The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Eritrea to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Eritrea's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Among the U.S. Government's primary foreign policy objectives in the country is the promotion of human rights and civil liberties. The United States aims to help citizens realize a country that allows for a pluralistic and democratic political process, religious freedom, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a robust civil society.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
Despite the government's numerous restrictions on U.S. governance and human rights programs, the closure of two U.S. outreach centers, and limitations on in-country travel, the United States held events focused on human rights, including discussion groups, literature distribution, and public lectures. The United States participated in the annual Eritrean Bookfair and distributed 6,000 publications on democracy, good governance, rule of law, and human rights. The United States continued to sponsor a series of workshops in Asmara on strengthening Sudanese civil society in preparation for that country's elections in 2010.
The United States sponsored monthly lectures, weekly films, exhibitions, reading clubs, and community service events. For example, U.S. funds supported four public information service centers, one in the capital of Asmara and three in other cities, that provide free Internet and library resources. Such programming has enabled the dissemination of information on a wide range of issues inclusive of human rights, such as democratic processes, women's rights, and the rights of persons with disabilities. The United States hosted a digital video conference on the first year of the Obama Administration.
In an effort to promote dialogue on ethnic discrimination, a U.S.-sponsored monthly lecture series included a panel presentation on the experience of African Americans in the United States. Another lecture focused on civil disobedience and the story of Rosa Parks. The book club read and discussed the racial issues in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
To introduce the Eritrean medical community to what can be done to promote tolerance of persons living with HIV/AIDS, the United States sent a physician on an international visitor program on the subject to the United States. In recognition of World AIDS Day, the United States hosted a lecture by another physician on the social and medical dimension of HIV/AIDS and its impact on Eritrea, including issues of tolerance. The United States also hosted a discussion of the book Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush, which chronicles the discrimination and abuse faced by a young woman with HIV in Latin America. The book prompted discussion of Eritrean society's lack of tolerance for persons with HIV/AIDS. The participants acknowledged more needs to be done to fight discrimination and offered concrete solutions to how HIV persons could be supported.
To promote women's rights, the United States sponsored a children's essay contest on women who have inspired them and hosted a panel discussion on women's education and opportunities in the United States, featuring the experiences of three women in the Embassy community. In addition, U.S. programming focused on female genital mutilation (FGM) by holding a World FGM Day event in conjunction with the national women's union, where hundreds of anti-FGM materials were displayed and distributed. Also, the United States held a women's roundtable on the social and medical implications of FGM. The United States continued support to a hospital where women undergo surgery to correct fistula, a condition that leads to stigmatization in Eritrean communities. In order to raise awareness among government officials of the needs of persons with disabilities, U.S. programming sponsored computer classes and library science workshops to allow dialogue between the hearing-impaired community and relevant government officials.
The United States showed the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell that told the story of the personal courage of a group of Muslim and Christian Liberian women who staged protests to stop the civil war and its atrocities.