Advancing Human Rights Vital to U.S. National Interests

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks with participants of the Lower Mekong Initiative Women's event in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on July 13, 2012. [State Department photo by Paul Watzlavick/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Michael Posner serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

As we start the New Year, I want to reflect on four events that took place in the last few months of 2012 that illustrate how the Obama Administration’s human rights policies are achieving concrete results. 

• In November, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Burma. This visit was the culmination of 18 months of active diplomatic efforts between the United States and Burma focused significantly on political and economic reform and the protection of human rights. During the President’s visit, the Burmese government announced a series of important human rights commitments, including access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to prisons and conflict areas, the opening of… more »

Celebrating Human Rights Day

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer addresses the Human Rights Council Urgent Debate on Syria in Geneva, February 28, 2012. [U.S. Mission Geneva/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Michael Posner serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Sixty-four years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the world came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the UDHR, the United States and governments from around the globe recognized that human beings are, by virtue of their birth, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that these serve as “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Today, we affirm this commitment and look to the Universal Declaration not just as a reminder of values, but as a guide for action.

Last Thursday in Dublin, Secretary Clinton emphasized the important role that human rights has played and will continue to play in our foreign policy. As she said,… more »

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner delivers remarks at the 17th U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 25, 2012. [Go to http://video.state.gov for more video and text transcript]

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner discusses the 2011 Human Rights Report on LiveAtState at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 2012. [Go to http://video.state.gov for more video and text transcript.]

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner responds to your questions live in a Facebook chat on May 25, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner responds to your questions live in a Facebook chat on May 25, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner release the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. on May 24, 2012. [Go to http://video.state.gov for more video and text transcript.]

The 2011 Human Rights Reports: Recording a Year of Transition

Watch for a video replay and text transcript of the 2011 Human Rights Report rollout on state.gov May 24, 2012. [State Department image]

About the Author: Michael H. Posner serves as Assistant Secretary of State forDemocracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Since 1977, the State Department has produced the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Congress mandated these reports to establish the facts to inform their decisions on foreign military and economic aid. Today, governments, intergovernmental organizations, scholars, journalists, activists, and others rely on these reports as an essential update on human rights conditions around the world.

The 2011 reports describe the citizen uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, in which people stood up and demanded their universal rights, dignity, greater economic opportunity, and participation in their countries’ political future. In this turmoil, thousands were killed across Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria and many others were abused by security forces. The images of demonstrators who had seemingly lost all fear, risking their lives… more »