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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 10, 1998


U.S. Efforts to Promote Human Rights and Democracy

The Clinton Administration works to promote human rights and democracy because they are integral to American values and because a world in which governments respect the rule of law will be freer, safer, and more prosperous. On the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our challenge is to promote the universality of human rights and to ensure their implementation around the globe.

From Haiti to the Balkans, Northern Ireland to the Middle East, the U.S. has led international efforts to resolve conflicts which give rise to human rights abuses, and we continue to provide vital support to build democratic institutions to ensure human rights abuses are not repeated. In Africa we have supported the successful end to conflicts from Mozambique to Mali, provided assistance to South Africa's efforts to build an equitable, multi-cultural democracy, and are supporting the development and consolidation of democracy in Nigeria and across the continent. In China, we continue to press vigorously for progress on prisoner releases, political rights, religious freedom and the rule of law. And throughout central Europe and the former Soviet Union we are contributing substantial resources to build democratic institutions and strengthen political participation.

Bilateral U.S. Government Efforts

Funding and Programs: In addition to our diplomatic advocacy, we devote some $400 million per year to democracy assistance and human rights programs implemented by the Agency for International Development (AID), as well as more than $40 million for the National Endowment for Democracy and other publicly supported efforts to promote human rights and democracy activities overseas. The United States Information Agency (USIA) also works to strengthen the culture of democracy worldwide, both as a contributor to the free flow of information and ideas and by activities designed to sustain the democratic dialogue across national boundaries. USIA spends more than $300 million per year on democracy and human rights promotion programs.

Increased reporting and advocacy: We have expanded our annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, and have substantially increased our reporting and advocacy on religious freedom issues. On October 27, the President signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act and, prior to that, announced the appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary of State for International Religious Freedom. In addition, the Administration, in 1996, created an Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, which has helped to raise the prominence and the profile of this critical issue.

Support for Democratic Transitions: Through a wide range of programs, AID has promoted peaceful democratic transitions. For example, AID has supported democracy through development of independent judiciary systems, and support to elections and conflict prevention and mediation mechanisms in South Africa and Nigeria; information dissemination programs for the Cuban people; and a free media in Bosnia. Many of these projects are funded through the AID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), established by the Clinton Administration in 1993. To help the Cuban people prepare for democracy, AID administers grants to non-governmental organizations that undertake programs to broaden information dissemination and support the emergence of civil society in Cuba. Separately, President Clinton and President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea recently announced the creation of a joint Institute on Democracy and Free Markets in Asia, to be located in Seoul. The counterpart organizations are the Saejoong Institute in Seoul Korea and the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States.

Support for Local NGOs: From assistance to women's literacy and democracy groups in Senegal to the Kiev Press Club in Ukraine, the Administration has kept faith with those who share a commitment to human rights and are working to promote those values within their own societies.

Supporting Accountability: Through our support for truth commissions in Guatemala, El Salvador and South Africa, we promote the accountability and justice that is a key to political reconciliation in post-conflict societies.

Supporting the rights of the disenfranchised: Through our "No Sweat" initiative, the Administration, corporations and non-governmental organizations are developing voluntary ethical codes of conduct to prevent the importation of products made by child labor, to end sweatshop conditions both in the U.S. and abroad, and to ensure that women and children share equally the basic rights they have been denied in so many parts of the world.

Practicing domestically what we preach abroad: We recognize that human rights issues do not begin at the water's edge. For example, as we have urged other governments to provide assistance and protection to refugees, we have maintained our commitment as the world's leader in refugee resettlement.

Support for International Human Rights Institutions:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR): We led the effort to create the Office of the UNHCHR, and have provided critical support, such as for human rights monitoring programs in Rwanda, Burundi and Cambodia, and for assistance to victims of torture around the world.

UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture: We continue to be the world's largest contributor to this fund and will be increasing our contribution from $1.8 million in FY 1998 to $3.0 million in FY 1999.

International Tribunals: We are the leading supporter of the International Criminal Tribunals relating to the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, providing approximately $33.5 million in financial support during 1998.