OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you all for standing by. At this time, all participants are on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of the call. At that time, you may press *1 to ask a question. And I’d now like to turn the call over to Ms. Susan D. Page, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Thank you, ma’am, you may begin.
MS. PAGE: Thank you very much. I wanted to let everyone know that the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Johnnie Carson met today with members of the coalition government in a very pleasant discussion on the way forward in Zimbabwe.
He recognized and applauded the economic advances that have occurred in Zimbabwe since the Global Political Agreement was signed two years ago and said that there is no doubt that the country is better off now than it was two years ago when shops were closed and inflation was rampant. He also said that Zimbabwe must now work towards making the same progress in the political sphere that it has seen in its economy. He also acknowledged that while the United States is not perfect, our strength lies in our institutions. And he encouraged the Zimbabwean coalition government to build strong institutions and to continue with political progress, because it’s political progress that will sustain economic growth.
So I’ll stop there and take questions.
OPERATOR: And at this time, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1. You’ll also be prompted to record your name. Please unmute your phone and record your name at the prompt. Once again, it is *1 for questions. One moment, please.
And we do show a question from Celia Dugger of The New York Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Ms. Page. How are you?
MS. PAGE: Very well. How are you?
QUESTION: I’m fine.
MS. PAGE: Good, thank you.
QUESTION: I guess I’m just curious – I mean, nothing you said is anything new. Did anything – was there anything new in the exchange? Was there a particular concern (inaudible) anything with Zimbabwe about violence that’s occurring lately, or any conversation with President Mugabe?
MS. PAGE: There was no conversation with Zimbabwe during this meeting, but obviously –
QUESTION: Mugabe, with Mugabe?
MS. PAGE: Sorry. There was no conversation directly with Mugabe, but of course, they talked about the situation in Zimbabwe, and specifically about – from our side, the American delegation talked a lot about the human rights violations, the land seizures, and particularly the recent arrest of the WOZA women from – the women who had been peacefully protesting about the constitutional process and called on senior officials, especially given that this is a coalition government, that they also need to speak out against these types of abuses and not be silent.
QUESTION: Is there (inaudible) to Zimbabweans who are outside the government critical of the – of ZANU-PF? I mean, (inaudible) hearing people say that they think that the sanctions have made – that they play into the hands of ZANU and have – in some ways, could have made the United States irrelevant to the process. I mean, what (inaudible) do you see the sanctions as still playing?
MS. PAGE: Well, first of all, we – I must say that we reject the claim that our sanctions have a broad effect on the economy of Zimbabwe or even on the ordinary – on the lives of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
The sanctions are targeted. They’re targeted towards individuals and towards a few institutions that we believe have been responsible for the policies and the actions that have led to Zimbabwe’s both economic and political decline. We do regularly review our sanctions. We remove people and institutions when we believe that they are no longer posing the same kind of threat. But frankly, as long as these violations of human rights, the lack of respect for civil and political rights of the people of Zimbabwe, as long as they continue, we really can’t lift the sanctions at this time, because people are looking to us as if we are the problem. And we are encouraging the Zimbabweans to look at themselves and address the problems that they’ve brought upon themselves.
QUESTION: So nothing really new in the exchange? Nothing –
MS. PAGE: I mean, look. The reality is they are calling for – unlike when the MDC was in the opposition, they are now also calling for the sanctions to either be removed or suspended and – largely because ZANU-PF seems to have made that a centerpiece of what they are pushing on MDC to deliver.
MS. PAGE: But the reality is this is a political agreement between three parties – between ZANU-PF, between the MDC-Tsvangirai formation, and the MDC-Mutambara formation. And we are not a party to that agreement. They can’t force us to do something that we have decided to do, either via executive order of the president or through legislation.
So – but again, we stress the fact that as long as these violations of human rights, these arbitrary arrests, continued violence and brutality continue, we’re not in a position to lift our sanctions despite how they want to characterize them. And the sanctions that we have, as I mentioned, are very specific. They’re travel bans and asset freezes. And they affect 244 individuals and institutions, companies. That’s it.
QUESTION: Do you know how many individuals – how many of the 244 are people and how many are companies?
MS. PAGE: I don’t have the details in front of me, but if you want, I can get the numbers for you.
QUESTION: All right, great.
MS. PAGE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Once again, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1. We’re currently showing no further questions.
