May 22, 2024

U.S.-Africa ties latest: Release of Woodke, human rights report and trafficking in persons

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Amery Browne at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on March 7, 2023. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Amery Browne at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on March 7, 2023. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett

Ties between the United States and Africa continued to strengthen this week with the release of an American who had been captive in the West African nation of Niger and the release of the human rights report by the Department of State.

Below are the latest US government statements on ties between the United States, Africa and the rest of the world.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken on the 2022  Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
Washington, D.C.
March 20, 2023

MR PATEL: Good morning, everybody. And welcome back to those of us that were on the road with us last week.

The Secretary will make some very brief remarks and take a couple of questions before he has to head back upstairs for some engagements. Assistant Secretary Barclay and Ambassador Van Schaack, though, will hang back downstairs to answer some more Q&A once the Secretary departs.

Secretary, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Vedant, thank you. Well, good morning, everyone.

Let me just start with some very good news this morning, and that is the release of Jeffrey Woodke after more than six years in captivity. I want to thank the Government of Niger, where I was just last week, for its important assistance in bringing him home. I also want to thank our team, starting with Special Envoy Roger Carstens, all of those who have been working at the department to bring him home, tireless efforts, and I’m very pleased that we are now seeing that come to fruition today.

As you know, I have no higher priority or focus than bringing home any unjustly detained American, wherever that is in the world. We won’t rest until they’re all home and, like Jeffrey, reunited with their families.

This morning, I’ll be launching the 2022 Human Rights Report. But just before I turn to that, I want to speak to what’s happening right now in Moscow.

Today, and throughout this week, President Xi is meeting with President Putin in Russia. We expect that China may use this visit to reiterate calls for a ceasefire under its peace proposal.

The United States welcomes any initiative that advances a just and durable peace. China’s proposal includes elements that we have long supported, including ensuring nuclear safety, resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians.

And indeed, the first element calls for upholding sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries.

The fundamental element of any plan for ending the war in Ukraine and producing a just and durable peace must be upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

Any plan that does not prioritize this critical principle is a stalling tactic at best or is merely seeking to facilitate an unjust outcome. That is not constructive diplomacy.

Calling for a ceasefire that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest. It would recognize Russia’s attempts to seize a sovereign neighbor’s territory by force. It would enable Russia to further entrench positions in Ukraine. And a ceasefire now, without a durable solution, would allow President Putin to rest and refit his troops and then restart the war at a time more advantageous to Russia.

The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia – supported by China or any other country – to freeze the war on its own terms. Such a move would violate the UN Charter and delay – defy, excuse me – the will of the 141 countries who have condemned Russia’s war in the United Nations General Assembly.

One party to this conflict – Ukraine – has already put forward a just peace formula. If China is committed to supporting an end to the war based on the principles of the UN Charter as called for in point one of its plan, it can engage with President Zelenskyy and Ukraine on this basis and use its influence to compel Moscow to pull back its forces.

Russia’s purported annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory, including vast areas it doesn’t even control, and its ongoing, brutal attacks on civilians make clear that President Putin currently has no interest in such a peace.

That President Xi is traveling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes.

Now, every year, I come to this podium for the launch of the Human Rights Report. I do so because the report embodies the importance of human rights for American diplomacy and for our vision of an open, free, prosperous, and secure world.

Human rights are universal. They aren’t defined by any one country, philosophy, or region. They apply to everyone, everywhere.

This report makes a factual, objective, and rigorous accounting of human rights conditions around the world, looking at nearly 200 countries and territories. And, importantly, it applies the same standards to everyone: our allies and partners, and countries with which we have differences.

The goal of this report is not to lecture or to shame. Rather, it is to provide a resource for those individuals working around the world to safeguard and uphold human dignity when it’s under threat in so many ways. And while this report looks outward to countries around the world, we know the United States faces its own set of challenges on human rights.

Our willingness to confront our challenges openly, to acknowledge our own shortcomings – not to sweep them under the rug or pretend they don’t exist – that is what distinguishes us and other democracies.

The report makes clear that, in 2022, in countries across every region, we continued to see a backsliding in human rights conditions – the closing of civic space, disrespect for fundamental human dignity.

The report details the appalling and ongoing abuses committed by the regime in Iran against its own people. In the wake of the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, authorities have killed hundreds of peaceful protestors, including dozens of children, and have arbitrarily detained thousands.

