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Human Rights Council 11th Session – Agenda Item 8, General Statement
June 15, 2009

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Geneva, June 15, 2009

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action reaffirm the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms – confirming that the protection of the individual remains paramount. Among the most prominent accomplishments of the Declaration is the support it offers to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – support the United States strongly favors. The principles enshrined in the Vienna Declaration not only highlight the importance of the United Nations human rights machinery, but also underscore the importance of regional organizations and mechanisms as they strive to improve respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. These bodies give civil society, especially human rights defenders, an established and accepted channel to communicate human rights concerns to governments and encourage regional attention and cooperation on human rights issues and situations.

The United States also applauds the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action for its attention to the rights of women. Paragraph 39 of the Vienna Declaration called for “the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women, both hidden and overt.” Still, more than fifteen years after the Declaration’s adoption, discrimination remains a serious problem for half of the world’s population. Areas in which women are discriminated against include laws affecting marriage, divorce, property, inheritance, freedom of movement, education, employment, and political participation.

Eliminating discrimination against women is fundamental. Therefore, the United States strong supports the creation of a new mechanism devoted to equality before the law. We thank Colombia for delivering the “Cross Regional Joint Statement on Equality before the Law,” and would like to associate ourselves with that Statement. We believe that it is critical to eliminate not only de jure discrimination against women, but also de facto discrimination. As the cross-regional statement highlighted, there is a major gap in the current human rights machinery that affects women. A new mechanism could promote best practices across regions with similarities and advance States’ implementation of provisions providing for equality before the law. The United States looks forward to working with others on the Council towards a consensus resolution creating such a new mechanism at the September session.