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Friends –

Today is Human Rights Day. As a lifelong advocate for human rights, Hillary understands the importance of protecting and expanding the rights of everyday Americans and people around the world.

To celebrate Human Rights Day, Let’s Talk Hillary sat down with Aprill Springfield Blanco, who worked in the First Lady’s office when Hillary delivered her historic speech at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In the video, Aprill talks about the strong opposition Hillary faced from people urging her not to go to the Beijing conference — and you’ll never believe what Hillary said in response.

Check out Let’s Talk Hillary’s latest video to find out!

Don’t keep it to yourself – share Let’s Talk Hillary with friends.

There are many more stories to tell – stay tuned!

Sincerely,

Allida Black
Let’s Talk Hillary

P.S. You don’t want to miss our next video interview — keep up with Let’s Talk Hillary by subscribing on YouTube, joining on Facebook, or following on Twitter.

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The Human Rights Campaign has released a video by Hillary Clinton in support of marriage equality. In part, the HRC states:

We are honored to have Secretary Clinton’s moving statement as part of our Americans for Marriage Equality series.  Now that she has left office and can speak publicly about the issue that is so important to all of us, Hillary shares her experience as Secretary and what she learned while representing our country around the world, and what she has come to believe.

A little over a year ago in Geneva. I told the nations of the world that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. And that the United States would be a leader in defending those rights.

Now there were some countries that did not want to hear that. But I believe America is at its best when — — the freedom and dignity of every human being. That’s who we are it’s in our DNA.

And as secretary of state. I had the privilege to represent. That America.

I will never forget the young Tunisian who asked me after the revolution in his country. How America could teach his new democracy. To protect the rights of its LG BT citizens.

He saw America. As an example for the world and as a beacon of hope. That’s what was in my mind as I engaged in some pretty tough conversations with foreign leaders.

Who did not accept that human rights apply to everyone. Gay and straight. When I directed our diplomats around the world.

To combat — — — laws and reach out to the brave activists fighting on the front lines. And when I changed State Department policy to ensure that our LG BT families are treated more fairly. Traveling the world these past four years reaffirmed and — my pride in our country in the ideals we stand for.

It also inspired and challenged to me. To — — — about who we are in the values we represented the world. Now having left public office I want to share some of what I’ve learned.

And what I’ve come to believe. For America to continue leading in the world there is work we must do here at home. That means investing in our people our economy our national security.

It also means working every day as citizens. As communities as — country. To live up to our highest ideals and continue.

Our long march to a more perfect union. LG BT Americans. Our our colleagues.

Our teachers our soldiers our friends. Our — ones. And they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship.

That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I supported personally and as a matter of policy and law.

Imbedded in a broader effort to advance equality and opportunity for LG BT Americans and all Americans. Like so many others my personal views have been shaped over time by people I have known and loved. By my experience representing our nation on the world stage.

My devotion to law and human rights and the guiding principles of my faith. Marriage after all is a fundamental. Building block of our society.

A great joy and yes a great responsibility. A few years ago bill and I celebrated as our own daughter married the love of her life and I wish every parent that same joy. To deny the opportunity to any of our daughters and sons solely on the basis of who they are and who they love.

Is to deny them the chance. To live up to their own god given potential. Throughout our history as our nation has become even more dedicated.

To the protection of liberty and justice for all. More open to the contributions of all our citizens. It has also become stronger.

More competitive. More ready for the future. It benefits every American.

When we continue on that path. I know that many in our country still struggle to reconcile. The teachings of their religion the poll of their conscience.

The personal experiences they have in their families and communities. And people of goodwill and good faith will continue to view this issue differently. So I hope that as we discuss and debate whether it’s around — kitchen table or in the public square.

We do so in a spirit respect. And understanding. Conversations with our friends our families our congregations.

Our coworkers. Are opportunities to share our own reflections. And to invite others to share there’s.

They give us a chance to find that common ground. And a path forward. For those of us who lived through the long years of the civil rights and women’s rights movements.

The speed with which more and more people have come to embrace the dignity and equality. — LG BT Americans has banned breath taking. And inspiring.

We see — all around us every day in major cultural statements. And in quiet family moments. But the journey is far from over and therefore we must keep working to make our country freer and — And to continue to inspire the — the world puts in — leadership. In doing so we will keep moving closer and closer to that more perfect union promised to us all. Thank you.

The transcript comes compliments of ABC News to which the web administration at HRC kindly pointed us.

