Human Rights - United States Human Rights Policy: a Dossier
What is a Dossier?Via the dossiers, we try to highlight the priorities of the US Government with regard to specific foreign policy policy issues. We provide statements by U.S. public officials, but also reports, hearings, and journal articles.
We will support people everywhere who seek the same. Men and women who want to speak, worship, associate, love the way they choose – we will defend their rights; not just on the day we issue these reports, but every day.
As Secretary, I have worked with my superb team on advancing human rights in a 21st century landscape, focusing on new frontiers even as we stand up against age-old abuses. Where women have been and continue to be marginalized, we’re helping them become full partners in their governments and economies. Where LGBT people are mistreated and discriminated against, we’re working to bring them into full participation in their societies. We’re expanding access to technology and defending internet freedom because people deserve the same rights online as off. And we know that in the 21st century human rights are not only a question of civil and political liberties, it’s about the fundamental question of whether people everywhere have the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.
“This has been an especially tumultuous and momentous year for everyone involved in the cause of human rights,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says on the release of the 2011 Human Rights Report (May 24)
The three ways that the Obama Administration is promoting human rights around the world:
• First, we are elevating human rights through increased engagement with Muslim communities worldwide;
• Second, we are bolstering human rights with unprecedented support for civil society around the world, including vulnerable or marginalized groups such as women, LGBT individuals, disabled persons, and religious minorities;
• And third, we are reengaging on important human rights issues in the multilateral system. Under Secretary Otero on U.S. Human Rights Commitment
The Four Freedoms: "There are many ways to think about what should or should not count as a human right. Perhaps the simplest and most compelling is that human rights reflect what a person needs in order to live a meaningful and dignified existence. It is the core belief in the supreme value of human dignity that leads us, as Americans, to embrace the idea that people should not be tortured, discriminated against, deprived of the right to choose their government, silenced, or barred from observing the religion of their choosing. As President Obama has made clear, it is this same belief in human dignity that underlies our concern for the health, education, and wellbeing of our people. Human dignity has a political component and an economic component — and these are inexorably linked. Participation, transparency and accountability are valuable not just because they contribute to the dignity of the governed, but because they enhance the responsiveness of those who govern." The Four Freedoms turn 70, Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Address to the American Society of International Law, March 24, 2011
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010: "We were particularly disturbed by three growing trends in 2010. The first is a widespread crackdown on civil society activists … we saw a second trend in 2010 – countries violating the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association by curtailing internet freedom …The third disturbing trend of 2010 was the repression of vulnerable minorities, including racial and ethnic and religious minorities along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people" April 8, 2011
The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises. U.S. Department of State, January 2011
Major US Government Statements
A select list of major statements with policy value.
Latest US Government Statements
The most recent statements in reverse chronological order.
- The Honorable Steve Chabot,
- The Honorable Jeffrey D. Feltman and the Honorable Michael H. Posner,Source: U.S. House, Foreign Affairs, July 27, 2011.
July 12, 2011 | 10 AM Human Rights in Syria Source: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. House.Trafficking in Persons Report 2011. Source: U.S. Dept of State, June 27, 2011. Country Narrative: Belgium-06/26/11 Promoting Global Internet Freedom: Policy and Technology Source: CRS Report for Congress.Best Practices and Next Steps: A New Decade in the Fight Against Human TraffickingSubcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human RightsTestimony:
- The Honorable Luis CdeBaca,
- Ms. Deborah Cundy,
- Ms. Chai Ling,
- Ms. Nancy Rivard,
- Mr. Philip Kowalcyzk,
- Mr. Kevin Bales,
- Mr. David Abramowitz
Source: U.S. House, Foreign Affairs Committee, June 13, 2011Prioritizing International Religious Freedom in U.S. Foreign PolicySubcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human RightsTestimony:
Source: U.S. House, Foreign Affairs Committee, June 3, 2011Religious Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights in Asia: Status of Implementation of the Tibetan Policy Act, Block Burmese JADE Act, and North Korean Human Rights ActFull CommitteeTestimony:
- Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
- The Honorable Robert King,
- The Honorable Daniel B. Baer,
- The Honorable Joseph Y. Yun,
- Mr. Richard Gere,
- Mr. Chuck Downs,
- Mr. Aung Din,
- Ms. Sophie Richardson
Source: U.S. House, Foreign Affairs Committee, June 2, 2011May 13, 2011 | 10 AM Human Rights in Bahrain Source: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. House. Combating Human Trafficking in Asia Source: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 7, 2011.
