(Times and participants subject to change)
Welcome and Opening Message
Defending the Defenders: How Can the United States Best Support Frontline Activists?
Repressive governments have become increasingly adept at constraining independent civil society groups, especially human rights organizations that expose and criticize government abuses. Whether by brute force, restrictive laws, or efforts to discredit them, the global crackdown on these groups should be cause for great concern. The issue of foreign funding is particularly acute. Repressive governments often prevent civil society organizations from receiving funds from local donors, making them dependent on international support. The governments then point to this dependency – which they have created – as evidence that the civil society organizations are inauthentic, or even agents for hostile foreign powers. What can American policymakers do to better support civil society organizations? What do foreign activists want from the United States?
Sarah E. Mendelson
Are Justice and Peace a Zero Sum Game?
Post-conflict and post-authoritarian countries rarely evolve into rights-respecting democracies without coming to terms with past human rights crimes and their legacy of guilt, distrust, and anger. Successful military and police reform depends on effective mechanisms of accountability—from public discussion of abuses, to government investigations and reports, to prosecutions of those responsible. How and why should the United States support other countries’ efforts to grapple with this challenge? And what must the United States do to lead by example?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 65: The Role of U.S. Leadership in Bringing the UDHR to Life and Realizing its Promise
Adopted by the United Nations 65 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first comprehensive agreement among nations recognizing the rights, freedoms, and inherent dignity of all people. Straightforward yet revolutionary, the UDHR arose from the horrors of WWII to make clear the relationship between respect for fundamental rights and preservation of peace and security in the world. Activists fighting to realize the promise of the UDHR in their own countries continue to be inspired by the clarity and power of this document, which owes its birth to American leadership. Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the Universal Declaration and espoused its ideals throughout her career.
In this panel, three scholars—Allida Black, editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers; Taylor Branch, author of a monumental trilogy on the U.S. civil rights movement, America in the King Years; and Habib C. Malik, widely published lecturer on human rights, democracy, and the Middle East—will discuss the U.S. role in creating the Universal Declaration and its impact on the U.S. civil rights movement as well as other social justice movements around the world.
Dr. Habib C. Malik
Dreaming Forward: What Do Today’s Young Activists Learn from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement?
Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” the defining moment in a movement that brought about the end of government-sanctioned white supremacy in the United States. The American civil rights movement continues to inspire not only those who work to fulfill Dr. King’s dream here in the United States, but activists around the world who struggle daily to make their vision of a free and inclusive society a reality. In this panel, human rights activists discuss the lessons of the U.S. civil rights movement and its influence on their work.
Reda Al Fardan
Ambassador Susan E. Rice
How do American Allies View U.S. Leadership on Human Rights?
The United States has often worked with its allies to advance human rights around the world. Indeed, U.S. leadership is strongest and most effective when it is contributing to multilateral efforts. However, in fighting terrorism, the United States has committed human rights abuses that have alienated key allies. Most recently, revelations about National Security Agency surveillance have strained relations. On this panel, policy leaders from nations allied with the United States will discuss U.S. global leadership—or lack thereof—on human rights.
The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy P.C., O.C., O.M.
The Rt Hon Lord David Owen CH FRCP
Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East
The seismic changes in the broader Middle East region are throwing up serious human rights problems and new challenges for American foreign policy. The time when U.S. interests could be secured by cozy relationships with cooperative autocratic governments appears to be at an end, and the U.S. is having to deal with regional armed conflicts and political instability in many former allied states. What are the instruments of foreign policy that the U.S. government can use both to protect its vital national interests and to address the many problems facing the region? Can U.S. influence be used to advance universal values of human rights in this troubled part of the world?
A Look Back: Eileen Donahoe, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Reflects on her Five Year Term
When the United States joined the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009, it did so mindful of the institution’s weaknesses. The Council is the principal human rights body of the United Nations; at the same time, it is a highly politicized institution in which many states seek to deflect attention from their own human rights failings while scoring political points against rivals and adversaries. This makes for an uneasy combination of high principle and low politics.
Ambassador Eileen Donahoe was the lead U.S. representative at the Human Rights Council for the past four years. In a conversation with Human Rights First’s President and CEO, Elisa Massimino, Ambassador Donahoe will reflect on the results of U.S. engagement on the Council and the challenges facing the United States as it seeks to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms through multilateral engagement at the United Nations.
Ambassador Eileen Donahoe
Welcome and Opening Message
Can the United States be a Trustworthy Steward of Global Internet Freedom?
