[JURIST] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] on Monday announced [remarks; video] the Obama administration's human rights agenda, emphasizing human rights, democracy, and development. Speaking at Georgetown University just days after US President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, Clinton said that "a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves." Clinton also said that the US must be "pragmatic and agile" in its approach without compromising its principles and that the administration would "support change driven by citizens and their communities." Clinton said the US must "widen [its] focus" and concluded by saying:
In the end, this isn't just about what we do; it is about who we are. And we cannot be the people we are people who believe in human rights if we opt out of this fight. Believing in human rights means committing ourselves to action, and when we sign up for the promise of rights that apply everywhere, to everyone, that rights will be able to protect and enable human dignity, we also sign up for the hard work of making that promise a reality.
Clinton's speech came after the Obama administration has faced months of criticism for being too lenient on human rights violations.
In September, the US officially took its place [JURIST report] on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] for the first time. In an address [text] to the council, US Assistant Secretary for the Organization of International Affairs Esther Brimmer [official profile] discussed four themes the US sees as key to its role on the council: the universality of human rights, the importance of dialogue between countries, the application of fundamental principles of human rights, and the need for truth and honesty in confronting human rights violations. Brimmer acknowledged that the US had made mistakes regarding human rights in the past but noted the progress of the US in correcting those lapses. The US was among 18 countries elected [JURIST report] to the council in May. In April, the US State Department [official website] released [press release; JURIST report] its commitments and pledges to human rights in anticipation of May election. The US announced its intent to seek a seat on the council [JURIST report] in early April, hoping to affect more change by working from inside the council than by boycotting the effort. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006 to replace the much-criticized Committee on Human Rights, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC.