Department highlights human rights

In 1950, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students at the U.N. International Nursery School in New York viewed a poster of the historic document. U.N. Photo
In 1950, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students at the U.N. International Nursery School in New York viewed a poster of the historic document. U.N. Photo

By Amanda J. Richard

December 10 marked the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which identified common rights and freedoms for all people. The Department of State released a press statement and video describing the celebration and recommitting to the protection and promotion of these essential universal rights and fundamental freedoms. Posts around the world and many domestic offices shared the Department’s message to honor and reaffirm these rights on social media, through webinars, and by honoring individuals who work every day to highlight the importance of human rights.  

The Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) facilitated a variety of public engagements to highlight the UDHR. Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus interviewed DRL Assistant Secretary Robert Destro who described what human rights are, what is required of governments to protect human rights, why human rights matter for the dignity of every person, how members of civil society can support and promote human rights, and the roles each person plays when it comes to human rights.

“Human rights are the freedoms that belong to every person,” said Destro. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born, if you’re rich or poor, whether you have a certain religious belief… All people are born with specific human rights.” 

Destro also released an op-ed, which Department posts published around the world, and he participated in a panel discussion on “Advocating Human Rights in the 21st Century” at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. During the panel, Destro discussed the importance of defending against adversaries who seek to undermine the shared values of the U.S. and our allies. 

As part of the broader Human Rights Week efforts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed America’s commitment to advancing disability rights, Dec. 3. DRL Special Advisor Ann Cody amplified this message during a webinar called “Promoting Disability Rights” hosted by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). DRL encourages posts to utilize the webinar and other tools which were shared on a dedicated intranet page

DRL teams up with FSI to offer courses year-round for Department employees that address the international Human Rights framework and policy implementation for the field, so that Foreign Affairs professionals are prepared for all elements of their work. Courses can be found by visiting the FSI Course Catalogue. More Department messaging honoring UDHR can be found on DRL’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Amanda J. Richard is the multimedia editor at State Magazine.

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