Under President Obama the U.S. government has sought—and managed—to lead internationally on Internet freedom. But revelations about the PRISM and XKEYSTROKE surveillance programs have damaged the credibility of both U.S. technology companies and the U.S. government. How does the Obama Administration credibly defend universal free expression rights in global diplomatic circles when both allies and foes are questioning its commitment to Internet freedom? How do American companies convince the world that they are trustworthy stewards of private information? What can the administration and U.S. tech companies do to regain their mojo?
Ambassador Phil Verveer
How Should the United States Advance the Human Rights of LGBT People around the World?
The Obama Administration has sought to lead globally on LGBT rights. At the same time, criminalization and harassment of LGBT people is on the rise in countries such as Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Honduras. Join U.S. policymakers and LGBT activists from these countries for a discussion of how the United States should lead on this issue, how human rights communities in these countries relate to LGBT activists, and what to expect when countries from all over the world meet at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the shadow of Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL27)
How Can the United States Disrupt the Transnational Criminal Networks that Enable Atrocities?
Perpetrators of mass atrocities rely on third parties—enablers—to supply the weapons, supplies, services, and financing necessary to terrorize populations. Some of these enablers are transnational criminal networks. This panel will discuss how these networks enable genocide and other mass atrocities, and what the international community—in particular the U.S. government—is and should be doing to disrupt them as part of broader strategy to prevent slaughter.
Kathi Lynn Austin
U.S. Leadership on Human Rights: A View from 39 Years in the Senate
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
What Can the U.S. Government and American Companies Do to End Human Trafficking?
Last year, an estimated 27 million people—the majority of them women and girls—were forced into modern slavery, compelled to provide labor or commercial sex acts by force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking is a $31 billion a year business, the second largest criminal enterprise in the world. Traffickers operate with almost complete impunity: only one trafficker is convicted for every 6,369 victims. As a source, transit, and destination country for victims, what is the United States doing to address this massive violation of human rights? With consumers demanding greater transparency about the production of goods and work practices, how can American companies ensure that they are not complicit in this crime—and how can they be part of the solution? And, as the majority of trafficking victims are women and girls, how can strategies proven to empower women be brought to bear in tackling this global injustice?
Ambassador Mark Lagon
Does Torture Help to Protect National Security?
Human Rights First is committed to upholding the absolute prohibition on the use of torture provided for in international law. In that regard, we campaigned for an end to the use of torture by U.S. forces in the context of the struggle against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, and we work around the world to encourage governments not to resort to torture. We have found that among our best allies in this struggle are senior military and other security sector leaders who know from their own experience that in addition to being illegal and wrong, torture is counterproductive as a tool for countering terrorism and strengthening national security. The United States’ example with respect to the use of torture sets a global tone that has a clear impact on the prevalence of the use of torture in many other countries. In this area in particular, it is vital that the United States should be global leader in adherence to human rights and the rule of law.
General Lamine Cisse
Colonel Steve Kleinman, USAFR
General David M. Maddox, USA (Ret.)
Does Religious Pluralism Have a Future in the Middle East?
Sectarian conflict is increasing in a number of countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan. While the causes—the rise of Islamist parties following democratic uprisings, the spread of al Qaeda, U.S. military action and occupation, and the stoking of sectarian flames by repressive rulers—may vary, the results are uniformly dangerous. As violence erupts between people of different faiths and discriminatory laws victimize religious minorities, countries come apart and the chance for successful transitions to democracy evaporates. The U.S. government has a moral and strategic interest in helping to cool sectarian tensions. What should it do to help countries grappling with this problem?
Dr. H.A. Hellyer
Dr. Habib C. Malik
Beacon Prize Dinner Honoring Senator Bob Dole; By invitation only
As he accepted the 1996 Republican nomination for President of the United States, Senator Bob Dole said, “I believe the ultimate imperative for growth and opportunity is to advance human dignity.” His long and distinguished public service career has embodied that philosophy.
From the front lines of World War II, where he sustained the injury that left him permanently disabled, to his return to the United States as a highly decorated veteran with a desire to continue his service in government, Senator Dole has devoted his life to upholding our nation’s fundamental ideals. Perhaps there is no better example of his work to ensure dignity for all than the decades he has spent championing the rights of people with disabilities.
In 1990, Senator Dole spearheaded bipartisan passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which President George H.W. Bush signed into law. Last year, he returned to Capitol Hill to press the United States Senate to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities— a treaty declaring that all people, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity. Senator Dole rightly observed that ratification of the treaty would reaffirm the country’s “common values of equality, access and inclusion for all individuals with disabilities.”
Senator Dole’s courageous leadership remains instrumental in advancing the rights of disabled people in the United States and beyond. Human Rights First is proud to honor Senator Dole by awarding him our Beacon Prize.