For Immediate Release: December 21, 2012
Washington, DC – Following today’s announcement that President Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry as his pick for Secretary of State, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino has issued the following statement:
“Senator John Kerry has a long, distinguished record on foreign policy, and particularly as a proven mediator on difficult and urgent issues. We welcome the opportunity to work with him in the next administration.
“The next Secretary of State would be wise to continue Secretary Clinton’s legacy of using U.S. smart power to advance its interests and goals. As Senator Kerry prepares for his confirmation hearing, we urge him to make clear that advancing U.S. leadership on human rights around the globe will be at the core of his tenure at the Department of State. Human Rights First recommends that he consider several strategies to realize that:
“SUPPORTING CIVIL SOCIETY: Senator Kerry should continue to engage civil society leaders, including local human rights defenders to strengthen their input in places where they are far too frequently boxed out of the public discourse. Around the globe, the environment for non-governmental organizations is becoming more difficult, and the U.S. can play a pivotal role in protecting this essential segment of free and democratic societies.
“FIGHTING FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF MINORITY POPULATIONS: We urge him to continue to continue to institutionalize the President’s directives on women, peace and security, and the rights of LGBTI persons all over the world, who are often persecuted and face violence simply because of who they are or who they love. Attacks on religious minorities, and religion-motivated violence is also on the rise, and the U.S. voice for the protection of religious freedom is as important – and strategic – as ever.
“HELP TO FULFILL THE PROMISE OF THE ARAB SPRING: In the wake of the Arab Spring, people across the Middle East continue to fight for their human rights. Over the next four years, the State Department should enact thoughtful strategies that help the Arab Spring transform into a true human rights success story. It must support those who continue to fight against repression and violence in the name of freedom.
“CHINA: The next Secretary of State cannot ignore the daily persecution of lawyers and activists in China. When Chen Guangcheng escaped from his illegal house arrest last April, he showed the world through his bravery that the United States is a beacon for all those who aspire to live in a free society. The work of Chinese dissidents and lawyers is perilous. The United States must not stay silent while the abuses they face continue and it must work to integrate human rights into all aspects of the multi-faceted relationship with China.
“ATROCITIES PREVENTION: The President rightfully identified atrocity prevention as a national security priority in 2012 and launched the Atrocities Prevention Board to tackle looming threats before they explode through an all-of-government approach. It has been a successful start, and the next Secretary will be well-advised to prioritize institutionalization of this mechanism.
“US LEADERSHIP ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE: The U.S. is more successful in securing its interests on human rights when it works in partnership with the international community. This administration has successfully re-engaged the U.S. in international fora, especially the U.N. Human Rights Council, and since the U.S. was recently re-elected to a new term, the next Secretary should continue that leadership.
“Our nation is strongest when the United States leads by example and lives up to its ideals. After the confirmation, we look forward to working with the new Secretary to ensure that the United States is truly a beacon on human rights.”