MS. PAGE: Maybe I could just add, one surprise visitor in the meeting – although as I mentioned, the justice minister, Minister Chinamasa was there, Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga from the MDC-Mutambara formation was there, Minister Mangoma and others – but the Zimbabwean ambassador to Washington also came, Ambassador Mapuranga. So that was a bit unexpected. And I think if you all will recall, he – Ambassador Mapuranga had called out Ambassador Carson during the Africa Day celebration a few months ago and disrupted a large diplomatic event for the African diplomatic corps by calling the ambassador names – by calling Ambassador Carson names. So that was an interesting show.
But the meeting was very cordial, very pleasant. Unlike I think what seems to be the view that we have suddenly reengaged with Zimbabwe, I’d like to dispel that myth. We have never stopped engaging with Zimbabwe. We have full diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. They have an ambassador here, we have an ambassador there. We have a very robust program of assistance that we give to Zimbabwe to assist the Zimbabwean people. So we have always been available to speak, to meet, to try to advance our relations. And we were pleased to see this meeting take place, but again, it was hardly a reengagement. It’s continuing engagement. So I think that that was positive.
I just wanted to mention also that this year, U.S. assistance to Zimbabwe was $300 million. This was for health services, safe drinking water, education, agriculture, social protection, and a range of other essential services in line with the priorities of the new Zimbabwean transitional government. And then – that was last year – and then in – following Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to the U.S. in June of 2009, President Obama pledged an additional $73 million. This is for combating HIV and AIDS and for furthering democracy and good governance. So – and then at the same time, in recognition of progress towards macroeconomic stability, the U.S. did not oppose the restoration of Zimbabwe’s voting rights at the IMF.
So these are positive things that we’ve been doing all along, and this was a meeting that was just to further consolidate our good relations.
OPERATOR: And currently, we’re showing no questions on the phone line.
MS. PAGE: Okay.
STAFF: Well, I think that’s – I think we’ll be good to go here, then.
MS. PAGE: Okay. Well, thank you all very much. As I mentioned, it was a good meeting, very cordial, and Michelle Gavin from the National Security Council staff was also present during the meeting, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer. So I think it was a good meeting and a good delegation from the Zimbabwe side as well, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue and helping the people of Zimbabwe.
OPERATOR: This concludes today’s conference. Thank you all for participating. You may disconnect at this time.
MS. PAGE: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It’s my pleasure to join you today for the release of the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Every year, the State Department prepares a comprehensive review of the status of religious freedom in countries and territories around the world. We do this because we believe that religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society.
This is not only the American view; it is the view of nations and people around the world. It is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and it is guaranteed by the laws and constitutions of many nations, including our own, where religious freedom is the first freedom listed in our Bill of Rights.
Because we believe in religious freedom and because we are committed to the right of all people everywhere to live according to their beliefs without government interference and with government protection, we are troubled by what we see happening in many, many places. Religious freedom is under threat from authoritarian regimes that abuse their own citizens. It is under threat from violent extremist groups that exploit and inflame sectarian tensions. It is under threat from the quiet but persistent harm caused by intolerance and mistrust which can leave minority religious groups vulnerable and marginalized.
During the past year, al-Qaida issued calls for further violence against religious minorities in the Middle East. Sufi, Shia, and Ahmadiyya holy sites in Pakistan have been attacked. So was a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad just a few weeks ago. We received reports from China of government harassment of Tibetan Buddhists, house church Christians, and Uighur Muslims. And several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression.
These infringements on religious freedom strain the bonds that sustain democratic societies. With this report, we hope to give governments, NGOs, and citizens around the world valuable information about the status of religious freedom and a call to action for all of us to work together more effectively to protect it.
Our Office of International Religious Freedom and our embassies and consulates around the globe have worked for months to compile these 198 Country Reports. They have been assisted by NGOs, think tanks, news outlets, religious groups, and other governments. And I want to thank everyone who offered information and analysis, in particular the courageous activists who shared their stories with us, sometimes at great personal risk.
Now, one country that is not included in this report is the United States, and that is because the Department of Justice monitors threats to religious freedom in the United States and issues reports throughout the year. As some of you know, I said upon becoming Secretary of State that if we were going to issue reports on other countries, we would start issuing reports on ourselves. And we are keeping true to that position. And these reports on the United States are publicly available for review by everyone.
Obviously, we, like every country, must be vigilant in protecting the rights of religious minorities and building a society in which people of all faiths and people of no faith can live together openly and peacefully.
With this report, we do not intend to act as a judge of other countries or hold ourselves out as a perfect example, but the United States cares about religious freedom. We have worked hard to enforce religious freedom. We want to see religious freedom available universally. And we want to advocate for the brave men and women who around the world persist in practicing their beliefs in the face of hostility and violence.
