|Helsinki Now a Model for Entire World
Briefing, Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary of State
for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Press Release, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Washington, DC, August 8, 2000
Harold Koh, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told an RFE/RL briefing today that the Helsinki Final Act, adopted 25 years ago this month, has become a model for the promotion of human rights around the world.
When the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975, Koh said, some people in the West viewed it as an unfortunate ratification of the post-World War II division of Europe. But, he noted, the inclusion of human rights issues in that document -- the so-called Basket Three which initially attracted little attention -- made it into a revolutionary force which transformed much of Central and Eastern Europe.
Still more important, Koh suggested, the Helsinki Final Act --which began as an idea and then evolved into an organization and a process -- now serves as a model for ensuring that "human values are a core element of security" both in Europe and beyond.
Not only did it prompt signatory governments to pay more attention to human rights, Koh said, but it also empowered people living in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union -- many of whom, he said, first heard about Helsinki "not from their own governments but from RFE and RL" -- to demand that their governments live up to their commitments in this area.
Koh added that the meeting of democracies in Warsaw in June 2000 represented the next step in the Helsinki process and that the Warsaw Declaration in support of democracy is now taking its place alongside the Magna Carta, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Helsinki Final Act as key milestones on the road to freedom.
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