February 21, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Human Rights Leaders Before Their Meeting

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Human Rights Leaders Before Their Meeting

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  All right, well, good afternoon, everyone.  I just had a few words I wanted to say at the top of our meeting, and I’m grateful to see each and every one of you.  Seventy-five years ago in the aftermath of World War II, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, nations came together from around the world to affirm what was then a radical idea: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.  Those are the words at the heart of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. 

Delegates from around the world defined the rights in the Universal Declaration.  And in a sense more than a declaration, it was a commitment, a commitment to actually promote human rights, to prevent violations, to defend victims, to hold perpetrators accountable.  That is at the heart of what the world came together to agree to. 

In the decades since, the United States has worked to make real our own commitment to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – both here at home but also around the world.  Defending human rights, affirming human dignity, simply put, reflects our values, reflects who we are.  And at the same time, it advances our interests.  When more people in more places have their rights respected, we know – we know from experience that the world is more peaceful, it’s more secure, it’ more prosperous, and so it’s a better world for us as well. 

President Biden has made promoting and defending human rights a priority for our foreign policy, and it’s a priority for this department.  It’s a priority in every – in every bureau of this department, in every part of the world.  Our efforts are especially important as the universality of human rights is under severe challenge and rights are being violated in far too many places.  We see repression by autocratic regimes.  We see the denial of opportunities because of people – because of who people are, where they were born, what they believe.  And of course we see atrocities in the midst of conflict. 

Just yesterday we made a determination that both the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces in Sudan are engaged in war crimes.  We’re also seeing different forms of abuse being committed, including the misuse of emerging technologies to repress the rights of people.

I think as you look back at 75 years ago and what was on the minds as well as in the hearts of the drafters of the Universal Declaration, one of the things that they understood – and it’s clear from the history of that period – is that there was a recognition that realizing human rights was going to be an ongoing process.  It was not flipping a lightswitch.  It is constantly a process.  And in that process, we always have to strive to hold ourselves to the standards that we aspire to. 

Human rights organizations like the ones represented at this table today and that I look forward to hearing from in just a couple of minutes are absolutely essential in that effort.  They’ve been partners for decades, and they play a critical role, maybe a leading role in holding us accountable and making sure that to the best of everyone’s ability the gap between our ideals and what we aspire to and the reality of what we’re doing is as narrow as possible, if not completely eliminated. 

So I just want to say to each and every one of you representing so many of your colleagues, we’re grateful for the work that you do – the truly courageous work that you do – because you have so many people in areas of conflict doing the work, doing the reporting, bringing out the facts, bringing out the truth. 

And I can tell you that from our perspective, from my perspective, that’s absolutely essential to making the world a better place, a safer place.  There’s no better way to mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration than meeting with the people who are actually on the front lines of human rights every single day, on the front lines of trying to make the commitments that were made so many years ago real.  And so thank you for being here, and I look forward to the conversation. 

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-human-rights-leaders-before-their-meeting/