This report reflects a broad understanding of religious freedom, one that begins with private beliefs and communal religious expression, but doesn’t end there. Religious freedom also includes the right to raise one’s children in one’s faith, to share one’s faith peacefully with others, to publish religious materials without censorship, to change one’s religion – by choice, not coercion, and to practice no religion at all. And it includes the rights of faith communities to come together in social service and public engagement in the broader society.
We have seen the valuable contributions made by religious communities in the global fights against poverty, disease, and injustice. Here in our own country, religious people, people of faith, have played a key role in many of our most important reform movements, from the abolition of slavery to the modern-day campaigns against human trafficking and forced labor. When the work of these communities is constrained or blocked, we all lose out, regardless of our particular beliefs.
Now, some people propose that to protect religious freedom, we must ban speech that is critical or offensive about religion. We do not agree. The Defamation of Religions Resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council again this year, and now pending before the General Assembly, reflects the other view. And the United States joins in all nations coming together to condemn hateful speech, but we do not support the banning of that speech. Indeed, freedom of speech and freedom of religion emanate from the same fundamental belief that communities and individuals are enriched and strengthened by a diversity of ideas, and attempts to stifle them or drive them underground, even when it is in the name and with the intention of protecting society, have the opposite effect. Societies in which freedom of religion and speech flourish are more resilient, more stable, more peaceful, and more productive. We have seen this throughout history. And as this report reflects, we see it in the world today.
So with this report as our guide, the United States will continue to advance religious freedom around the world as a core element of U.S. diplomacy. President Obama’s speech in Cairo in June of last year signaled a significant increase in our engagement with Muslim-majority countries and with religious communities around the world. Compared to previous years, many of the chapters in this year’s report provide much greater detail about what the United States Government is doing to engage faith-based groups and address the issues that affect them. Our embassies will continue to support inter-faith dialogue and work with religious groups across a full range of issues. And we will continue to speak out against the curtailing of religious liberty wherever and whenever it occurs.
I would now like to welcome Michael Posner, our assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, to elaborate further on this report and to answer your questions. Michael.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Five years ago this week, the longest running war in Africa came to a close. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan ended a stubborn and violent civil conflict between North and South and offered fresh hope of real peace for the Sudanese people. This historic achievement was shepherded and encouraged by the international community, but it could not have happened without the leadership and political will of the parties in Sudan.
Since 2005, the ceasefire has, for the most part, held. Northern troops have pulled out of the South and a new government of national unity was formed in Khartoum. A regional government of Southern Sudan was created in Juba. Oil wealth has been shared with the South. The parties have made progress on some of the disputed border areas of Abyei and have passed legislation to prepare for elections and the 2011 referenda on self-determination.
Now, these are positive steps, but they are not enough to secure lasting peace. Threats to progress are real, reform of key institutions has been sporadic, and true democratic transformation – envisioned in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement – remains elusive. Violence in the South is rising and tensions continue in border areas. So today, the parties in Sudan have a choice. They can revert back to a dark era of conflict or they can move forward together toward a lasting peace.
In April, Sudan will hold its first national elections in 24 years. Less than a year after that, the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei will determine whether to remain part of Sudan or form an independent country. These elections are important milestones in Sudan’s evolution, and the parties should be commended for overcoming major hurdles to get to this phase. But now they must work to ensure that the elections and referenda take place on time, with their outcomes respected.
The parties in the international community have barely begun to grapple with the potential outcomes of this historic upcoming vote, so we must work diligently together over the next year to prepare Sudan and the region for all potential scenarios.
I’m very pleased to be releasing a joint statement with Foreign Minister Store and Foreign Secretary Miliband from Norway and the UK pledging the commitment of our respective governments to helping bring peace to Sudan. Among areas of concern will be the impact of the election decision on Darfur, where human suffering continues on a mass scale and a six-year-old conflict remains unresolved.
Let me reiterate what I have said before, that the conflict in Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be seen in tandem. The United States continues to push the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebels to facilitate the work of aid agencies in the region and to allow full access for UNAMID. We continue to encourage mediation in all parties to find a solution to choose to participate for the Darfuris in the elections, preventing their further marginalization. We are concerned by the potential increase in violence if the status quo remains.
In the months ahead, strong leadership will be even more essential, especially in light of setbacks that have already occurred during this pre-election process, so there’s serious work to be done by everyone.
