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December 9, 1997: Human Rights Declaration

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Human Rights Declaration

Advancing human rights is -- and must always be a central pillar of America's foreign policy. I'm proud of what we've achieved over the last five years, but acutely aware that more remains to be done.

President Clinton,
December 9, 1997

President Clinton Launches 50th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration

In launching the 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, President Clinton honored the United States' commitment to human rights and issued a call to action. Tomorrow, First Lady Hillary Clinton will provide the keynote address at the United Nations' celebration commemorating the signing of the Human Rights Declaration. These appearances build on President Clinton's work to promote human rights and democracy both at home and abroad.

50 Years Ago, United Nations Signed Human Rights Declaration
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The document's 30 articles outline freedoms which ought to be shared by all people in all countries.

President Clinton Promotes Human Rights Abroad
Under President Clinton, the United States has led international efforts to put an end to the most egregious abuses and continues to provide vital support to build democratic institutions in Haiti, Bosnia and other countries. The United States is promoting conflict resolution, human rights monitoring, accountability and building institutions of justice in Central Africa. In China, the U.S. continues to press vigorously for progress on prisoner releases, religious freedom and the rule of law. And throughout Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, the United States is contributing substantial resources to build successful democratic transitions.

President Clinton Makes Human Rights A Priority With U.S. Government

    Funding and Programs: Under Bill Clinton, the United States has devoted some $400 million per year to democracy assistance and human rights programs implemented by the Agency for International Development (AID), as well as more than $40 million for the National Endowment for Democracy and other publicly supported efforts to support human rights and democracy activities overseas. The United States Information Agency (USIA) also works to strengthen the culture of democracy worldwide, both as a contributor to the free flow of information and ideas and by activities designed to sustain the democratic dialogue across national boundaries. USIA spends more than $100 million per year on democracy and human rights promotion programs.

    Increased reporting and advocacy: We have expanded our annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, and have substantially increased our reporting and advocacy on religious freedom issues. Last year, the Administration established an Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, which has helped already to raise the prominence and the profile of this critical issue.

    Support for Democratic Transitions: Through a wide range of programs, AID has promoted peaceful democratic transitions for example, through support of training and exchange programs for the new Palestinian National Council; independent judiciary and professional law enforcement authorities in Central Africa; and a free media in Bosnia. Many of these projects are funded through the AID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), established by the Clinton Administration in 1993. We intend to expand OTI efforts over the next two years.

    Support for Local Non-Government Organizations: From the Commission on Protection of Women and Children in Mali, to the Kiev Press Club in Ukraine, to the Legal Assistance Centers of Namibia, we are keeping faith with those who share a commitment to human rights and are working to promote those values within their own societies.

    Supporting Accountability: Through our support for truth commissions in Guatemala, El Salvador and South Africa, we promote the accountability and justice that is proving so necessary for political reconciliation in post-conflict societies.

    Supporting the rights of the disenfranchised: Through our "No Sweat" initiative, the Administration, corporations and NGOs are developing voluntary ethical codes of conduct to prevent the importation of products made by child labor, to end sweatshop conditions both in the U.S. and abroad, and to ensure that women and children share equally the basic rights they have been denied in so many parts of the world.

    U.S. Practices Domestically What It Preaches Abroad: In order to provide real leadership on the issue of Human Rights, President Clinton recognized that the United States must be willing to take on the same responsibilities that we ask of other nations. Therefore, as the U.S. has urged other governments to provide assistance and protection to refugees, so to the United States has maintained its commitment as the world's leader in refugee resettlement. It is expected that the U.S. will increase our resettlement of Bosnians from 22,000 this year to as many as 26,000 next year. The U.S. has also taken measures to provide long-term relief for Central Americans who fled here as refugees; and we took quick action to rescue some 6500 Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq last year.

President Clinton Supports International Human Rights Institutions:
    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR): We led the effort to create the new Office of the UNHCHR, and have provided critical support, such as for human rights monitoring programs in Rwanda, Burundi, and Cambodia, and for assistance to victims of torture around the world. In 1997, we provided UNHCHR with $4 million and we will increase our support next year.

    International Tribunals: We are the leading supporter of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, providing both financial and personnel support. In 1998, we will increase our support for the tribunals.

    Permanent Court: In 1995, President Clinton announced U.S. support for a Permanent International Criminal Court, and we are committed to the establishment of a Court with broad-based support before the end of the Century.

    Treaties: We have moved forward on several international human rights treaties, including the Convention Against Torture (implementing legislation enacted in 1994), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism (ratified in 1994), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Administration's consent package submitted to the Senate in 1994 and still pending there), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (signed in 1995). President Clinton Committed to Permanent International Criminal Court: In 1995, President Clinton announced U.S. support for a Permanent International Criminal Court. The President is committed to the establishment of this Court with broad-based support before the end of the century.

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