, the Universal Declaration guarantees all human beings their basic rights without exception, and when individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the international community has an obligation to respond;

5. We welcome the positive developments on these issues in every region in recent years, such as the resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity adopted by consensus in each of the past three years by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, the initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions to integrate these issues within the work of national human rights institutions in the region, the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the increasing attention being paid to these issues by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the many positive legislative and policy initiatives adopted by States at the national level in diverse regions;

6. We note that the Human Rights Council must also play its part in accordance with its mandate to “promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner” (GA 60/251, OP 2);

7. We acknowledge that these are sensitive issues for many, including in our own societies. We affirm the importance of respectful dialogue, and trust that there is common ground in our shared recognition that no-one should face stigmatisation, violence or abuse on any ground. In dealing with sensitive issues, the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination;

8. We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to explore opportunities for outreach and constructive dialogue to enhance understanding and awareness of these issues within a human rights framework;

9. We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms;

10. We call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues.


Secretary Clinton: Statement at Human Rights Council Statement on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Today, 85 countries from every region of the world joined together in a historic moment to state clearly that human rights apply to everyone, no matter who they are or whom they love.

The United States, along with Colombia and Slovenia, took a leading role on this statement along with over 30 cosponsors. Countries around the world participated including many that had never supported such efforts. And we hope that even more countries will step up, sign on to the statement and signal their support for universal human rights.

This statement is an example of America’s commitment to human rights through dialogue, open discussion and frank conversation with countries we don’t always agree with on every issue. In Geneva, our conversations about the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals with countries where sexual orientation is not only stigmatized, but criminalized, are helping to advance a broader and deeper global dialogue about these issues.

As I said last June, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. We will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people who are marginalized and discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity. And we will not rest until every man, woman and child is able to live up to his or her potential free from persecution or discrimination of any kind.


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