In Southern Sudan, no matter the outcome of the referendum, Southern Sudan must increase its institutional capacity and prepare to govern responsibly, whether as a semiautonomous region within Sudan or a newly independent nation.
I have been tracking the increasing interethnic and tribal violence in the South over the course of 2009, and I share the concerns raised in recent reports that highlight the death of more than 2,500 people and displacement of more than 350,000. These stark figures illustrate the need for the Government of South Sudan to improve governance and security in the South with the assistance of international partners, including the United States.
The National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement must be willing to make the compromises and commitments necessary to build mutual confidence and achieve stability and lasting peace. Specifically, the National Congress Party must recognize that, as the dominant political party, it bears greater responsibility in ensuring the full and successful implementation of the CPA.
The NCP, therefore, must use its executive order to suspend elements of the national security and public order laws that are incompatible with free and fair elections. There must be no efforts to restrict freedom of speech and assembly. And there must be no prohibitions on peaceful protests. There must be sincere efforts to appoint members of the two referenda commissions and determine criteria for voter eligibility. And both parties must begin immediately on negotiations on the critical issues surrounding the parties’ relationships and use of shared wealth and resources after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement expires in July of next year.
The parties of Sudan cannot afford to delay and there can be no backtracking on agreements already reached. The risks are too serious: Renewed conflict between North and South would prolong human suffering and threaten stability and peace throughout the greater region.
Because Sudan is at a critical juncture after almost a half century of conflict, we hold all parties accountable if progress is impeded. The lives and futures of 40 million people are at stake. The United States is committed to helping the Sudanese parties and most particularly the Sudanese people to achieve a real and lasting peace that is long overdue. We will continue to provide leadership and mobilize international coordination in support of peace in Sudan.
I’d like now to ask our Special Envoy Scott Gration, who has been working tirelessly over the last year, to come forward, make a few comments, and answer any of your questions, and I will be seeing all of you later for a press avail.
MR. GRATION: Thank you very much. I’d like to start by just giving you a brief overview of what has happened in the last year and then tell you a little bit about the future and then take your questions.
This last year has had some highs. We’ve seen progress on Abyei when the ruling was handed down from the Court of Arbitration at The Hague. That was rather successful. We’ve seen the relationship between Chad and Sudan improve, and that, we believe, will help the security in Darfur. We’ve seen the registration for elections be pulled off, really in many ways better than what we expected; 79 percent of the eligible voters registered. That was almost 16 million people out of the 20 million eligible voters.
There are, however, things that need to be fixed. We’re very concerned about the situation in Darfur. The security situation continues to be bad. People continue to live in situations that are dire. They are fearful of their lives in some areas, and certainly they’re fearful of being harassed and some folks with sexual-based violence. We have got to make a bigger difference in the security there.
We’re also very concerned about the security in the South. You’ve all seen the numbers. The trend is up, and we’re very concerned that the security issues, the tribal fighting, the inter-community conflicts that are taking place, could be factors that make it more difficult to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and, if the South chooses to secede, will make it more difficult to birth that nation.
At this point, I’d like to take your questions on any topic.
QUESTION: Andy Quinn from Reuters. I have a question. When the policy review was announced late last year, some analysts and activists criticized it as too much carrot and not enough stick. And the Secretary talked about setbacks that have happened since that review was unveiled, which may indicate that this idea of engaging Khartoum more isn’t really bringing the results. So my question to you is: What is the current state of discussions about what happens to the Khartoum government and the NCP if they don’t deliver on these areas of progress that the Secretary outlined – public security, the election law, all of these things? And what are you saying to them will happen if they don’t make the progress that you’re demanding?
MR. GRATION: What we’ve seen is that there have been some progress in terms of passing the laws. As you know, the referendum law for Southern Sudan was passed, as was the referendum law for Abyei . The Popular Consultations Law, the National Security Act, and the Trade Union Law and a variety of other laws were passed by the end of the national assembly period that ended at the end of last year. So there have been some progress.
And what we’re taking a look now is taking a look at those areas where there’s been progress and taking a look at those areas where there hasn’t been progress, where we need to have more push and more pressure. And right now, we’re getting ready for a review at the deputies committee level that will be happening at the end of this month, and at that point the deputies will consider the facts on the ground and they will take a look at these based on benchmarks and ideas that we’ve put forth in the classified working papers, and then we’ll proceed.
QUESTION: Is there some secret annex about – there’s all this debate about – I mean, are there pressures ready, at the ready, to employ? And also, you know, you said they passed these laws, but at the end of the year there was – the congress – the parliament changed some of the wording of this. I mean, are you really satisfied?
