Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
Presidential elections scheduled for late 2009 or early 2010 offer specific opportunities to encourage progress toward democratization and respect for human rights. In May 2008 U.S. officials monitored legislative and municipal elections. The United States will continue to underline the need for electoral reforms, including the establishment of an independent national electoral commission, in discussions with the government prior to the upcoming presidential elections.
The U.S. Government directly engages top government officials, including the president, on the country’s human rights record. To highlight reforms needed to address the country’s human rights problems, U.S. officials have conducted occasional site visits to detention facilities and advocated for political prisoner releases. In the fall of 2008 the United States hosted visits by a U.S. official to conduct an assessment on democracy and human rights and an international democracy promotion organization. The United States also discussed with the government the advantages of rescheduling a visit from the UN special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of torture, originally planned at the beginning of 2008. Following these efforts the government reduced the number of political prisoners and invited the UN rapporteur to assess conditions in detention facilities. In addition, U.S. officials continue to urge the government to immediately address the deficiencies in the penal and judicial systems highlighted in November 2008 by the UN rapporteur on torture, and to allow unfettered monitoring of all its detention facilities. In addition, the United States continues to advocate for the establishment of formal mechanisms to support victims of trafficking in persons and to encourage active measures against traffickers.
To further the development of independent media and press freedom, the United States continues to encourage networking with international journalists' associations, distribute supporting materials, host workshops, and utilize public speaking opportunities to convey the importance of the media's role in building a democratic society. Members of the press are regularly invited to U.S. events that stress the democratic process. For example, the United States hosted journalists at a media event covering the November 2008 U.S. presidential election. To foster greater transparency, good governance, and the development of civil society, the United States continues to urge the government to adhere to its commitments to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a multinational civil society initiative designed to foster accountability in extractive industries and promote the freedom and development of civil society organizations. In addition, to assist the government’s efforts to improve its performance in key social sectors, the United States continues to provide technical assistance to the government to benefit the Social Development Fund, a bilateral effort (funded by the government) to improve delivery of social services in sectors such as education, health, and women’s affairs.
The United States continues to promote democracy and human rights though public diplomacy. For example, in 2008 the United States assisted with the printing and distribution of legal texts to improve public understanding of the law and its protections; sponsored performances of local theater groups to underscore the importance of respect for human rights; and supported a film festival focusing on human rights issues. The United States will continue to utilize event-driven opportunities such as press interviews, Martin Luther King Day, and the United States' Independence Day to underline the importance of and foster greater understanding of human rights and democracy.