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Human rights advocates present plan of action to Obama administration

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Monday, February 22, 2010 - Washington, DC - Freedom House, Human Rights First and dozens of human rights advocates from 27 countries today released the U.S.-specific portion of a Plan of Action to advance global human rights. The plan, which comes just days after the group met with President Obama and senior administration officials at the White House, includes a recommendation that the U.S. prioritize support for human rights defenders and independent media through the protection of freedom of expression and association in U.S. foreign policy. The recommendations for the U.S. government, formulated during the 2010 Human Rights Summit held in Washington, DC last week, form part of a larger plan of action for all governments and multi-lateral institutions to be released in the days ahead.

The 2010 Human Rights Summit, hosted by Human Rights First and Freedom House, brought together dissidents and human rights advocates from around the globe - including Iran, Uganda, Taiwan, Egypt, Russia, and Venezuela - with U.S. policy makers, officials from other democratic governments, and human rights and freedom of expression activists. During their meeting with President Obama, summit participants provided a first-hand account of the "on the ground" situation for human rights defenders, highlighted ways in which U.S. policy has impacted their work, and put forward ideas for improving upon these policies in the protection of fundamental freedoms.

"Human rights defenders work every day, often at great personal risk, to bring about positive, lasting change within their societies. By challenging injustice and raising awareness about human rights, these local activists aim to create a more secure world, one in which all people can live in freedom and dignity," said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. "The United States shares this goal and has pledged to support these courageous activists in their work. Our job is to make sure that U.S. policy is designed to deliver on that promise. The summit's recommendations spell out what more the United States can do to stand with those fighting to advance freedom everywhere."

Among the recommendations released today are calls for the U.S. to formulate a strategy to promote freedom of expression in countries where it is under threat and fulfill its pledge to make Internet freedom an international priority, to engage with other countries in order to counter government initiatives that threaten freedoms of association and expression in multilateral bodies, and to provide direct support to human rights defenders to participate in multilateral, regional and sub-regional human rights mechanisms.

"It was important for the President to have heard first hand from those who are on the front lines in order for the administration to develop a set of policies that truly address the global assault on freedom of expression and association," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "The meeting with the defenders reinforced the idea that bi-lateral talks between the U.S. and other countries by any government agency must carry a consistent message on human rights if we hope to strengthen our defense of fundamental freedoms around the world."

The summit's format combined working groups and participatory discussions about current threats to freedom of expression and association and the role that governments must play in the defense of these freedoms. In addition to the action plan, the summit gave government officials the opportunity to hear from activists engaged in front-line struggles for freedom and democracy. A group of the advocates will remain in Washington, DC this week to meet with officials from various government agencies to present the plan of action.

Click here for more information about the summit

Read the plan of action for the U.S. government:
Plan_of_Action_US.pdf (176 KB)

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