Making Human Rights a Human Reality

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
December 17, 2009

About the Authors: Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs and Michael Posner serves as Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

In the world of U.S. foreign policy, it has been a big week for human rights. In Oslo, President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize saying, “Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can be truly lasting.” And on Monday, Secretary Clinton delivered a strong affirmation of the United States’ dedication to “making human rights a human reality,” using the complementary pillars of human rights, democracy, and development.

The Secretary’s speech shed light on several ways in which the United States is advancing the “human rights agenda for the 21st century.”

Engaging for results— Secretary Clinton made it clear that the United States is not engaging bi-laterally and multilaterally with the sole aim of “making nice.” Even in our most difficult relationships, engagement is a way to demonstrate our willingness to make progress and gain a better understanding of the incentives and pressures that affect our negotiating partners’ positions.

Strength and success based on truth and fact— Our commitment to human rights is universal, as is our commitment to truth and accountability. This means not only critiquing the shortcomings of others, but doing so with the confidence that we are holding ourselves to the same standards. A commitment to truth also means that U.S. policy, like our democracy programs, is founded on facts and experience, not conjecture or ideology. Our lessons from the past inform our understanding of the linkages between democracy, development, and human rights.

Leveraging two track efforts— The United States is engaging both governments and civil society. We have challenging relations with some governments, but we share common cause and purpose with all people. As we pursue full scale diplomacy in our bilateral relationships, we know that support for civil society organizations is crucial to long-term progress.

Global scope, global partners— Our human rights efforts will be focused and strategic. But, a universal commitment should not apply in selected times and places. So we will devote attention to those places that present the most daunting and discouraging human rights challenges. Meanwhile, we will sustain efforts to secure long-term gains around the world, preventing backsliding where progress has been made.

After the Secretary concluded her formal remarks at Georgetown University on Monday, students were invited to ask questions. A young woman asked about the role of artists in advancing human rights. The Secretary’s answer reminds us of the human potential that drives our commitment:

"[A]rtists can bright to light in a gripping, dramatic way some of the challenges we face… I think that artists both individually and through their works can illustrate better than any speech I can give or any government policy we can promulgate that the spirit that lives within each of us, the right to think and dream and expand our boundaries, is not confined, no matter how hard they try, by any regime anywhere in the world. There is no way that you can deprive people from feeling those stirrings inside their soul. And artists can give voice to that. They can give shape and movement to it. And it is so important in places where people feel forgotten and marginalized and depressed and hopeless to have that glimmer that there is a better future, that there is a better way that they just have to hold onto."



Kathryn M.
Alabama, USA
December 17, 2009

Kathryn M. in Alabama writes:

Good morning! I have searched your page and not found any other method of contacting individually. I would like to ask why our country is still participating in the Copenhagen Summit following the speaches given lambasting our way of life and the standing ovation they received. If other countries find our capitalism so awful, they should be utilizing THEIR methods of gaining income to cover their needs. I understand the health needs of truly under-developed countries need to be met, but I'll be darned if I understand why we are still participating in something where the other participants can't stand our way of life and relish in stating that publically. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

Best regards

Tennessee, USA
December 18, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

While I agree, unless you have felt the sting of hypocrisy from minority inequality, fiscal inequality here to the actuality of Religious persecution which still exists, I do understand why many people and countries feel as they do.

Without doubt we are the best country to reside in, rich or poor; but, the examples set from the base of what we represent are often the difference we do not understand. It is the starting points which represent example. Any premise needs a starting point: If you were a communist country and now have some freedom of speech, you have moved up the scale considerably more than an American minority or person on the streets who has lost their job and home in an established society of Democratic representation…that is what hurts America, not our government, not our leaders, but our example. Just open any major paper in America, what do you see?

Business as practiced in America the last two decades is the largest single detriment to our good nature. Our banking system is supposed to operate on Trust. A violation of trust took place which has singlehandedly hurt all countries which depend on monetary circulation and lending by fair practice. This has provided to a great extent for the tangential negative views of the American Way of Life now seen worldwide.

America still sets the example of freedom and capitalism, but now has to find methods to put a playing field back together for all our people in house yet still maintain a strong presence of protection for democracy out of our borders. It is quite an undertaking…and pray God provides our leadership with the answers so needed at this point of our Great History.

The world has changed considerably and many of our old allies no longer need our fiscal or military aid. Some have moved to other agreements with countries which once were their enemies, but provide are more economically valid to their situation as stands today.

You are correct, Americans care more , so more, have more freedoms, but it is all premised on a SOUND FOUNDATION, not what exist presently…and what we all forget is that much of the world was at our junction a decade ago and it was America who helped many through their fiscal problems.

Insecurity breeds hasty conclusions…

by the way: While past due, happy Chanukah

New York, USA
December 22, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

The U.S. should be the standard-bearer on Human Rights around the world. Clearly, our nation was born of a desire for economic, religious and social freedoms. Extending those freedoms and rights globally, strenthens our national enjoyment of them. The goal for America is to feel at home all over the world, and visitors to U.S. should feel safe and welcome as well.

New York, USA
December 22, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Human Rights for All... Bring back the USIA...export the best of American culture...the world is hungry for our Art, Music, Theatre, Film, Poetry, Literature...and Food!

December 22, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- You know how much I respect you! Sometimes, though, you “bring the disaster”. You describe a “dead” America. U.S.A. is always (and will remain) alive!

Do you watch what happens to Europe? Worst!

Let’s become positive!

Ron N.
New York, USA
December 30, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Connect the Dots for Human Rights......

Can't resist calling our attention to Human Rights as a function of Human Security. Look at the Somali Pirates; extending their reach off the Gulf of Aden (Yemen)...So, connect the dots...Pirates take ships;sell cargo;fund terror; and the result is a mega-violation of Human Rights via destabilizing Human Security.


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