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Secretary of state highlights importance of free expression in human rights speech

Clinton speech signals greater emphasis on human rights in U.S. policy

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Washington, December 14, 2009 - Freedom House applauds Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her remarks at Georgetown University today on "A Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century."

Secretary Clinton's remarks setting forth the U.S. Government's human rights agenda appear to reflect an enhanced emphasis by the Obama Administration on the importance of political democracy for the achievement of basic human rights and broader development goals, as well. She gave special attention to the importance of freedom of expression. The remarks build upon President Obama's Nobel acceptance speech on December 10, in which he said "peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear."

"The emphasis on universal human rights in Secretary Clinton's speech sends an important message of her personal commitment at a time when the world is witnessing continuing global declines in fundamental rights," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. "We look forward to seeing this passion integrated into U.S. policy around the globe."

The speech stressed the necessity for a human rights policy that is fused with efforts to advance both development and democracy.

"Human rights, democracy and development are not three separate goals with three separate agendas," said Secretary Clinton. "To make a real and long term difference in people's lives we have to tackle all three simultaneously."

Clinton went on to refute the idea that national security policy need take priority over human rights issues and spoke of a "principled pragmatism" where the United States would address human rights issues of concern with countries like China or Russia while continuing to engage with them on strategic interests. "Freedom doesn't come in half measures," continued Clinton, "and partial remedies cannot redress the whole problem."

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