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U.S. Urges States to Honor Their Obligations under the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights
September 27, 2011

Agenda Item 8, General Statement
Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

UN Human Rights Council, 18th session
Geneva, September 2011



Thank you, Madame President.

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA) reaffirms the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms to which the United States and other members of this Council are committed.  As the VDPA states, “Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.”

As we have witnessed the dramatic events unfolding in parts of North Africa and the Middle East, we again call upon governments to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests – thus honoring obligations that are clearly reaffirmed as universal in the VDPA.  We are deeply troubled by the continued use of violence by some governments to quash universal rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  We strongly condemn brutal methods of silencing dissent, which include shooting unarmed peaceful demonstrators and the use of torture.  We encourage all states to renew their commitments to upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.

Madame President.  The VDPA confirms that “Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.”  Accordingly, we ask Council members to consider ways we can work together constructively and make the right to development a uniting, rather than divisive, issue on the international human rights agenda.  Earlier in this session, we summarized our concerns about this issue.  Among them, as an initial matter, theoretical work is needed to define the right to development and in particular to explain how it is a human right, i.e., a universal right that every individual possesses and may demand from his or her own government.  While we are committed to international development both in words and action, we have significant concerns about some understandings and interpretations of the “right to development.”  We look forward to working collaboratively to clarify the issue in order to move forward.

Madame President, the United States remains firmly committed to ensuring that the human rights of all persons are protected, as articulated in the VDPA and elsewhere.  We know that the danger is particularly acute for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons, whose very existence along with their full exercise and enjoyment of human rights is denied by some governments.

During its last session, this body took bold, assertive action to highlight violence and human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world, creating the first UN resolution solely focused on the human rights of LGBT persons.  The United States was proud to be part of an effort that enjoyed support from every UN geographic region.  We applaud the Council’s actions on this resolution, which will commission the first UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world and paves the way for sustained Council attention to LGBT issues in the future.  We look forward to a constructive, civil, and open dialogue at the upcoming panel discussion in March.

The United States will continue to work with others at this Council and elsewhere to identify opportunities for constructive dialogue and positive action to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights.

Thank you, Madame President.