BY Advocate.com Editors
December 14 2009 4:30 PM ET
And we will hold governments accountable for their actions as we have by terminating Millennium Challenge Corporation grants this year for Madagascar and Niger in the wake of government actions.
As the President said last week, “we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.”
We are also working for positive change within multi-lateral institutions. They are valuable tools that, when at their best, leverage the efforts of many countries around a common purpose. So we have re-joined the UN Human Rights Council, not because we don’t see its flaws, but because we think that participating gives us the best chance to be a constructive influence.
In our first session, we co-sponsored the successful resolution on Freedom of Expression, a forceful declaration of principle at a time when that freedom is jeopardized by new efforts to constrain religious practice, including recently in Switzerland, and by efforts to criminalize the defamation of religion—a false solution which exchanges one wrong for another.
And in the UN Security Council, I chaired the September session where we passed a resolution mandating protections against sexual violence in armed conflict.
Principled pragmatism informs our approach on human rights with key countries like China and Russia. Cooperation with each is critical to the health of the global economy and the non proliferation agenda, to managing security issues like North Korea and Iran, and to addressing world problems like climate change.
The United States seeks positive relationships with China and Russia. That means candid discussions of divergent views. In China we call for protection of rights of minorities in Tibet and Xinxiang; for the rights to express oneself and worship freely; and for civil society and religious organizations to advocate their positions within a framework of the rule of law. And we believe that those who advocate peacefully for reform within the constitution, such as Charter 2008 signatories, should not be persecuted.
With Russia we deplore the murders of journalists and activists and support the courageous individuals who advocate at great peril for democracy.
With China, Russia, and others, we are engaging on issues of mutual interest while also engaging societal actors in these same countries who are working to advance human rights and democracy. The assumption that we must either pursue human rights or our “national interests” is wrong. The assumption that only coercion and isolation are effective tools for advancing democratic change is also wrong.
Across our diplomacy and development efforts, we also keep striving for innovative new ways to achieve results. That’s why I commissioned the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, to develop a forward-looking strategy built on analysis of our objectives, our challenges, our tools, and our capacities to achieve America’s foreign policy and national security objectives. And make no mistake, issues of Democracy and Governance—D&G as they call it at USAID—are central to this review.
The third element of our approach is that we support change driven by citizens and their communities. The project of making human rights a human reality cannot be just a project for governments. It requires cooperation among individuals and organizations—within communities and across borders—who are committed to securing lives of dignity for all who share the bonds of humanity.