• Press Release

USA: Amnesty International Urges President Obama and Congress to Work Together to More Effectively Champion Human Rights

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Public Statement
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amnesty International Urges President Obama and Congress to Work Together to More Effectively Champion Human Rights

(Washington, D.C.) – As President Obama addresses the nation on critical issues in his State of the Union speech tonight, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) urges President Obama and Congress to work together to more effectively champion human rights.  AIUSA calls on both the Obama administration and Congress to ensure that even as more attention is focused on domestic and financial issues, the United States remains engaged with a robust foreign affairs agenda that restores human rights as a core principle.

On assuming power, the Obama administration brought with it hopes that serious human rights issues would be highlighted and addressed.  While significant steps have been achieved, much more can be done.  The tepid responses to crackdowns in China and the lackluster efforts to press for political reform in Egypt are disappointing indicators of an ambivalent commitment to human rights just when the global community needs a champion. The lack of progress in addressing human rights issues and accountability in the context of national security continues to undermine the U.S. government’s credibility and leadership internationally. With the current financial environment, there are concerns that Congress will slash international assistance budgets, further undermining the ability of the United States to lead the international community in this critical arena.         

In 2010, the Obama administration boosted international human rights standards by engaging in the Universal Periodic Review process before the United Nations Human Rights Council, called for ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against (CEDAW) by the U.S. Senate and announced its support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  In 2009 President Obama appointed Melanne Verveer as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, sending a message to the world that the United States would prioritize issues that affect women.  The administration also initiated an unprecedented effort to address hunger through its Global Hunger and Food Security initiative and with its stated intentions to initiate a Global Health initiative. These initiatives would benefit from being placed in a comprehensive, assertive agenda built around human rights and dignity.

On the domestic front, AIUSA urges President Obama to act on earlier promises and call for the creation of a National Human Rights Commission nd issue the Executive Order on Human Rights.  We also urge Congress to recognize healthcare as a universal right and work to put that principle in to practice. In particular, AIUSA urges the administration to prioritize reducing maternal mortality in the United States and globally.  Around the world, one woman dies every ninety seconds due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, yet maternal mortality is largely preventable.   Although maternal mortality needs urgent action, it has seen the least progress of all the Millennium Development Goals.  The United States must play a leadership role in combating this human rights crisis. AIUSA also urges Congress to work with the administration to take up critical issues such as implementing a fair and humane overhaul of the immigration system and undertaking national prison reform.

AIUSA hopes that tonight’s speech will acknowledge the importance of human rights both at home and abroad, and will not represent an abdication of global leadership on a human rights agenda.

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