STATEMENT BY ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER
Honoring International Human Rights Day
Seventy-five years ago today, 58 representatives from countries across the world gathered in the halls of the grand Palais de Chaillot in Paris for the third-ever session of the United Nations. In the wake of the Second World War, a committed group of diplomats had been working diligently to get world leaders to codify the protection of human rights and work together to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities and human rights violations that had shocked the world during the war. After over 80 meetings and more than 160 drafts, the UN was ready to formally vote on a vital question: should members enshrine the belief that “all human beings are born equal in dignity and in rights” as a principle of international law?
Ultimately, no country voted against, and members signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948. Though this was not the first time that human rights had been codified, it was the first time that countries around the world came together and collectively agreed to respect and protect fundamental rights of humans everywhere, regardless of border or belief.
Today, USAID renews our commitment to protect the indivisible and interdependent human rights of all people, and we celebrate those leading the fight to uphold these rights – often at great personal cost – in communities across the world.
This year, that fight has taken on a new urgency. From the horrific seizure of hostages and killings of civilians in the devastating Israel-Hamas conflict to Putin’s continued brutal assault on Ukraine – from legislation that threatens LGBTQI+ persons in countries like Uganda to a global decline in press freedom, we must rededicate ourselves to protecting every individual’s fundamental right to “life, liberty, and security of person.”
Indeed, people around the world continue to demonstrate and demand their rights. During the most recent decade, more people than ever in recorded history took to the streets to demonstrate and demand their rights.
At USAID, we support local changemakers working to uphold the dignity of all individuals, including and especially people from historically marginalized and underserved communities. This year, I got to see this work up close and meet with inspiring civil rights activists, human rights defenders, and investigative journalists working to drive democratic change and protect their fellow citizens’ basic human rights – everywhere from Kyiv to Quito; N’Djamena to Nairobi; Port Moresby to Priština.
Our USAID staff around the world do vital work every day to support and protect these leaders – by doing everything from documenting human rights abuses and violations in Sudan to enhancing the security of exiled human rights defenders across Europe and Eurasia. And this year, USAID established a Risk Mitigation, Prevention, and Response working group to enhance the security, safety, and well-being of our implementing partners and program participants, including those who promote and protect human rights.
To these brave defenders of human rights – we stand with you. And we will continue to support your work to uphold the fundamental dignity of every person.