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"It is important that we never forget that our values and our interests are one and the same. Promoting democracies that participate in this new global marketplace is the right thing to do. They advance what all people want and often fight and die for: human dignity, security and prosperity. We know these democracies are less likely to go to war, less likely to traffic in terrorism, more likely to stand against the forces of hatred and intolerance and organized destruction."

President Clinton
Freedom House Speech
October 6, 1995

President Clinton has made promoting democracy and human rights abroad central to the foreign policy objectives of his Administration. Promoting democracy and human rights not only reflects America's ideals, but also reinforces U.S. interests: it preserves our security by reducing the likelihood of war and enhances our prosperity by making better trading partners. Every country that protects human rights is a potential ally in the struggle against the forces of hatred and intolerance -- whether those forces take the shape of countries that pursue terrorism, ethnic and religious hatreds or terrorists trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. President Clinton's leadership has contributed to the remarkable spread of democracy and human rights over the past decade that has freed many millions from tyranny and repression.


Advancing Democracy Worldwide

  • Worked with partners in the Organization of American States to reinforce the great strides toward democracy made in our hemisphere where every country but one - Cuba - is democratic. Through the Regional Democracy Fund, supported a wide variety of programs in the Americas designed to strengthen the institutional underpinnings of democracy including the promotion of rule of law, independent judiciaries, free press, human rights, civil society and women's rights.

  • Promoted free and fair elections throughout the hemisphere, by offering support to both electoral processes and international observation delegations. Rallied the hemisphere to stop an April 1996 coup attempt in Paraguay and to restore constitutional order in Ecuador in January 2000 through the accession of the Vice President.
  • Assembled an international coalition to restore the elected Government of Haiti to power and assisted the first transition from one democratically-elected President to another in the country's 200-year history. Provided a sustained support for Haitian democracy and commitment to promoting protection of human rights.
  • Led the effort to produce the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and follow-on efforts to provide the Bosnian people a chance to hold free elections and to start building democratic institutions.
  • Led a successful multilateral effort to reverse "ethnic cleansing" and permit the return of thousands of ethnic Albanians to Kosovo.
  • Helped bring about a peaceful and democratic transition in Serbia by isolating Slobodan Milosevic through diplomatic and economic sanctions and supporting the democratic forces in the FRY.
  • Contributed substantial resources to build democratic institutions and to strengthen political participation throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.· Pressed consistently for democratic transformations and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Indonesia. These efforts will continue throughout East Timor's transition to democracy. Provided strong support and assistance to South Africa's efforts to build an equitable, multicultural democracy with its first government chosen through free and fair elections.
  • Provided critical assistance to Nigeria - Africa's largest, newest democracy - as it works to complete its historic democratic transformation.
  • Supported the transition from conflict to peace and disarmament in Mozambique in 1993-94; assisted that country to have free and fair elections in 1994 and 1999; supported the development and expansion of Mozambique's post-war economy; and assisted Mozambique to manage and recover from a devastating flood disaster in 2000.
  • Took steps to pressure authoritarian governments while aiding democracy's advocates in countries such as Burma, Cuba, Iraq and Sudan.
  • Devoted some $700 million per year to democracy assistance and human rights programs implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as more than $30 million for the National Endowment for Democracy and other publicly-supported efforts to promote human rights and democracy activities overseas.
  • Succeeded in winning passage of the "Right to Democracy" resolution at the 1999 United Nations Human Rights Commission. Joined Poland to convene the June 2000 Community of Democracies ministerial meeting in Warsaw in an effort to forge a global community of democratic countries that will work together to promote and strengthen democratic institutions.

Promoting Human Rights Abroad

  • Continued to press vigorously for progress on prisoner releases, political rights, religious freedom and the rule of law in China. Secured China's signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October 1997 and October 1998.
  • Sponsored and co-sponsored resolutions at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, calling on a number of countries, including China, Cuba, Russia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, to improve their human rights practices.

