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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Human Rights Day event
December 6, 2000, Washington, DC
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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(As Prepared for Delivery)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. President, Representative Lewis and other friends from Capitol Hill, distinguished honorees, Craig Cuny, Alexander Aris, colleagues and guests, good morning and welcome to the annual commemoration of Human Rights Day at the White House.

We are here to recognize outstanding contributions made by Americans to the cause of human rights. The careers of Tillie Black Bear, Fred Cuny, Norman Dorsen, Elaine Jones and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick are fully in keeping with the leadership and humanity shown by Eleanor Roosevelt, for whom the awards we present today are named.

Their lives and these awards reflect our nation's commitment to the principle that every person is entitled to certain fundamental and inalienable rights.

Americans are fortunate that, for the past eight years, we've had a President who has made this principle a major part of U.S. foreign policy.

Under President Clinton, we have worked hard to promote democracy because we believe that people everywhere should be able to elect their own leaders, worship freely, receive due process, and enjoy the benefits of democratic life.

This belief is supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been reaffirmed in recent Resolutions at the UN's General Assembly and Human Rights Commission. It is no coincidence that the world today is more free than it has ever been.

It is also no coincidence that international human rights institutions are far stronger than when President Clinton took office.

At his direction, America helped lead the successful effort to create a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We led the way in creating the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, the Balkans, and now Sierra Leone. And we helped gain agreement with Cambodia on special arrangements for prosecution of the Khmer Rouge.

The Clinton Administration has also been very active at the bargaining table. Next week, we will join countries from around the world in signing a Convention Against Transnational Crime, including a Protocol to crack down on the despicable practice of trafficking in human beings.

With help from Congress, we have implemented the Torture Convention and ratified the Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We negotiated and approved a Convention to ban the worst forms of child labor, and have increased funding ten-fold to combat such exploitation.

We have also shown that, when truly necessary, America will back our diplomatic support for human rights with force.

When diplomacy did not succeed, President Clinton and his NATO counterparts acted to end the war in Bosnia and reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

We have supported multilateral peace missions that have improved the human rights situation from Haiti to East Timor, and from Eastern Slavonia to Mozambique. And our President has been a tireless champion of peace in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, Chechnya and Africa.

I am also proud of the work done by Assistant Secretary of State Harold Koh and his team to report thoroughly, honestly and annually on human rights and religious freedom.

We have worked closely with NGOs and the private sector to promote core labor standards and recognize exemplary corporate practices.

And with strong support from the President--and the Senator-elect from New York--we have made efforts to improve the lives of women and girls part of the mainstream of American foreign policy.

We have also spoken out in support of those who lead for freedom in places that are not yet free. Serbia, until very recently, was one example. Burma is another. And nothing could be more appropriate than the recognition President Clinton will shortly bestow upon Aung San Suu Kyi, who embodies the very principles of democracy that the Burmese people cherish but have so long been denied.

Respect for human rights belongs within the heart of American foreign policy, and that is where it has been these past eight years. That is where it ought to stay for many years to come.

And now, I have the very welcome job of introducing to you someone most of you already know.

Representative John Lewis was one of the first recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights award. He has been a leader for civil rights and social justice throughout his career.

Like many who are unafraid to speak out, he has endured violence and vituperation. But his love has proven stronger than the bigot's hate. And our nation may be thankful that his dignified voice is now raised on behalf of human dignity as a leading member of the United States Congress.

Please welcome United States Representative John Lewis.

[End of Document]
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