Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy Vital to U.S. Interests

State's Dobriansky says democracy cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy

By Brittany SterrettWashington File Staff Writer

Washington -- It is completely within the United States’ interests to champion human rights abroad, according to Human Rights Watch’s Washington Advocacy Director Tom Malinowski.

“There is no distinction most of the time between American national interests and human rights,” Malinowski told an audience at Washington’s Hudson Institute June 20 during a policy discussion entitled “America’s Mission: Debating Strategies for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights.”

He noted that, in his opinion, the biggest problem the United States faces is overall credibility. He recommended that the administration “speak out for all dissidents, not just those who like the U.S.,” and he urged it to support everyone who speaks out peacefully.

Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, added that the administration should not to “confuse promoting democracy with U.S. public diplomacy.” She agreed that the promotion of democracy should not be only for those who agree with U.S. policies.

Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky spoke at length about U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad. She said, “Democracy is the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.”

She spoke about the importance of multilateral diplomacy, mentioning the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative launched by the Group of Eight industrialized nations and saying that it has made “democratic reform the central pillar of our and others’ engagement in this pivotal region.” The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.
Dobriansky also mentioned the United States’ Millennium Challenge Account, which she called a “poverty reduction tool” that reinforces democratic practices through its allocation of international development assistance, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, which she said is “making significant progress in supporting” democracy.

Marc Plattner, editor of the Journal of Democracy, recalled Bush’s January 20 inaugural address, in which he stated that democracy would be a central theme of his second term. Plattner said the administration’s policies and actions in this area “on the whole really have had positive effects.”

Dobriansky noted that democracies “rely on complex institutions that must be cultivated,” and named these democratic “pillars” as freedom of speech and a free press, freedom of assembly and the formation of a loyal opposition, freedom of worship, a free economy, and an independent judiciary.

Free and fair elections, a declaration of inalienable rights, minority protection, a legislative body and a civil service — the “tenets of democracy”— result from the establishment of these pillars, according to Dobriansky.

“These tenets of democracy serve as the goalposts of what we are seeking to create, cultivate or strengthen,” she said.

Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, also spoke about the need to get women on the side of the United States in the areas of democracy and human rights, and noted the work of the Bush administration in the area of women’s rights. He said, “The great phenomenon of the 21st century will be the emancipation and the empowerment of women,” including suffrage for them.

Horowitz urged intelligence agencies to provide documentary evidence of atrocities occurring under repressive regimes, such as concentration camps in North Korea. This evidence could then be used to support the administration’s policies of promoting democracy in those areas as a response to oppression.

He also encouraged more live broadcasting by the Voice of America to further spread the administration’s message. He noted that many political dissidents risk their lives to listen to the hour and a half of live broadcasting currently available. With more broadcasting, he said, more people could be reached.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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