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December 6, 1999

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"Human rights begin in small places close to home. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

President Bill Clinton quoting Eleanor Roosevelt
Monday, December 6, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton presented the second annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award to five distinguished US. citizens for their leadership in human rights. As part of his commemoration of Human Rights Day 1999 (December 10), the President announced new U.S. policy initiatives to address the circumstances of Afghans, especially women and girls, who have suffered serious human rights abuses at the hands of the Taliban.

Honoring Leadership in Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To honor her contribution, President Clinton established the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. Today, the President presented the Award to five U.S. citizens for their human rights leadership at home and abroad:

  • Charlotte Bunch, international women's rights activist instrumental in securing the inclusion of gender and sexual orientation on the global human rights agenda;
  • Delores Huerta, co-founder and leader of United Farm Workers of America and lifelong labor activist;
  • Burke Marshall, civil rights leader and former Assistant Attorney General during the Kennedy Administration;
  • Sister Jean Marshall, a Dominican nun who founded St. Rita's Immigrant and Refugee Center in the Bronx, providing services to victimized immigrants; and
  • Rev. Leon Sullivan, anti-apartheid activist and author of “Global Sullivan Principles” promoting corporate social responsibility worldwide.

Announcing New Support for Afghan Women. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian relief to victims of conflict in Afghanistan. President Clinton today announced new U.S. policy initiatives to further address the circumstances of Afghans, particularly women and girls, who have suffered human rights abuses under the Taliban:

  • Commitment of at least $2 million in fiscal year 2000 to support NGO education and health programs for Afghan women and girls who are refugees in Pakistan;
  • $1.5 million in emergency USAID assistance for Afghans inside Afghanistan who have been displaced by the recent Taliban offensive;
  • A significant increase in our resettlement of Afghan women who are in vulnerable circumstances; and
  • Establishment of an INS and NGO presence in Islamabad, Pakistan to ensure ready access to Afghan refugee women and girls who may be in need of rescue.

Commemorating Human Rights Day 1999. December 10 is Human Rights Day 1999, marking the 51st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration, issued by the United Nations General Assembly, affirms fundamental freedoms and human rights for all people. President Clinton called for continued commitment to the cause of human rights around the world, and specifically:

  • condemned the treatment of women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan;
  • called on Russia to consider the plight of innocent people in Chechnya in its fight against terrorism; and
  • expressed concern about the Chinese crackdown of the Falun Gong movement, calling on China to allow greater openness including freedom of conscience and association.

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December 1999

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