View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 1, 1994




For over 20 years, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe has been an important forum in leading humanity's ongoing struggle to define and defend human rights. The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 committed the United States, Canada, and 33 European states to respect "freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion." It stands as a fundamental declaration of freedom -- a beacon and a warning to all those who would turn away from democracy's welcoming light.

When the West called upon the states in the Eastern bloc to uphold their CSCE human rights commitments during the Cold War, CSCE members' support of these ideals played a pivotal role. In recent years, the end of the Cold War and the dramatic political changes sweeping Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have allowed the CSCE to expand and reinforce its mandate even further. The 1990 Charter of Paris added to existing CSCE principles, embracing new commitments to political pluralism, economic liberty, and the rule of law. The 1992 Helsinki Summit emphasized that "the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the strengthening of democratic institutions continue to be a vital basis" for comprehensive security. Today, the shared determination of CSCE members to uphold these essential values remains the keystone of European security.

As CSCE member states strive to put the Helsinki principles into practice, violent conflicts around the globe remind us that many societies emerging from totalitarian rule still have far to travel toward international standards of humanitarian democracy. Ethnic tensions, civil unrest, and human rights abuses are all too prevalent in several of the recently admitted CSCE nations. The United States stands steadfast in our commitment to full implementation of the human rights and humanitarian provisions of the Helsinki Accords, and I call upon all of the signatory states to uphold their pledge to protect human rights, to seek peaceful resolutions of conflicts, and to fully abide by their obligations under the Helsinki Accords.

International security depends as never before upon respect for the rights of individuals and for the democratic principles of government. As we recognize the magnitude of the Helsinki Accords in the history of nations, we reaffirm our commitment to advancing its timeless wisdom. The vigilant protection of these basic freedoms is the world's best hope for a Europe of growing cooperation and lasting peace.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 1, 1994, as Helsinki Human Rights Day and reaffirm the American commitment to upholding human dignity and freedom -- principles that are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. As we Americans observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities, let us remember our courageous citizens who have made sacrifices to secure the freedoms we enjoy. Let us work together to encourage respect for human rights and democratic values around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of August, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and nineteenth.


# # #