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Item 3: General Debate
September 13, 2013

Item 3:  General Debate

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 24th Session

September 13, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.

It is with great pride that the United States once again lends its support to the resolution on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and we are pleased to join our cross-regional partners, including the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Mexico, and Nigeria, in introducing this resolution. Special rapporteur Maina Kiai has proved to be a strong, independent, and credible voice highlighting the need to protect these freedoms, while also promoting best practices and providing technical assistance to governments.  Adopting another resolution on this topic is important so the Council can maintain the important work of the special rapporteur and reaffirm a basic truth: civil society plays a pivotal role in promoting and protecting human rights, but can only do so when the universal rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are protected.  Democratic progress demands political participation through the exercise of the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.  We have seen time and time again the benefits that a vibrant civil society can inspire, including greater economic prosperity, societal innovation, and ethnic and religious harmony.  Governments that violate freedoms of peaceful assembly and association put their societies at risk of economic stagnation, poverty, inflamed ethnic, racial, or religious tensions, broad unrest and violence, and other serious problems.

Furthermore, the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association are inextricably linked to other fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.  Citizens must be free to come together to advocate for change, express support, address community needs, and, most importantly, remind governments that they derive their authority from the will of the governed.  Strong civil society also fosters transparent and accountable government.

Finally we have witnessed continued violations of freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, particularly when  governments restrict civil activism and attack civil society organizations with impunity.  These assaults frequently accompany periods of political turmoil or changes in power.  The voice of civil society, as a reflection of the will of the people, should be heard most clearly during these transition periods.  Unfortunately, it is during these times that freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association are most threatened.

Thank you, Mr. President.