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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to UNHRC Heads of Delegation
U.S. Mission to the UN
Geneva, Switzerland, March 23, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
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Well I am very, very pleased to be here and Ambassador Moose thank you very much for that very kind introduction. Mr. Chairman, Madam High Commissioner, Excellencies and colleagues, and I see some friends from New York -- Macarana. (laughter)

I am very glad Assistant Secretary Koh is here and Ambassador Rubin is also here and we can welcome you all to the United States Mission. I had the honor of addressing this Commission in 1996, as my country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and I am really delighted to be able to return today for the first session of the 21st Century.

A little more than fifty years ago the Commission drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and provided us with a simple but powerful guiding principle that all human beings are born free and equal and with dignity and rights. Many of the countries represented here tonight played a roll in drafting and then proclaiming the declaration. Many others helped establish the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and we all share a responsibility to build on this legacy and turn the idea of Human Rights into the reality of human justice.

Having been head of delegation to many UN meetings myself, I know that the day-to-day work of Commission delegates is rarely glamorous and sometimes overlooked, but your efforts reaffirm the promise of the declaration and guarantee its relevance. There was a time when it would have seemed beside the point to raise the issue of human rights in a diplomatic or foreign policy setting and today it's quite different because promoting Democracy and human rights is often the main point and the world is far better for it.

So, over the next five weeks let us draw deeply upon our collective wisdom and passion and by working together we can continue to move forward towards the day when every individual in every country is given the respect he or she deserves.

This evening I also want to note, with deep regret, the death last week of Morris Abrams, the former U.S. Ambassador to United Nations and representative to this Commission. Ambassador Abrams was a leader in our common effort to protect human rights as well as a true gentleman and he will be missed. And it's my hope that tonight's event will help us understand each other a bit better and strengthen the possibilities for effective action by the Commission. We have only a very short time together but I'm looking forward very much to meeting each and every one of you. I see a lot of old friends out there and I'm very, very pleased to be here and you know maybe this is going to be a route on somebody's airline (laughter) in order to get frequent flyer miles because I'm coming back to Geneva (laughter) on Sunday.

So I come and go, so thank you all very much and I'm looking forward to shaking hands and saying hi to everyone.

Thanks a lot, Ambassador.

[End of Document]
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