Ambassador Kierscht op-ed on Human Rights Day

Ambassador Cynthia Kierscht
Ambassador Cynthia Kierscht

On Human Rights Day, we reflect on the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), created in 1948 on the heels of the most destructive war in world history. World War II was caused by a cruel disregard for humanity. The UDHR was an appeal to build a better world, and remains a catalyst for improving respect for human rights for all, including the most vulnerable.

Today, three quarters of a century later, the international order created after the adoption of the UDHR is in danger. A war of aggression threatens peace and well-being in Europe and beyond. Autocracies threaten human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic governance. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with some governments abusing emergency powers to restrict basic freedoms. Illiberal leaders use populist appeals linked to income inequality and nationalism to consolidate power. Weak institutions enable these tactics, supported by newer methods of disinformation. In the Sahel region, non-state actors like the Wagner Group and terrorist groups use fear and intimidation to achieve their goals, often harming the communities they claim to protect.

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Human rights defenders, journalists, and other members of civil society are at the forefront of building a freer and fairer world for future generations, working tirelessly to uphold respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms forward, supporting government transparency and accountability, promoting equitable access. for justice, and to expose and prevent corruption. Unfortunately, this work is often subject to intimidation, threats, arbitrary detention, cancellation of executions, extrajudicial killings, torture, gender-based violence, and unfair trials. Repressive governments often issue threats and reprisals when these people participate in international human rights dialogue. Those who work on land and environmental issues as well as the human rights of women and girls in all their diversity, people with disabilities, indigenous people, and other members of marginalized and minority groups, are particularly vulnerable to attacks .

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Around the world, there is an increased use of internet shutdowns or internet slowdowns, misuse of surveillance technologies, including spyware, and heavy restrictions on civil society organizations, including misuse of anti-terror laws, to stifle the voices of civil society. In 2021, NGOs report that over 300 human rights defenders (HRDs) and over 50 media workers have been killed and hundreds more unjustly imprisoned for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world.

Against this background, the Biden-Harris Administration remained steadfast in its commitment to respect, promote and promote human rights for all. Here in Mauritania, the United States will continue to work with both the government and civil society to promote respect for human rights through human trafficking, modern slavery, and restrictions on freedom of expression, among others. to fight.

President Biden made it clear that together with our partners and allies, across multilateral forums and around the world, we must together ask all countries to do more to foster respect for human rights, and defenders protect human rights, journalists and civil activists. on the frontlines of democracy and the promotion of human rights. All governments should protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction. This concept is fundamental, but we must repeat it continuously. Respect for the human rights of individuals within they are an essential part of lasting peace and state 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 people.

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