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Today, in honor of International Human Rights Day and the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, USAID joins the world  in standing with all those who struggle for the realization and protection of their human rights. We believe that promoting human rights is closely linked to advancing long-term, sustainable development, and that these rights are instrumental to attaining other goals such as economic growth and democracy and addressing underlying grievances that cause instability and conflict.

While USAID’s global mission is to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies, inextricably linked to this mission, is the protection and promotion of universally accepted human rights for all persons where we work.

Following the Rwanda genocide in 1994, issues of reconciliation remain a concern for maintaining peace into the future. USAID's Reconciliation and Reintegration programs provided trauma counseling and space for dialogue that allowed Elaine to forgive Alexis (both pictured) for killing her family members. They now have rebuilt their lives in the same community.  / Carol Storey

Following the Rwanda genocide in 1994, issues of reconciliation remain a concern for maintaining peace into the future. USAID’s Reconciliation and Reintegration programs provided trauma counseling and space for dialogue that allowed Elaine to forgive Alexis (both pictured) for killing her family members. They now have rebuilt their lives in the same community. / Carol Storey

Ending poverty is not feasible if people are denied the right to work, or are not paid fairly for their labor or are unable to secure housing, land, and property or lack access to health care.  Building well-functioning democratic societies requires respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of assembly, association, expression, information, political participation, and a fair trial.

Everyone should have the right to non-discrimination and protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and inhumane treatment, and forced labor and slavery.

USAID’s human rights programming is grounded not only in core democratic principles and values of the United States of America, including the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 (of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear), but also in the clear and timeless framework of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.   This includes:

  • Article 2.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  In countries and regions such as Cameroon, Nicaragua, Bosnia, South East Asia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Zambia, and Jordan, USAID is supporting the education, advocacy and sensitization work of local activists and human rights organizations who are breaking down the barriers of many forms of discrimination. USAID’s recently launched Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Vision for Action specifically highlights our commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
Training of Human Rights Monitors, part of USAID’s Human Rights in Action Program, Chernihiv, Ukraine. / USAID/Ukraine

Training of Human Rights Monitors, part of USAID’s Human Rights in Action Program, Chernihiv, Ukraine. / USAID/Ukraine

  • Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  USAID is assisting human rights defenders and national human rights institutions in Ukraine, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Mali, among many other countries, to document, investigate, and report on the severest forms of violations of this internationally enshrined right to life. USAID also supports the protection of human rights defenders  and the victims and survivors of human rights violations.
Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. Photo Credit: Jairo  Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

Youth from the municipality of Caucasia (Bajo Cauca Antioqueño), Colombia, participating in the first intercollegiate human rights competition “Human Rights: A Strategy to Educate.” This initiative, carried out by Corporación Jurídica Colombia Humana with USAID’s Human Rights Program support, sought to promote a human rights culture at schools through a human rights competition that evaluates knowledge acquired during the project duration. / Jairo Martínez, Corporación para el Desarrollo Social del Bajo Cauca, partner with USAID’s Human Rights Program

  • Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. As millions of people around the world continue to be exploited in the modern day slave trade or human trafficking, USAID set forth a new vision to counter-trafficking in persons (C-TIP) through an agency-wide C-TIP Policy with key programming objectives that include integrating C-TIP activities in development projects across sectors from health to economic growth.  USAID is responding to human trafficking trends in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Nepal by supporting programs that foster legal labor recruitment practices and safe migration. We also work to ensure that its own employees, partners, and procurement practices are not in any way facilitating human trafficking, by diligently enforcing the agency’s C-TIP Code of Conduct. New partnerships are being cultivated with the private sector since ending human trafficking is everyone’s business.
Nusrat Bibi, an acid burn survivor, takes photographs during a field trip for the photography workshop in Pakistan. Nusrat received photography training from Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) under the USAID Gender Equity Program, which supports women’s rights as human rights and works to empower women, especially those who are survivors of gender-based violence. As part of a rehabilitation process that includes developing new skills, ASF trained nine acid attack survivors. The photographic work of these survivors was featured in three different exhibitions in Islamabad. / Diego Sanchez.

Nusrat Bibi, an acid burn survivor, takes photographs during a field trip for the photography workshop in Pakistan. Nusrat received photography training from Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) under the USAID Gender Equity Program, which supports women’s rights as human rights and works to empower women, especially those who are survivors of gender-based violence. As part of a rehabilitation process that includes developing new skills, ASF trained nine acid attack survivors. The photographic work of these survivors was featured in three different exhibitions in Islamabad. / Diego Sanchez.

  • Article 10.  Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of his [or her] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him [or her]. USAID provides Rule of Law assistance to more than 40 countries around the world, including Bosnia, Burma, Cote d’Ivoire, and Indonesia in order to strengthen the administration of justice and promote independent, accountable, and efficient judicial systems.
Vu Lieu, LGBT Advocate, participated in the Vietnam National Dialogue as part of the “Being LGBT in Asia” Initiative.  The dialogue convened LGBT persons from around Vietnam to share lived experiences and discuss legal and socio-economical challenges they face and propose solutions. / Information Communication and Sharing, Vietnam

Vu Lieu, LGBT Advocate, participated in the Vietnam National Dialogue as part of the “Being LGBT in Asia” Initiative. The dialogue convened LGBT persons from around Vietnam to share lived experiences and discuss legal and socio-economical challenges they face and propose solutions. / Information Communication and Sharing, Vietnam

  • Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In Central African Republic, USAID is supporting local journalists, radio and press outlets to ensure critical and accurate information and peacebuilding programming is reaching those communities severely affected by the crisis.
  • Article 25.1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.  In Angola, USAID has empowered communities affected and threatened by forced evictions and demolitions through capacity strengthening activities and legal assistance and assisting the government in compiling a database of those in need of housing.

Today, we support the global efforts to expand human rights and the fundamental liberties contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us that “the inherent dignity and…the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It is equally a foundation of development.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Widdersheim is Human Rights Advisor for USAID’s Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance