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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Human Rights Commitments and Pledges


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Washington, DC
October 26, 2012

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The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected. As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, we do so cognizant of our own commitment to live up to our ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations.

The United States was pleased to participate in the Universal Periodic Review Process (UPR) of the Human Rights Council during our tenure on the Council. We are particularly pleased with the opportunity to work closely with civil society throughout the process, including a town hall meeting in Geneva and a dozen consultations throughout the United States. As we stated in our final report, the Government of the United States carefully reviewed the 228 recommendations received during its UPR. Our response to these recommendations reflects our continuing endeavor to create, in the words of our Constitution, a more perfect union.

We, therefore, make the following pledges:

COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING AND SUPPORTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UN SYSTEM

1. The United States commits to continuing its efforts in the UN system to be a strong advocate for all people around the world who suffer from abuse and oppression, and a stalwart defender of courageous individuals across the globe who work, often at great personal risk, on behalf of the rights of others.

2. The United States commits to continue working with determination for a balanced, credible, and effective UN Human Rights Council to advance the purpose and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To that same end, in partnership with the international community, we will continue to promote universality, transparency, and objectivity in all of the Council's endeavors. The United States is proud of the work we have done building partnerships with countries from every region, including many non-traditional partners, to increase the Council’s credibility, strengthen the Council as an institution, and create mechanisms to promote and protect human rights.

During our first term on the Council, we were glad to see broad support for such important initiatives as a consensus resolution on freedom of expression, the creation of a new Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, the creation of a new Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, and a Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice.

3. The United States is committed to advancing the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the UN General Assembly and Third Committee. The United States will continue to strongly support the work of the UN Special Rapporteurs and the Independent Experts and the dialogue that their reports engender.

4. As we demonstrated during our extensive consultations with civil society across the United States during the UPR process, the United States recognizes and upholds the vital role of civil society and human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights. The United States is committed to upholding its international obligations on freedom of association and of peaceful assembly. We also commit to promoting the effective involvement of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations, including the Council, and other international organizations as evidenced by our active engagement as a member of the UN NGO Committee.

5. As part of our commitment to the principle of the universality of human rights, the United States commits to working with our international partners in the spirit of openness, consultation, and respect and reaffirms that expressions of concern about the human rights situation in any country, our own included, are appropriate matters for international discussion.

6. The United States is committed to continuing its support for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and remains one of the OHCHR’s largest donors. In 2011, the United States provided $3.2 million to the OHCHR and its efforts to address violations of human rights worldwide, as well as almost $1.4 million to the UN Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and $5.7 million to the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. In addition, we provided $1 million to OHCHR for the start up costs of a new regional office in the Middle East. We anticipate making contributions to human rights activities in 2012 as well.

7. The United States is also committed to continuing its support of other UN bodies whose work contributes to the promotion of human rights. In 2011, in addition to our assessed contributions to UN organizations, the United States has contributed voluntary funding to support human rights efforts such as through the UN Population Fund ($37 million), UNDEF ($5 million), and UN Women ($6 million).

COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS, FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AND HUMAN DIGNITY AND PROSPERITY INTERNATIONALLY

1. The United States commits to continue supporting states in their implementation of human rights obligations, as appropriate, through human rights dialogue, exchange of experts, technical and inter-regional cooperation, and programmatic support of the work of non-governmental organizations.

2. The United States commits to continue its efforts to strengthen mechanisms in the international system to advance the rights, protection, and empowerment of women including through support for UN Women; the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, and 1960 on Women, Peace and Security, and all relevant General Assembly Resolutions, particularly 61/143, 63/155, 64/137, and 65/187 on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and Resolutions 58/142 and 66/130 on women and political participation; the work of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; and the work of the Inter-American Commission on Women.

3. The United States is committed to continuing to promote the human rights of persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and is pleased to support the recent efforts of the independent and autonomous Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to place greater regional focus on this area as well as the first UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered individuals at the UN Human Rights Council.

4. The United States is committed to continuing to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities, including through measures advancing non-discrimination, inclusion, dignity, individual autonomy, equality of treatment, and accessibility.

5. The United States is dedicated to combating both overt and subtle forms of racism and racial discrimination domestically and internationally. The United States is party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and is committed to seeing the goals of this convention fully realized and the obligations fully implemented by States Parties. Particular emphasis should be placed not only on eliminating any remaining legal barriers to equality, but also on confronting the reality of continuing discrimination and inequality within institutions and societies.

6. The United States is committed to upholding our international obligations to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The United States supports the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Committee Against Torture.

