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US Pushes Democracy Agenda At UN Human Rights Commission

The United States says freedom and democracy are inextricably linked to human rights. A senior U.S. official says the United States plans to back resolutions promoting these values during this year's session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

The U.S. under-secretary of state for global affairs, Paula Dobriansky, says democracy leads to peace. She says human rights generally are observed in states where both democracy and peace exist.

The U.S. official says the United States is keen to push its democratic agenda at the U.N. Human Rights Commission and will work with other nations to draft a resolution on standards for sound democratic elections. She called on governments that are elected and respect their citizens' rights to play a bigger role in the commission. "We need to put a stop to the trend of the world's worst human rights abusers securing membership on the commission to deflect criticism of their abuses at home, and we encourage and support more democracies to vie for commission membership," she said.

Currently, the commission's 53-member states are nominated by regional groups. Human rights groups criticize this system. They say it allows states such as Cuba, Sudan, Nepal and Zimbabwe, which they say are gross violators of human rights, to be elected to the body that is supposed to monitor and stop such abuse.

Ms. Dobrianksy says that although there is enormous momentum for democracy, many of the world's people remain oppressed -- unable to choose the governments they want. "If men and women are bold enough to stand up and to confront tyrants, the least we can do is to have the courage to support their cause," he said. "There are still regions of the world that simmer with resentment and tyranny and are prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder. Thus, there is much work for this Commission to do."

Ms. Dobriansky says the United States will join with other like-minded nations to form a democracy caucus at this year's commission. She says the group of countries will work to advance resolutions and initiatives consistent with democratic values.