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December 4, 2023

Are We Doing Enough for Human Rights?

U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia, Jamie L. Harpootlian
Večer, December 13, 2022

On Human Rights Day, we reflect on the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), crafted in 1948 on the heels of the most destructive war in the history of the world.  World War II was caused and characterized by a cruel disregard for humanity.  The UDHR was an appeal to people of goodwill to build a world molded in the rights it enumerated.

Today, three-quarters of a century later, the international order that was created following the adoption of the UDHR is in peril.  Russia’s war of aggression threatens peace and wellbeing in Europe and beyond.  Autocracies threaten human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic governance.

Human rights defenders, journalists, NGO workers, and other members of civil society are on the frontlines of building a more free and just world for future generations, working tirelessly to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, advocating for government transparency and accountability, promoting equitable access to justice, and exposing and preventing corruption. Regrettably, they are often subjected to intimidation, threats, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, gender-based violence, and unfair trials for this very work.

Against this backdrop, the Biden-Harris Administration has remained resolute in its commitment to respect, promote, and champion human rights for all.  At the first-ever Summit for Democracy in December of 2021, President Biden announced the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal – a landmark set of policy and assistance efforts to bolster democratic reformers, defend free and fair elections, support free and independent media, combat corruption, and advance technology for democracy.  Through this effort, we have committed to protect journalists from spurious lawsuits, using seed funding for the International Fund for Public Interest Media, and expanding support for Lifeline, a multilateral initiative which supports civil society organizations under threat or attack.

The Presidential Initiative demonstrates the U.S. commitment to champion human rights and be a leader in global efforts to strengthen democratic resilience and rights-respecting societies.  The United States works to strengthen institutional frameworks for the promotion of human rights, rule of law, and communications and collaboration between governments and civil society.

Here at U.S. Embassy Ljubljana, we celebrate Slovenia’s commitment to support protecting human rights and the rule of law.  Our embassy works together with civil society groups and the Slovenian government to improve and ensure the rights of every individual. For example, the NGO Slovene Philanthropy was awarded a special grant by the U.S. State Department to help Ukrainian refugees integrate into Slovenia.

We also commend Slovenia for welcoming over 7,000 Ukrainians fleeing from Russian aggression since February.  The Slovenian government has worked with civil society groups to ensure not only access to food and shelter, but also conducting awareness campaigns and monitoring to ensure people fleeing the war do not fall victim to human trafficking.  The United States also is grateful to Slovenia for its support of efforts in the United Nations to protect human rights.

President Biden has made it clear, however, that together with our partners and allies, across multilateral fora and across the world, we must jointly call upon all countries to do more to promote respect for human rights, and protect human rights defenders, journalists, and civic activists on the frontlines of democracy and human rights promotion.   All governments should protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individuals under their authority.  This concept is basic, but one we must continually reiterate.  Respect for the human rights of individuals within states is an essential component of lasting peace and prosperity among states.  On this Human Rights Day, we must look inward and ask ourselves if we are doing enough to respect, promote, and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.