The Human Rights Day speech of December 6, 2011 to which she refers can be viewed and read here:   Video: Secretary Clinton’s Human Rights Day Speech, December 6, 2011

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Meeting with LGBT Activists and Supporters from the Diplomatic Corps

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
December 6, 2011

Well, I just wanted to stop by and very briefly express my appreciation to all of you for what you do every single day. I understand that you have traveled from 13 countries on four continents to be here, which I think speaks volumes about how important you believe these efforts are. And I want to thank Eileen and her team, who have been just stalwart in supporting our leadership and advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community. I want to thank Esther Brimmer, our Assistant Secretary for International Organizations back at the State Department. And is Ambassador Minty here? Is Ambassador Minty – where’s Ambassador Minty? Ambassador Minty, thank you, and I will publicly thank South Africa in my remarks, in my formal speech.

I want to thank – taking sort of personal privilege and national pride – some individual representatives here from both the American and the international NGO community – Ambassador Mike Guest, Mark Bromley, and Julie Dorf from the Council for Global Equality, our great partners and help coordinate a lot of other NGO voices. Mike, as you know, is a retired ambassador from our Foreign Service, and yet is still working in the service of public – the public interest. I want to thank John Fisher and all who worked with him here in Geneva to support the resolution in June.

And I want to thank each and every one of you here in Geneva for the great work that was done on the resolution, and also those of you who are out every single day making the case for dignity and human rights for all people. I know it is challenging and dangerous in many instances. But first and foremost, we want you to know that you are not alone, that you have a growing chorus of people who recognize this as a human rights issue for the 21st century.

So without further ado, I will see you in the chamber, where I hope that the United States will continue to make the case, not just for those who are already convinced, but most importantly for the many leaders and our fellow citizens around the world who are not, and who we have to recognize their issues and concerns in order to keep evolving the consensus on behalf of LGBT rights for all.

Thank you. (Applause.)

My two cents here: MSNBC is saying she delivered her remarks “under orders from President Obama.”  HRC has never required “orders” to make human rights statements. She was the first in the administration to provide benefits to domestic partners of employees. She held a town hall at DOS early in her tenure and was asked by GLIFAA if she would do this. She promised she would look innto it, she did, and in June of 2009 announced  the new policy.  Obama did not do that until after she did.

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Remarks in Recognition of International Human Rights Day

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
December 6, 2011

Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners. This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one of the great accomplishments of the last century.Beginning in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere. In the aftermath of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations, and individuals around the world.

At three o’clock in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

In the 63 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. Step by step, barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.

In most cases, this progress was not easily won. People fought and organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change not only laws, but hearts and minds. And thanks to that work of generations, for millions of individuals whose lives were once narrowed by injustice, they are now able to live more freely and to participate more fully in the political, economic, and social lives of their communities.

Now, there is still, as you all know, much more to be done to secure that commitment, that reality, and progress for all people. Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.

I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time. I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect. Until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country. Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences. So we, like all nations, have more work to do to protect human rights at home.

Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs. So I come here before you with respect, understanding, and humility. Even though progress on this front is not easy, we cannot delay acting. So in that spirit, I want to talk about the difficult and important issues we must address together to reach a global consensus that recognizes the human rights of LGBT citizens everywhere.

The first issue goes to the heart of the matter. Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. Now, of course, 60 years ago, the governments that drafted and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were not thinking about how it applied to the LGBT community. They also weren’t thinking about how it applied to indigenous people or children or people with disabilities or other marginalized groups. Yet in the past 60 years, we have come to recognize that members of these groups are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity.

This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.

The second issue is a question of whether homosexuality arises from a particular part of the world. Some seem to believe it is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The Government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Now, some worry that protecting the human rights of the LGBT community is a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford. But in fact, in all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence, and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities, in ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other, whether they are women, racial, or religious minorities, or the LGBT. Former President Mogae of Botswana pointed out recently that for as long as LGBT people are kept in the shadows, there cannot be an effective public health program to tackle HIV and AIDS. Well, that holds true for other challenges as well.

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings. It was not only those who’ve justified slavery who leaned on religion, it was also those who sought to abolish it. And let us keep in mind that our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity. And caring for others is an expression of what it means to be fully human. It is because the human experience is universal that human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.

The fourth issue is what history teaches us about how we make progress towards rights for all. Progress starts with honest discussion. Now, there are some who say and believe that all gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay. Well, these notions are simply not true. They are also unlikely to disappear if those who promote or accept them are dismissed out of hand rather than invited to share their fears and concerns. No one has ever abandoned a belief because he was forced to do so.

Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.

Reaching understanding of these issues takes more than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it.

But progress comes from changes in laws. In many places, including my own country, legal protections have preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. Laws have a teaching effect. Laws that discriminate validate other kinds of discrimination. Laws that require equal protections reinforce the moral imperative of equality. And practically speaking, it is often the case that laws must change before fears about change dissipate.

