Today, we release the State Department's 2009 Human Rights Reports. We are excited to have expanded the coverage in the 2009 reports to include:
• New reports on countries' prison conditions;
• Workers' rights;
• Countries' initiatives to expand press freedom and their results;
• Broader coverage of child soldiers;
• Reproductive rights;
• Practices that threaten the health, well-being, or livelihoods of indigenous persons;
• Expanded coverage of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons; and
• A new section on “Other Societal Discrimination” covering persons with HIV/AIDS.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor within the State Department is one of many groups, to include nongovernmental organizations that produce annual country reports on the status of human rights. However, the scope of both countries and issues that the State Department's reports are able to cover is what makes them unique. We report on 194 countries in the world. The reports are comprehensive, they're detailed, and they have the advantage of the United States government, its diplomats, and experts participating.
I encourage you to read the reports and utilize them as a resource as a voice for those whose human rights are often trampled and abused. You will see that 2009 was a year of contrasts. It was a year in which ethnic, racial, and religious tensions led to violent conflicts and serious human rights violations and fueled or exacerbated more than 30 wars or internal armed conflicts. At the same time, it was a year in which the United States and other governments devoted greater attention to finding ways to acknowledge and combat these underlying tensions through showing leadership in advancing respect for universal human rights, promoting tolerance, combating violent extremism, and pursuing peaceful solutions to long-standing conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. These reports are only beneficial and serving those whose stories we share if the reports are read. My request of you is to please read the reports and join us in bringing attention to the status of human rights across the globe.