MR. GRATION: Yeah, let me just (inaudible) tell you about the working papers. There are working papers that were developed in the course as we were preparing the Sudan strategy that we laid out for you in October. Those working papers are NSC working papers, but they do outline a system of pressures and incentives that can be used to push or pull the situation in Sudan to get those things accomplished that the international community believes should be accomplished.
In terms of those laws, you’re correct that the national assembly made some modifications to the laws. The – specifically, the Southern referendum law. That law was reintroduced into the national assembly and it was passed without amendment and it was passed in the way that President Bashir and Vice President Kiir had agreed on the 13th of December. So all those annexes and changes and amendments were not part of the final bill that was approved by the national assembly.
So what I’m trying to tell you is that both the SPLM and the NCP agreed with the wording on the 13th of December, and that wording is the wording that was passed at the end.
QUESTION: Sir, your own plans for travel to Sudan?
MR. GRATION: Yes, I will be going to Kenya and Uganda beginning on the 26th and then I’ll end up at the Africa Union summit at the beginning of February. I do plan to go back into Sudan in the middle of February. The reason for the delay is there’s a couple things that we’re working through, and just because I’m not there doesn’t mean we’re not coordinating. We work via email, video teleconference and teleconference on the phone lines almost on a daily basis.
Right now we’re in contact with President Mbeki and we’re seeing how the Africa Union and his new role with the high-level panel and his involvement in the CPA implementation and in Darfur. We’re also taking a look at what Mr. Gambari will be doing. We’re also supporting what is happening in Doha as civil society and the rebels will come together around the 21st of this month for continued negotiations.
So there’s a lot of issues that we’re working hard, but it makes sense for me to go back in February. Again, as I pointed out, my focus will be on security in Darfur because I believe that if we can fix the security, the lawlessness, the banditry, the carjackings, the hijackings, if we can get that kind of thing taken care of, the rest of issues that have to do with humanitarian access, eventual voluntary return, and the other issues that are looming out there can be taken care of. But they cannot be taken care of with the current situation that we have, where local rule of law is not sufficient and where local criminal elements rule the day.
And in the South, we’ll continue to work on issues like conflict mitigation, working between the tribes to make sure that they have adequate security forces and that we can stop the crises before they turn into violence.
QUESTION: Are you planning to meet with President Bashir (inaudible)?
MR. GRATION: No, I have no plans to meet with President Bashir, nor have I met him in the past.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the conditions currently exist on the ground today for elections to be free and fair?
MR. GRATION: I believe that we are working hard on processes that will allow credible elections to be had in April. The one thing that you must remember is that these are the first elections that have been held since 1986, so we have a gap of almost 24 years since we’ve had this kind of transformation that we’re seeing right now.
We believe that the elections are important for several reasons. One is, is that it allows all the parties of Sudan to participate in the process. They will each have an opportunity to put their candidates up against the legislative seats, and if they want to they can put up candidates against the governmental seats at the state level and at the national level. So this gives an opportunity for all parties to play, not just the SPLM and the NCP.
Number two, it is a process that we’re seeing has a lot of momentum. We didn’t expect that almost 79 – four out of five people would go out and register to vote. This is huge, and we’re excited about that opportunity, and we would like those elections to take place in a way that the people’s will can be made known and that they can learn how to participate in the government process.
The other thing that’s important for us is that – the timing of the election. We would like those elections to take place in April because the rains start right after that. And we believe that if they are delayed, the rains will be a problem. In some areas the rains, as you know, will keep people from being able to get to the polling places.
The other thing is that we start registration for the referendum in Abyei and in the South in July, and it would be good if we cold separate those two events. We believe that the election gives us an opportunity to practice those elements that will be so important in the referendum. If we can get it right on how to do voter education, get the laws passed, get the commissions up and running and funded, to get the processes out just in terms of the logistics and admin of printing ballots, making sure that the system has security so people can come and go freely, to make sure it’s transparent, and to make sure that those results are passed out in a way that everybody recognizes that this is credible. That is so critical, not only to the election but to the referenda that will be taking place in January of 2011.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GRATION: Thank you very much.
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:
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UN SYSTEM
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
COMMITMENT TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVITIES IN THE UN SYSTEM
- 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.
- 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.
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS, FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AND HUMAN DIG-NITY AND PROSPERITY INTERNATIONALLY
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS IN THE UNITED STATES
- 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.
- The United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty body members.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
“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?
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.
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.