Iranian forces are using torture and gender-based violence against arrested protesters. Journalists and lawyers are harassed and pre-emptively detained. Sham trials and hasty executions are used to further intimidate the people of Iran.

The international community has come together to condemn and confront Iran’s brutal crackdown, and we’ll continue to act in support of the right of the Iranian people to speak out for their fundamental freedoms.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban relentlessly discriminates against and represses women and girls, so far issuing 80 decrees and – that restrict women’s freedom of movement and their right to education and work. The Taliban’s December edict barring female employees of non-governmental organizations from the workplace imperils the tens of millions of Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance for their very survival.

Human rights have further eroded in Burma, where the military regime brutalizes the population. Thousands of activists have been killed by the authorities – including four pro-democracy leaders executed last summer.

The PRC continues its abuses, including genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs, repression of Tibetans, crackdown on basic rights in Hong Kong, and targeting of individuals on the mainland for exercising fundamental freedoms.

In Cuba, courts have issued draconian jail sentences to hundreds of people for protesting for their rights. And in Nicaragua, the authoritarian government continues to detain political prisoners and hold them in appalling prison conditions.

The 2022 Human Rights Report is also a reminder of the extraordinary courage of so many – activists, journalists, lawyers, government officials, regular citizens – who stand up to these abuses. Many do so at great personal risk of retaliation, harassment, detention, torture, even death.

In February, we celebrated ten Global Human Rights Defender awardees – individuals from around the world who are promoting and defending fundamental freedoms, from combatting slavery, to advocating for families of those forcibly disappeared, to demanding better wages and working conditions for low-income laborers, to representing political prisoners on death row. This report honors them.

I’m also proud of my colleagues here at the State Department – in Washington and at every post around the world – for not only reporting and documenting human rights abuses but also drawing on the power and purpose of American diplomacy to advance human dignity.

Now, as you know, I recently traveled to Ethiopia, where I had a very productive discussion with Prime Minister Abiy and his team. I also met with Getachew Reda, the TPLF signatory to the November 2nd Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, who was just selected to be the leader of its interim administration. I commended both sides for reaching that agreement and the significant progress made in its implementation.

With this agreement in place, the fighting has stopped, humanitarian assistance is flowing, services are being restored, human rights[i] in northern Ethiopia are significantly down, Eritrean forces are leaving, the Ethiopian Government is taking the first steps toward transitional justice.

But, as I discussed with both sides during my visit, to build a durable peace, there must be acknowledgment of the atrocities committed by all parties, as well as accountability together with reconciliation.

The conflict in northern Ethiopia was devastating. Men, women, and children were killed. Women and girls were subject to horrific forms of sexual violence. Thousands were forcibly displaced from their homes. Entire communities were specifically targeted based on their ethnicity.

Many of these actions were not random or a mere byproduct of war. They were calculated and deliberate.

After the department’s careful review of the law and the facts, I’ve determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces, and Amhara forces committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, and Amhara forces also committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution.

Members of the Amhara forces committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing through their treatment of Tigrayans in western Tigray.

We welcome the commitment that the parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement have made to acknowledge the atrocities committed and their devastating consequences.

The Government of Ethiopia is taking the first steps by publicly releasing a detailed green paper of transitional justice options based upon best practices and building upon the experiences of other states emerging from periods of mass violence. It has invited experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to join the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to deploy a team of human rights monitors to conflict-affected areas to ensure that such acts have truly ceased.

The government is also holding public consultations about transitional justice, which, as I discussed with the prime minister, should be inclusive of all stakeholders and provide victims a voice. The process is benefiting from the advice of experts in the field, including members of my team who participated in a workshop on transitional justice with other international specialists just last week.

Finally, and crucially, we urge the Government of Ethiopia and the Government of Eritrea, as well as the TPLF, to hold those responsible for these atrocities accountable.

These steps – acknowledgement, accountability, reconciliation – are key to breaking the cycle of ethnic and political violence that has gripped Ethiopia and prevented it from reaching its unlimited potential for so long.

The United States will partner with Ethiopia as it implements a credible transitional justice process for the benefit of all victims and affected communities. We will stand with Ethiopia as it honestly faces the abuses in its past, provides accountability for the harms committed against its citizens, and moves toward a future of lasting peace.

With that, happy to take a couple of questions before turning it over to my colleagues.

MR PATEL: Matt, go ahead.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and welcome back.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’ve got about 17 questions, but for the sake of —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Hold on, let me get my pen out.

