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The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then the promotion of respect for human rights continues to be a central goal of U.S. foreign policy. The United States recognizes human rights as they are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The US government believes that the existence of human rights helps secure peace abroad, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.

US Initiatives in the promotion of human rights:

  1. Hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights instruments.
  2. Promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom from torture, freedom of expression, press freedom, women's rights, children's rights, and the protection of minorities.
  3. Promote the rule of law, seek accountability, and change cultures of impunity.
  4. Assist efforts to reform and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights.
  5. Coordinate human rights activities with important allies, including the EU, and regional organizations.

Read the State Departments acknowledgement a set of voluntary principles on security and human rights.


Existing within the State Department is the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). Each year, DRL develops and submits to Congress a 5,000-page report on human rights conditions in 194 countries. It is respected globally for its objectivity and accuracy.

DRL actively promotes accountability for past human rights abuses and, to stop ongoing abuses, the bureau uses an "inside-outside" approach that combines vigorous, external focus on human rights concerns with equally robust support for internal reform. Finally, to prevent future abuses, it promotes early warning and preventive diplomacy.

Each year DRL accomplishes a number of other tasks in this area to ensure that human rights considerations are incorporated into U.S. foreign policy. It promotes the rights of women through international campaigns for political participation and full equality; conducts high-level human rights dialogues with other governments; coordinates U.S. policy on human rights with key allies; and raises key issues and cases through diplomatic and public channels.

It is the responsibility of the DRL to forge and maintains partnerships with organizations, governments, and multilateral institutions committed to human rights. The bureau takes advantage of multilateral forums to focus international attention on human rights problems and to seek correction. Each year, DRL provides significant support for U.S. delegations to the annual meetings of several international human rights organizations. The office also conducts regular consultations with Native American tribes and serves as the Secretary's principal advisor on international indigenous rights issues. Finally, DRL maintains relations with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and supports the creation of effective multilateral human rights mechanisms and institutions for accountability.

The State Departments 2002 Human Rights Report
can be viewed as follows:

The Preface to the Report

Overview & Acknowledgements

Introduction of the Report

Copyright © Laura Rowe.