Statement on International Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week

As prepared for delivery by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
December 12, 2013

President Obama noted this week that six and a half decades ago, delegates from around the world convened to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rejecting the notion that individual aspirations should be subject to the whims of tyrants and empires, and affirming every person’s right to liberty, equality, and justice under the law.

Mr. Chairman, we should use this opportunity and our work in the OSCE to honor Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week not only to celebrate these ideals, but also to advance them, along with all of commitments to human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

Humanity thrives because of our differences; the exchange of ideas among vibrant cultures is a source of innovation, beauty, and vitality.  All women and men – across the participating States comprising this Organization and regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income level – share the rights to freedoms of expression, religion, assembly, and association.  We all have the right to take part in government, directly or through freely elected representatives.  As individuals and societies, we have the right to choose our own destiny.

But in some corners of the OSCE space, people are still persecuted for their beliefs, imprisoned for their ideals, and punished for their convictions.  A growing number of countries are passing laws designed to stifle civil society – including organizations that promote universal human rights, support good governance, and bolster economic development.  As President Obama said in his proclamation to honor this day, “Today and always, let us strive to break down prejudice, amplify the courageous voices that sound the call for change, and reaffirm our unwavering support for the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.