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October 1, 2010

Donahoe at Press conferenceThe Human Rights Council voted September 30 to create the first-ever Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association to provide the special attention these fundamental freedoms currently lack.  Support for the resolution came from countries across the globe.  Below is the statement by the United States introducing the resolution.

Statement by the Delegation of the United States
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council, 15th Session
Geneva, September 30, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

It is a great honor to join in introducing the resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on behalf of the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Mexico and Nigeria and the United States– whose tireless efforts and support have made this initiative possible.

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are essential components of democracy and pillars of a thriving society. Civil society has played a central role in identifying and eradicating the injustices that have, throughout history, separated nations from the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Societies move forward when citizens are empowered to mobilize behind common interest and take joint action. Whether the goal is good government or lower crime, cleaner air or social justice, consumer protection or entrepreneurship and innovation, these freedoms allow individuals, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters to work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better. As Secretary Clinton said in her speech to the Community of Democracies, “progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions.”

The work of civic activists and pluralistic political discourse undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Consumer advocates, unions, and social organizations that look out for the needs of societies’ weakest members contribute to a broader struggle for human rights and human dignity. For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens. While there is no single recipe for improving the human rights situation worldwide, a common ingredient in bringing about positive change in every region of the world is the strong role of civil society.

As President Obama stated in New York “The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble; by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change; and by free media that held the powerful accountable. We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races.”

It therefore gives me great pleasure to see the United Nations Human Rights Council embrace the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and create a mechanism to provide the specific attention to these fundamental freedoms that are currently lacking from its special procedures. This resolution directly addresses this gap through the creation of the first-ever Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association. We are especially pleased that a broad group of countries from all regions of the globe have come together to acknowledge the importance of this right. This, in our view, is just the sort of action this Council was meant to take.

We would like to express our very great appreciation to the 60 co-sponsors for their support of this initiative.

The co-sponsors of this draft resolution have made a set of revisions to the tabled text. The new text has been circulated to all Missions, and the Secretariat is distributing hard copies of the revisions in the room. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all delegations for their contributions and cooperation. It is my hope that this important initiative will be adopted by consensus.

Thank you, Mr. President.