Democracy Promotes Human Rights, Rice Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2006 The spread of democracy is the best way to advance human rights, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here yesterday.
"The growing demand for democratic governance reflects a recognition that the best guarantor of human rights is a thriving democracy with transparent, accountable institutions of government, equal rights under the rule of law, a robust civil society, political pluralism and independent media," Rice said.
The secretary was speaking to the press on the day the State Department delivered its "2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" to Congress. The congressionally mandated reports outline the performance of 196 countries in regard to human rights. The State Department has produced the reports since 1977.
Rice said the reports attest to America's continuing commitment to promoting human rights. "Our promotion of human rights and democracy is in keeping with America's most cherished principles, and it helps to lay the foundation for lasting peace in the world," she said.
The duty to defend human rights and to help spread democracy is especially great for the United States and other free nations, Rice said. "That is why we are working with other democracies to develop the institutions that will ensure human rights are respected over the long term," she said. "We must help struggling democracies deliver on the high hopes of their citizens for a better life."
The United States must call countries to account when they commit human rights violations, and the United States "must always stand in solidarity with the courageous men and women across the globe who live in fear yet dream of freedom," she said.
How a country treats its own people also is a strong indication of how it will behave toward its neighbors, she added.
The secretary emphasized that a worldwide discussion is taking place about democratic ideas and the universal principles that democratic governance protects. "This discussion is taking place from the halls of government in newly democratic Iraq to Internet cafes around the globe, in numerous public squares and across countless kitchen tables," she said.
All men and women desire and deserve to live in freedom, she said, and the hope of the Bush administration is that the reports will encourage governments, organizations, the media and public to address human rights problems. "As President Bush has said, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time," Rice said. "These reports chronicle that great story."
Barry Lowenkron, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor added that the reports have been used by successive Congresses and administrations to promote democracy and human rights for nearly three decades.
"Human rights and democracy are closely linked, and both are essential to long-term stability and security," Lowenkron said. "Free and democratic nations that respect the rights of their citizens help to lay the foundation for lasting peace."
When asked about specific human rights violators, Lowenkron quickly pointed to Syria and Iran. "Problems in Syria, and certainly problems in Iran are two in particular that I would highlight," he said.