7. The United States commits to continuing to promote respect for workers rights worldwide, including by working with other governments and the International Labor Organization toward the adoption and enforcement of regulations and laws to promote respect for internationally recognized worker rights and by providing funding for technical assistance projects to build the capacity of worker organizations, employers, and governments to address labor issues including violations of the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, workplace discrimination, exploitative working conditions, forced labor and the worst forms of child labor, including child soldiering.

8. The United States commits to promoting the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including by promoting the effective involvement of non-governmental organizations in expert and treaty body meetings related to implementation of the Convention and Protocol, as well as continuing to advocate a victim-centered and multi-disciplinary approach to combating all forms of trafficking in persons and to restoring the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of trafficking victims.

9. The United States commits to continuing to promote freedom of religion for individuals of all religions or beliefs, particularly members of minority and vulnerable religious groups, through dedicated outreach, advocacy, training and programmatic efforts, and to promote religious tolerance. The United States was pleased to support UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 ("Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence, and Violence Against Persons Based on Religion or Belief") and host the first Istanbul Process meeting to implement the actions called for in that resolution.

10. The United States commits to continuing to engage on, and support economic, social and cultural rights including at the UN Human Rights Council, in the UN General Assembly and elsewhere, in terms consistent with human rights instruments we have accepted, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, we continue to support both bilateral and multilateral international assistance programs that bolster food security, education, health programs, clean drinking water, and other economic and social goods and services.

11. The United States is committed to continuing its leadership role in promoting corporate social responsibility and business and human rights initiatives globally. The United States intends to continue to convene government, civil society, and business stakeholders to seek joint solutions on business and human rights, and continue to serve as participants in key multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. The United States supports the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which provide a valuable and important framework for corporations, States, civil society and other actors as they work to strengthen their respective approaches to the issue of business and human rights.

12. The United States is also committed to the promotion and protection of human rights through regional organizations. Through our membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of American States, the United States commits to continuing efforts to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to strengthening and developing institutions and mechanisms for their protection. In particular recognition of its human rights commitments within the Inter-American system, the United States strongly supports the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, is one of its largest donors, and engages actively in its complaints process. Working in concert with other OAS member states, the United States celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2011 with the adoption of a final OAS report providing specific recommendations for its full implementation.

13. The United States is actively engaged with the Community of Democracies to support emerging democracies as they work to complete successful transitions.

14. Recognizing the essential contributions of independent media to promoting the fundamental freedom of expression, exposing human rights abuses, and promoting accountability and transparency in governance, the United States commits to continuing to champion freedom of expression and to promote media freedom and the protection of journalists worldwide.

COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS, FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AND HUMAN DIGNITY AND PROSPERITY IN THE UNITED STATES

1. The United States executive branch is committed to working with the United States Senate to consider the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and ILO Convention 111, among other treaties.

2. The United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty bodies.

3. The United States is committed to cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other regional human rights bodies, by responding to inquiries, engaging in dialogues, and hosting visits. Since joining the Council, the United States has hosted six Special Rapporteur and Working Group visits.

4. The United States is also strongly committed to continue our longstanding work to combat discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and gender in various sectors in our society. Despite the achievements of the civil rights movement and many years of striving to achieve equal rights and equal opportunity for all, invidious discrimination still exists in our country and we continue to fight it through enforcement of myriad federal civil rights statutes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and numerous others.

5. The United States also continues its work to combat hate crimes, police misconduct, and human trafficking through federal and state prosecution of these crimes. Our federal hate crime statute makes it unlawful to willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with any person, or to attempt to do so, by force or threat of force, because of that other person’s race, color, religion, or national origin.

6. The United States’ commitment to continuing to promote human prosperity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons within the United States also includes protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities through enforcement of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act.

7. The United States is committed to strengthening government-to-government relationships with federally recognized tribes and furthering U.S. policy on indigenous issues. To that end, we support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as explained in the "Announcement of U.S. Support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples -- Initiatives to Promote the Government-to-Government Relationship & Improve the Lives of Indigenous Peoples." While the Declaration is not legally binding, it carries considerable moral and political force and complements the President’s ongoing efforts to address historical inequities faced by indigenous communities in the United States.

8. We have taken concrete steps to protect the welfare and human rights of individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. For example, the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Protection Act expands federal hate crime protection to, among other things, allow the prosecution of perpetrators of hate crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislation gives our Justice Department and state and local law enforcement important tools and increased capacity that they need to deter and prosecute these acts of violence.



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