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US State Department Releases its Annual <i>Supporting Human Rights and Democracy</i> Report

The United States has reiterated its commitment to supporting human rights and democracy around the globe. The Department of State submitted to Congress its annual report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights and its strategy to promote democracy. Some observers say the United States could do more.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush said the policy of the U.S is to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture. And in fiscal year 2005, the U.S. budgeted $1.4 billion for human rights and democracy programs.

Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky says the project is helping. "Working with partners to better their own lives and transform their own futures. We supported programs, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq to empower these countries' women who have taken posts as parliamentarians and ministers and will be critical in shaping the future of these nations."

The U.S. has been seeking help from other governments and from non-governmental organizations: Ms. Dobriansky said, "We worked with international partners to establish the foundation for the future in support of civil society in the broader Middle East and North Africa and to activate the UN Democracy Fund."

Right now the U.S. is concentrating on 95 countries that have the worst human rights records, such as Iran.

But the Advocacy Director for the Human Rights Watch organization, Tom Malinowski, says the administration has found it difficult to both fight a global war on terrorism and push for democracy in some countries it relies on to fight terrorism.

"I think a clear example, where we have not yet seen a change, is with Pakistan, that is ruled by General Musharaf, a military dictator who has repeatedly failed to keep his promises to restore democracy to that country. And the Bush administration has really not pressed hard because it depends too much on President Musharaf on the war on terrorism."

Malinowski says U.S. human rights efforts have been undercut by policies involving enemy combatants and the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Malinowski adds, "The U.S. still has moral clarity, it is urging countries all over the world to do the right things, respecting human rights, end torture and treating prisoners well. But obviously it has less much moral authority to make those demands of others because of the prisoners abuse scandal and because so few senior American officials have been accountable for these failures of policy."

Critics of U.S. efforts also point to recent news reports that democracy-building efforts in Iraq have been hurt by budget cuts. But the State Department says it has a record of success in countries such as Iraq and Ukraine, where it encouraged democratic elections.