Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the
UN Human Rights Council
June 13, 2013
The United States enthusiastically welcomes the adoption by consensus today of the first UN resolution explicitly affirming the crucial role of freedom of opinion and expression in women’s empowerment. This statement by the global community strikes directly at historic and current attempts to limit the ability of women to exercise their full human rights, in this case freedom of opinion and expression. It is self-evident that men and women equally share the right to the freedoms of opinion and expression, and all rights, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The resolution underscores the important role of women journalists and women human rights defenders in the exercise and protection of freedom of expression, but also recognizes the very serious risks they face in undertaking this important work.
Freedom of opinion and expression are fundamental to democratic societies and to empowering citizens. This resolution places special emphasis on the need to ensure that women are empowered to express themselves and to interact fully with their societies and the global community. The resolution draws the attention of the international community to the critical importance of women’s political participation in all aspects of society, including economic growth and the eradication of poverty, in the achievement of peace and security, and in all stages of political transition. Time and again we have seen that when women can express themselves freely and without fear, society benefits with greater economic prosperity, innovation, ethnic and religious harmony, transparency and accountability.
Freedom of expression is inextricably linked to other freedoms we consider essential, including the freedom of religion and belief, the freedom of assembly, and internet freedom. Freedom of expression allows us to engage in informed discourse on important issues before us in our own nations, and also allows us to work together to solve global challenges. Freedom of expression is crucial to a healthy and well-functioning society, where government, individuals and civil society can engage in open debate free of the fear of persecution and retribution.
This resolution calls upon all governments to facilitate equal participation in, and access to, information and communication technology, such as the Internet, which has become central vehicles for freedom of expression as well as freedom of assembly and association. Freedom of expression is also crucial for reaping the benefits of the Internet, which has become a crucial space for innovative collaboration. To ensure that we properly harness the transformative power of the Internet, we must ensure that the universal human rights that governments are obligated to respect in the offline world are equally protected online.
The United States is proud to stand with its partners in clearly affirming the importance of freedom of opinion and expression for society at large, and in this case to reaffirm its importance for the empowerment of women.