"Defending the Defenders"
The United States maintains its strong commitment to support those courageous individuals who are fighting for freedom and liberty around the world.
In commemoration of President Bush's proclamation of December 10 as Human Rights Day and in recognition of Human Rights Week, today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced three new initiatives advancing U.S. Government efforts on democracy and human rights, and responding to a global trend of government crackdowns on non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders.
1) Human Rights Defenders Fund
In countries where tyranny persists, and even in states with some semblance of democratic institutions, human rights defenders are frequently put in jeopardy by the nature of their work. They are harassed, physically threatened or harmed, and many times detained and imprisoned. The creation of a global Human Rights Defenders Fund will enable the U.S. government to respond to human rights defenders' emergency needs quickly by providing assistance to activists who are facing extraordinary financial, legal or medical needs as a result of government repression. The Fund will begin with $1 million and will be replenished as needed.
2) NGO Principles
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are essential to ensuring government transparency and accountability. When NGOs are under siege, freedom and democracy are undermined. The U.S. Government is advancing 10 core NGO Principles which guide our own treatment of NGOs and which we urge other governments to respect. These principles will be an important tool for the U.S. and other governments in measuring governmental treatment of NGOs. The Principles distill and complement existing United Nations and European Union documents. We hope they will also be a useful tool for civil society groups and the media as they monitor the treatment of NGOs across the globe.
3) Freedom Awards
Beginning in December 2007, The Secretary of State will present two awards annually to recognize those striving to advance human dignity. The Freedom Defenders Award will be awarded to a foreign activist or NGO which has demonstrated outstanding commitment to advancing liberty and courage in the face of adversity. The Diplomacy for Freedom Award will honor the U.S. Ambassador who best advances the President's Freedom Agenda by working to end tyranny and promote democracy using the full array of political, economic, diplomatic, and other tools. The Ambassador will be recognized not only for individual achievement, but for his or her leadership in engaging the entire Embassy on implementing the Freedom Agenda.
In order to strengthen the impact of these three initiatives and other policies supporting those that work for freedom and liberty, the United States will take additional steps, including strengthening our partnership with other like-minded governments, to further strengthen and institutionalize the Freedom Agenda.