Item 5 Statement: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law

Item 5 General Debate
Statement by the United States of America

Delivered by Jessica Carl

Human Rights Council, 34th Session

March 15, 2017

Thank you, Mr. President

The United States thanks the panel for their work and their reports.  We would like to focus on the forum on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Democracy and the rule of law are fundamental to the ability of individuals to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the exercise of these rights and freedoms can enhance the quality of democracy.

Democracy does not belong to any single region, and although the individual institutions or forms of democracy may vary, the underlying principles are the same everywhere.  Specifically, democracy is rooted in the will of the people, in respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, in peaceful problem-solving, and in the rule of law, all of which are conducive to building enduring prosperity and stability.  The data linking peace, justice, and good governance with sustainable development is overwhelming.

The United States has supported, and will continue to support, those around the world who struggle to fulfill their democratic aspirations.   We welcome this report’s conclusions that a robust, well-functioning civil society is essential to democracy and the rule of law.

We are alarmed, however, by the trend of governments adopting laws that constrain NGO registration and funding, thus restricting civil society.   Whether a country is deepening its commitment to democracy or navigating the challenges of a democratic transition, civil society must be strong and free to operate inclusively, empowering those voices that are sometimes excluded or marginalized.  We encourage all governments, especially those working to consolidate democratic institutions, rule of law, and respect for human rights, to find ways to strengthen civil society.

We would like to end by asking:

What are the current greatest global threats to democracy and what can we do to protect civic space from governments that are trying to restrict it?

Thank you.