Mike and his team and the staff at our embassies and consulates around the world have worked tirelessly to produce these reports. And I want to thank each and every person who has contributed to them.
Now, as you know, this has been an especially tumultuous and momentous year for everyone involved in the cause of human rights. Many of the events that have dominated recent headlines from the revolutions in the Middle East to reforms in Burma began with human rights, with the clear call of men and women demanding their universal rights.
Today in Egypt, we are seeing in real time that those demands are making a difference as Egyptians are going to the polls to determine for the first time in their history who their leaders will be. Whatever the outcome of the election, the Egyptian people will keep striving to achieve their aspirations. And as they do, we will continue to support them.
We will support people everywhere who seek the same. Men and women who want to speak, worship, associate, love the way they choose – we will defend their rights; not just on the day we issue these reports, but every day.
As Secretary, I have worked with my superb team on advancing human rights in a 21st century landscape, focusing on new frontiers even as we stand up against age-old abuses. Where women have been and continue to be marginalized, we’re helping them become full partners in their governments and economies. Where LGBT people are mistreated and discriminated against, we’re working to bring them into full participation in their societies. We’re expanding access to technology and defending internet freedom because people deserve the same rights online as off. And we know that in the 21st century human rights are not only a question of civil and political liberties, it’s about the fundamental question of whether people everywhere have the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.
So we are supporting efforts around the world to give people a voice in their societies, a stake in their economies, and to support them as they determine for themselves the future of their own lives and the contributions they can make to the future of their countries. We think this is the way, together, we can make human rights a human reality.
Now as these reports document, there is a lot of work that remains to be done. In too many places, governments continue to stifle their own people’s aspirations. And in some places like Syria, it is not just an assault on freedom of expression or freedom of association, but an assault on the very lives of citizens. The Assad regime’s brutality against its own people must and will end, because Syrians know they deserve a better future.
These reports are more than a report card; they are a tool for lawmakers and scholars, for civil society leaders and activists. We also think they are a tool for government leaders. It’s always been bewildering to me that so many government leaders don’t want to make the most of the human potential of their own people.
And so I don’t expect this to be reading material everywhere, but I do hope somewhere in the corner of my mind that maybe a leader will pick it up and say: How do we compare with others, and what can we do today, tomorrow, and next year that will maximize the potential of more of our citizens?
This year we’ve made the reports easier to read online, easier to track trends across a region, easier to follow the progress of a particular group, easier to find out which governments are or are not living up to their commitments.
Now, every year that we issue this, we take stock of ourselves. We say: What more can we do? Where have we succeeded or are succeeding? Where are we falling short? And we know we have to recommit to the work of advancing universal rights, building the partnerships that will move us forward, helping every man, woman, and child live up to their God-given potential. And we know we have to be able to speak out and speak up for those unable to use their own voices.
But this is at the core of who we are. This is central to what we believe. And this is the work that will continue administration after administration, secretary after secretary, because of its centrality to our foreign policy and national security.
Now I’d like to turn things over to Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Right, and Labor Mike Posner, who will speak further about some of the specific findings in this year’s reports. Thank you all very much. Thanks, Mike.