  • Increased and improved human rights reporting and advocacy through a variety of steps including the expansion of the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
  • Led the international effort to create the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
  • Created the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in December 1998, and annually bestowed the awards to honor distinguished Americans who have made meritorious contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights within the United States or around the world.
  • Issued an Executive Order on December 10, 1998 that strengthened our efforts to implement human rights treaties and created an Administration working group to coordinate these efforts.
  • Signed into law the Torture Victims Relief Act in 1998, which authorizes significant increases in the money spent on treatment of torture victims. In particular, the Clinton Administration has increased substantially the U.S. annual contribution to the U.N. Voluntary Fund for Torture Victims.

Bringing War Criminals to Justice

  • Led the effort to establish the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to hold accountable those guilty of war crimes. The United States provides over $30 million annually in financial support for these bodies.
  • Sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1315 authorizing the establishment of a special independent court to bring to justice those who bear the greatest responsibility for systematic and egregious criminal violations in Sierra Leone.
  • Established in 1998 an early warning system to focus intelligence resources on and alert policy makers to situations that could potentially lead to genocide or mass atrocities.
  • Supporting Labor Rights and Combating Child Labor and Trafficking in Women
  • Developing with corporations and non-governmental organizations, through the "No Sweat" initiative, voluntary ethical codes of conduct to prevent the importation of products made by child labor, to end sweatshop conditions both in the United States and abroad, and to ensure that women and children enjoy the basic rights they have been denied in so many parts of the world.
  • Worked to combat child labor by contributing $30 million annually to the International Labor Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor.
  • Helped to secure adoption of two landmark conventions dealing with children's rights: the International Labor Organization Convention Concerning the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Combat. Signed and ratified the ILO Convention in December 1999.
  • Directed, in a March 1998 Executive Memorandum, the Interagency Council on Women to coordinate the United States Government response to trafficking in women and children. The Administration's efforts focus on prevention, protection of and assistance to victims and prosecution of traffickers.
  • Secured bipartisan support for legislation, signed into law in October, 2000, that provides new tools in the fight against trafficking in persons, including stronger criminal laws, improved protections and assistance for victims in the United States, increased U.S. assistance to other countries to help them detect and punish traffickers and help victims, and sanctions for any countries that refuse to take steps to end trafficking in women and children.
  • Proposed, negotiated and signed a U.N. protocol to combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which, for the first time, will require countries to criminalize trafficking and will provide a framework for enhanced protection of and assistance to victims.

Assisting Refugees

  • Reformed the asylum adjudication process, which has resulted in more expeditious granting of meritorious claims and fewer fraudulent ones.
  • Advocated immigration legislation that addressed the circumstances of asylum seekers with longstanding ties to the United States from Central America (Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act, enacted in 1997) and Haiti (Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, enacted in 1998).
  • Issued new guidelines for the adjudication of asylum claims by women and children in the United States and adopted comprehensive procedures to ensure that persons are not returned to torture.
  • Enhanced the rescue component of our refugee resettlement program, including increased resettlement efforts for refugees from Africa and the Near East.

Promoting Religious Freedom

  • Created the first-ever Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad and directed the expanded coverage of religious freedom in the State Department's annual human rights report.
  • Signed the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, codifying into law many of the additional steps his Administration has taken to make religious freedom abroad an important part of our foreign policy, including the appointment Dr. Robert Seiple as the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
  • Issued the first ever Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, a 1,100 page document covering the status of religious freedom in 194 countries.
  • Designated and sanctioned Afghanistan (Taliban regime), Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and the Milosevic regime in Serbia as countries of particular concern for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.


Remarks by the President at Moscow State University, May 10, 1995.

Remarks by the President at Freedom House Speech, October 6, 1995.

Remarks by the President on Human Rights Day, December 10, 1996.

Fact Sheet: "U.S. Efforts to Promote Human Rights and Democracy," December 9, 1997.

Remarks by the President to Religious Leaders, June 18, 1998.

Press Availability by President Clinton and President Jiang (People's Republic of China), June 27, 1998.

Remarks by the President at Human Rights Day/Eleanor Roosevelt Award Ceremony, December 10, 1998.

Remarks by the President at Signing of ILO Convention #182,The Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, December 2, 1999.

Remarks by the President at Human Rights Day/Eleanor Roosevelt Award Ceremony, December 6, 1999.

Remarks by the President at Human Rights Day/Eleanor Roosevelt Award Ceremony, December 6, 2000.

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