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US Launches Initiatives on Behalf of Human Rights Advocates

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced initiatives to protect human rights activists worldwide against government repression. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, the steps come in response to what the State Department calls "a global trend of crackdowns on non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders."

Appearing at the State Department Thursday, Secretary Rice announced three human rights initiatives in a new campaign, which coincides with the 58th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The initiatives consist of:
- two recognition awards
- a $1million fund to cover the emergency needs of repressed human rights advocates
- a set of ten principles to support the work of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs

The secretary said, "We hope that our contribution of the ten NGO principles will help to rally worldwide support for embattled NGOs by serving as a handy resource for governments, international organizations, civil society groups and journalists."

Secretary Rice also recognized the courage and tenacity of human rights advocates and said democracies must "defend the defenders." "They strive to protect the rights of minorities and workers and women and to stop the trafficking in human beings. They are building vibrant civil societies, pressing for free and fair elections, and establishing accountable law-based democracies."

Senior U.S. officials have been critical of Russia for passing laws that restrict the activities of NGOs. The United States has also singled out Iran for its repressive human rights record.