Many in my country thought that President Truman was making a grave error when he ordered the racial desegregation of our military. They argued that it would undermine unit cohesion. And it wasn’t until he went ahead and did it that we saw how it strengthened our social fabric in ways even the supporters of the policy could not foresee. Likewise, some worried in my country that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have a negative effect on our armed forces. Now, the Marine Corps Commandant, who was one of the strongest voices against the repeal, says that his concerns were unfounded and that the Marines have embraced the change.

Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.

A fifth and final question is how we do our part to bring the world to embrace human rights for all people including LGBT people. Yes, LGBT people must help lead this effort, as so many of you are. Their knowledge and experiences are invaluable and their courage inspirational. We know the names of brave LGBT activists who have literally given their lives for this cause, and there are many more whose names we will never know. But often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the majorities necessary for political change.

So when any part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men remains crucial. The fight for racial equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating Islamaphobia or anti-Semitism is a task for people of all faiths. And the same is true with this struggle for equality.

Conversely, when we see denials and abuses of human rights and fail to act, that sends the message to those deniers and abusers that they won’t suffer any consequences for their actions, and so they carry on. But when we do act, we send a powerful moral message. Right here in Geneva, the international community acted this year to strengthen a global consensus around the human rights of LGBT people. At the Human Rights Council in March, 85 countries from all regions supported a statement calling for an end to criminalization and violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

At the following session of the Council in June, South Africa took the lead on a resolution about violence against LGBT people. The delegation from South Africa spoke eloquently about their own experience and struggle for human equality and its indivisibility. When the measure passed, it became the first-ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of gay people worldwide. In the Organization of American States this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created a unit on the rights of LGBT people, a step toward what we hope will be the creation of a special rapporteur.

Now, we must go further and work here and in every region of the world to galvanize more support for the human rights of the LGBT community. To the leaders of those countries where people are jailed, beaten, or executed for being gay, I ask you to consider this: Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under your laws, because let me be clear – I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes. They can and they do, just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable, but it should never be a crime to be gay.

And to people of all nations, I say supporting human rights is your responsibility too. The lives of gay people are shaped not only by laws, but by the treatment they receive every day from their families, from their neighbors. Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.

And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.

The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people.

This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad. Building on efforts already underway at the State Department and across the government, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups. We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.

The women and men who advocate for human rights for the LGBT community in hostile places, some of whom are here today with us, are brave and dedicated, and deserve all the help we can give them. We know the road ahead will not be easy. A great deal of work lies before us. But many of us have seen firsthand how quickly change can come. In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed. Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay.

This evolution is evident in many places. To highlight one example, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality in India two years ago, writing, and I quote, “If there is one tenet that can be said to be an underlying theme of the Indian constitution, it is inclusiveness.” There is little doubt in my mind that support for LGBT human rights will continue to climb. Because for many young people, this is simple: All people deserve to be treated with dignity and have their human rights respected, no matter who they are or whom they love.

There is a phrase that people in the United States invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery. People from coast to coast joined in campaigns to recognize the rights of women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, children, people with disabilities, immigrants, workers, and on and on. And the march toward equality and justice has continued. Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

I know that the thoughts I’ve shared today involve questions on which opinions are still evolving. As it has happened so many times before, opinion will converge once again with the truth, the immutable truth, that all persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights. We are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Remarks at Human Rights Day Town Hall

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Dean Acheson
Washington, DC
December 10, 2010

Date: 12/10/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Secretary Clinton speaking at the State Department, during the International Human Rights Day Town Hall hosted by Assistant Secretary Posner with civil society representatives and human rights community leaders. - State Dept Image

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wanted to come by and welcome and give you a little bit of a respite from hearing from the three advocates for human rights, each in their – in his own way truly devoted to the work that we do here at the State Department. And in particular, on this day, I want to thank Mike Posner and everyone in DRL who works with him and for all that you are doing. I want to thank Harold Koh and everyone in L who keeps pushing, pushing, and trying to make sure that our human rights policy continues to lead the world. And I want to thank P.J. Crowley and everybody in his shop who have to explain everything we do or don’t do, which is sometimes the most difficult of all tasks.

But mostly, I came by to thank you, members of civil society, human rights organizations, college students, Hill staffers, State Department colleagues. Thank you very much. Because we thought it was important to really have a chance on this day where we commemorate the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by a vote of 48-0 in the United Nations, the very core concept that each of us, all of us, are born with equal and inalienable rights.

Those words hearken back to our own Declaration of Independence, which was such an incredible, historical event in addition to representing the very best of our values and aspirations. But from the beginning, the United States has recognized that our rights are inextricably bound up with the rights of others. And we remain committed as a nation, and certainly in the Obama Administration, to working toward realizing a world that was envisioned by both of these declarations, in which every person has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.