Unfreezing the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict? Evaluating Peacemaking Efforts under the Obama Administration. Thomas Ambrosio, Ethnopolitics, March 2011, pp. 93-114. "Barack Obama came into office identifying a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a priority of his presidency. Since the mid-1990s, international mediation had not yielded any substantive progress on bringing Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to a deal. It was hoped that the new administration would change this dynamic. However, with the passage of 2 years, the pattern that has emerged is one of continuity with previous approaches. Despite the brief opening with the proposed rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia, American policy is unlikely to produce a breakthrough to 'unfreeze' this 'frozen' conflict." READ MORE
Ethnopolitical Conflict: When is it Right to Intervene? Gareth Evans, Ethnopolitics, March 2011, pp. 115-123. "Of all the internal conflicts and mass atrocity crimes of recent decades that have exercised the world's conscience, and generated intense debate about when it is right for others to intervene in them in some way or another, most have had an ethnopolitical character in whole or in part. Certainly not all such conflicts or crimes have their roots in grievance, fear or ambition based on ethnicity, race, nationality or religion—or whatever else can be broadly described as ethnopolitical factors. The Cambodian slaughter, for example, was ideology and class-based, inflicted by the Khmer Rouge on compatriots of exactly the same nationality, ethnicity, race and religion; but getting our response to these kinds of cases right is at the heart of the ongoing policy debate about intervention." READ MORE
Peacebuilding: Can it stabilize countries after the fighting stops? Jina Moore, CQ Global Researcher, June 21, 2011, pp. 291-314. "Peacebuilding is the international community's newest approach to ending cycles of conflict in hot spots around the world. It recognizes that even if conflict has officially ended, the risk of violence often remains ever-present. In fact, roughly 40 percent of post-conflict countries have faced renewed violence within a decade. Peacebuilding tries to improve the prospect for lasting peace by helping to stabilize societies, strengthen institutions and reinforce governments. Since 2005, the United Nations has spent $250 million on peacebuilding projects in 19 countries — most of them in Africa but also in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan. But does this approach work, and can it be replicated in countries with drastically different histories and cultures? Is a democratic society a prerequisite for lasting peace? Critics of peacebuilding say it will take more than a new philosophy to fix the world's most fragile states. Proponents say it is the best attempt yet at dealing with the aftermath of conflict." READ MORE
On Humanitarianism. Michael Walzer, Foreign Affairs, July/August, var. pages. "Is international humanitarianism an act of charity or an act of duty? In fact, it is both -- a gift we have to give. Stateless Jews in the Diaspora developed a good conceptual framework for handling such two-in-one moral obligations, one that can be used to think clearly about humanitarianism in international society today." READ MORE
U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors. James Glanz and John Markoff, New York Times, April 13, 2011, var. pages. "The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy 'shadow' Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks. The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype 'Internet in a suitcase.'" READ MORE
Hillary Clinton: Chinese System Is Doomed, Leaders on a 'Fool's Errand.' Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, May 10, 2011, var. pages. In an exclusive interview, the secretary of state says Beijing's human rights record is "deplorable" and it is "trying to stop history" by opposing the advance of democracy. READ MORE
Human Rights and Mass Atrocities: Revisiting Transitional Justice. David P. Forsythe, International Studies Review, March 2011, pp. 85–95. "When gross violations of human rights occur in the form of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, if the United Nations era is really the age of human rights (Henkin 1996), the primary objective should be to stop them in the short run by (i) the diplomacy of conflict resolution and, if necessary, (ii) humanitarian intervention under the “the responsibility to protect.” These processes are covered in other essays in this volume. Here, I address what to do after the fact. The attempt to establish some kind principled justice after atrocities is usually known as transitional justice." READ MORE
Gay Rights: Has the Movement's success sparked a backlash? Reed Karaim, CQ Global Researcher, March 1, 2011, pp. 107-132. "By some measures, the last 10 years could be considered the “Gay Rights” decade, with countries around the world addressing concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community. Beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, gay marriage metamorphosed almost overnight from a largely ridiculed notion to a legal reality in at least 10 countries. Sixteen other nations recognized same-sex civil unions. Nevertheless, homosexual acts remain illegal in most of Africa and the Muslim world, with severe penalties for anyone found guilty of the crime. If Uganda approves a proposal to criminalize repeated homosexual activity, it will join the five other countries (and parts of Somalia and Nigeria) where homosexual activity is punishable by death. In Russia and other Eastern European countries, gay and lesbian 'pride parades' have sometimes met with violent responses, leading some observers to believe a backlash against rapid gay and lesbian advances may be developing in parts of the world." READ MORE
Honor Killings: Can murders of women and girls be stopped? Robert Kiener, CQ Global Researcher, April 19, 2011, pp. 183-208. "Each week brings horrific new headlines stating that, somewhere around the world, a woman or girl has been killed by a male relative for allegedly bringing dishonor upon her family. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, 'In the name of preserving family 'honor,' women and girls are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered and knifed to death with horrifying regularity.' Between 5,000 and 20,000 so-called honor killings are committed each year, based on long-held beliefs that any female who commits — or is suspected of committing — an “immoral” act should be killed to 'restore honor' to her family. Honor killings are deeply rooted in ancient patriarchal and fundamentalist traditions, which some judicial systems legitimize by pardoning offenders or handing out light sentences. Human-rights organizations are demanding that governments and the international community act more forcefully to stop honor killings, but officials in some countries are doing little to protect women and girls within their borders." READ MORE