Voice of America
May 30, 2011
The promotion and safe-guarding of human rights is a top priority of the Obama Administration, said U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero at a recent Human Rights Conference in Washington. “Early on in the Administration, the President and Secretary Clinton set a new course for our human rights agenda—one that emphasizes partnership and mutual respect,” she said.
The Obama Administration is promoting human rights around the world in three ways, said Under Secretary Otero. First, the United States is elevating human rights through increased engagement with Muslim communities worldwide. “Under the Obama Administration, we have seen a shift in dialogue towards mutuality and partnership. We have challenged discrimination and intolerance toward Muslims, and fought to protect their, religious freedom, both at home and abroad,” said Under Secretary Otero.
Second, the United Sates strongly supports civil society around the world. This includes vulnerable or marginalized groups such as women, non-heterosexual individuals, disabled persons, and religious minorities. “Our engagement with civil society addresses the growing trend in many regions where we see crackdown and isolation of civil society organizations,” said Under Secretary Otero.
The U.S. is establishing a Lifeline fund which will provide emergency assistance to embattled local Non Governmental Organizations.
Through this fund, international NGOs will work with local NGOs to fight back against repressive operating environments.
And third, the U.S. has increased its engagement on important human rights issues by working with multi-national partners and organizations, and strengthening its partnerships with emerging democracies around the globe. We joined the United Nations Human Rights Council. We have led an effort to create the first-ever UN Special Rapporteur to protect Freedom of Assembly and Association, and expanded our multilateral engagement as a tool for promoting and protecting human rights.
“We continue to challenge the antiquated standards and laws of society that allow for the erosion of basic human rights,” said Under Secretary Otero, “because no free society can thrive when its government or people repress those with the least power and influence.”
As President Barack Obama said in Brazil in March: “When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place.”