Those of us in this great Dean Acheson Hall who lived through the civil rights movement, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid, and so much else knows that these singular achievements are by no means the work of governments alone. In fact, it took civil society pushing governments, and sometimes pulling them against their natural inclination, to just protect the status quo. It took groups of citizens in shipyards and lunch counters and even prisons to keep prodding the conscience of governments and the rest of us.

So for the United States, supporting civil society around the globe is a crucial priority. I made that clear in a speech I gave last summer at the Community of Democracies in Krakow, where we laid out an agenda of support for civil society, because we think it’s not only a matter of good global citizenship, but it’s a key to advancing so many of our national security priorities.

So we intend to make engagement with civil society a defining feature of our diplomacy. We’ve asked our embassies and missions around the world to develop strategies to elevate support for and protection of civil society. Next year, I will launch the new strategic dialogue with civil society to bring together representatives from government and civic groups for regular consultation, just as we do in our strategic dialogues with other countries.

We have seen increased efforts by governments to restrict civic space, whether in Cuba or China’s efforts to somehow divert the world’s attention from the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony today. We really know that we have our work cut out for us. And in Krakow, I called on the UN Human Rights Council to do more to protect civil society and announced the creation of a new fund for embattled NGOs. And I want to thank Lithuania, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic for their pledged contributions to this fund and for joining us in providing a lifeline to NGOs under siege. We also have worked with a coalition of countries on the Human Rights Council to create a new special rapporteur on freedom of association.

Now, just last week, Mike and I were in Central Asia, a place where civil society faces severe challenges. And we worked hard to give civil society a voice at the OSCE summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. And in each country, from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, I met with the brave men and women who are committed to improving the lives of their fellow citizens, often at significant personal risk. These meetings, as they always are for me, were inspiring and deepened my appreciation for the difficult work that you and many others on the front lines of human rights and civil rights actually face every day.

As Mike said, earlier today, I presented the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights to outstanding individuals: Sarah Cleto Rial, an activist who sought refuge in the United States from Sudan; Wade Henderson, with whom I have worked over many years; and Louis and Alice Henkin, who together helped to promote and protect human rights in international law. And so we’re working to lead by example and hold ourselves accountable. And actually, we’re trying to live up to Eleanor Roosevelt’s challenge that America should be the best possible mirror of democracy that she can be.

So this year’s State Department Human Trafficking Report, for the first time, graded our own efforts as well as others. Last month, we presented our own human rights record as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. And just as we ask other governments to work with civil society groups, we also held a special event to allow NGOs from around the world to speak directly with officials from 12 different federal agencies, and we webcast the proceedings.

We’re doing that and a lot more, but we need your advice, your support, your recommendations, your constructive criticism, because we want to help. Human Rights Day is a celebration of you and of what you are doing, and it is also a reminder and a challenge about how much more we all have to do.

So with that, I will turn you back to the triumvirate at the front here to take all the hard questions, because I am moving on. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.

 

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Human Rights Day 2010

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 9, 2010

When Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the UN General Assembly, she proclaimed: “We stand today at the threshold of a great event, both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind.” On December 10, 1948, the world moved to recognize and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all people, inspiring individuals around the globe to claim the rights that are our common heritage.

I witness small and large acts of courage every day in every part of the world. Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, helped author Charter ’08 calling for peaceful political reform in China and lost his freedom for the cause. On this Human Rights Day, I reiterate our call for his immediate release. Elsewhere, the group Damas de Blanco has faced harassment and intimidation while advocating for the release of political prisoners, focusing international attention on Cuba’s poor human rights record. Magodonga Mahlangu and her organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, suffer arrests and abuse as they continue working to empower women to mobilize and take non-violent action against injustice. Citizen heroes from all walks of life draw strength and hope from the promise that every country in the world has made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The work of these activists to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,” and their courage to persist is a testament to all that is good in the human spirit.

Sixty-two years after Eleanor Roosevelt laid out those clear, inviolate principles, we again stand upon a threshold as the need to support and defend civil society has taken on renewed urgency. A vibrant civil society is an essential component of free nations, yet many governments continue to employ intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions, detention, and willful ignorance to silence the voices of those who defend human rights. The United States is committed to promoting and defending civil society around the world. And we will continue to remind leaders of their responsibilities to their citizens under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To support this, I have asked our embassies to open their doors to civil society activists today to listen to their concerns and demonstrate our support.

The Declaration has long served as a beacon to those seeking the protection of fundamental, internationally recognized rights and liberties. Today, and every day, the United States stands with those committed to making the vision enshrined in the Declaration a reality for all people. We call on every nation to join us in working to fulfill the Declaration’s promise, at home and abroad.

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