QUESTION: But – yeah, but for the sake of both you and my colleagues, I’ll narrow it down to just one.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.

QUESTION: And that has to do with the Ethiopia – and the decision you just made. As you noted, you were just there. Why didn’t you make this determination either while you were there or before you went? Were your conversations while you were there instructive in – did the – in making this?

And then the other thing is – on this – you seem to suggest that you think that Ethiopian courts can take care – can deal with this. That is not so much the case as it relates to Russia and Ukraine. And I – so I’m just wondering why it is that you think that.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Matt. Well, look, I’m not – obviously not going to get into the details of private discussions that I had, but two things. First, this determination is the product of a lot of very deliberate, detailed work, and we are, when we make these determinations, very focused on doing that work, making sure that we have the facts, that we apply them to the law, and all of that takes time and focus.

It seemed appropriate to release the determination that we made as we’re putting out the Human Rights Report. And beyond that, I’d say that in terms of what happens next in Ethiopia, including what process they establish to provide for justice, for accountability, we’ll see. I don’t think that’s been determined. What has been determined and what I could see from my meetings and conversations last week is a commitment on all sides to engage in this process of transitional justice; an acknowledgement of the atrocities that have been committed – again, by all sides – in the course of this conflict in northern Ethiopia; and, I believe, a commitment to genuinely get to a better place that has to include accountability, that has to include, I think, reconciliation if we’re going to have a truly durable peace.

That’s what I heard on the trip, and again, I think the situation that we’re seeing now in Ethiopia is vastly different than situations in other parts of the world in that, over the last four months, the steps that all sides have taken to implement the cessation of hostilities agreement has literally saved lives and changed lives for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. But that doesn’t erase what happened over the last two years, which is why it is so important that we get this transitional justice process moving and that there is accountability as well as reconciliation.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MR PATEL: Let’s go to Missy in the back.

QUESTION: Please, Mr. Secretary. Afghan situation also is very bad.

MR PATEL: Please.

QUESTION: Any message for our new year? We celebrated our new year.

MR PATEL: Nazira, I’m going to call the questions. Missy, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Please – you guys don’t give me opportunity. Any comment about Afghan women? And what’s your message for our new year? We celebrated, but Afghan women crying.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we —

QUESTION: I know you don’t give me a chance. Sorry, I have a lot of pain.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’ll say very simply – no, no, I’m happy to address that. I’ll say very simply that we deplore the edicts that the Taliban have promulgated repeatedly that fundamentally repress the rights of Afghan women and girls. And we’ve seen this now time and again: denying them education, denying them the ability to work, denying them the ability to participate in the provision of humanitarian assistance that benefits all Afghans. And I think it’s safe to say from conversations with countries around the world that to the extent the Taliban is looking for more normal relations with countries around the world, that will not happen in so long as they continue to advance these repressive edicts against women and girls.

MR PATEL: Missy, go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, thanks so much for coming to talk to us about the report. What would your response be to those that would say despite the content of the – contents of the report and despite all of the work that goes into it, that the issues that are flagged don’t – are not sufficiently influencing policymaking, especially when it comes to countries where it is harder for the United States to have those tough discussions on human rights, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Israel? What’s your response to that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, we have those tough discussions across the board with friends, adversaries, competitors alike. So that – and the report itself makes that very clear. But in the day-in, day-out, it’s the same thing. So we don’t – we’re not pulling our punches with anyone as – we call things as we see them. Sometimes we do it more publicly; sometimes we do it more privately. We’re trying to determine in each instance how we hopefully can be most effective in advancing human rights and advancing human dignity.

So I think it’s safe to say, without getting into details, that we raise these concerns with everyone – again, friends, adversaries, competitors.

At the same time, as we’re working in different ways with different countries, we have a multiplicity of interests that we’re working on, and we always try to determine how we can most effectively advance them. Human rights is a central interest of ours; it’s not the only one. And my responsibility is to make sure that we’re doing our best to advance all of our interests however we can. But as this report makes clear – and it’s the fact that it’s a very public report and that it applies the same standards to countries around the world, whatever their relationship with us – I think demonstrates the seriousness with which we take this issue.

MR PATEL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. I’ll leave it in the very capable hands of my colleagues. Thank you, everyone.

MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Erin Barclay on the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Special Briefing
Erin M. Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and Coordinator for Global Democratic Renewal
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson
Press Briefing Room
Washington, D.C.
March 20, 2023

MR PATEL: All right, thanks, everybody. I’m going to turn the floor over now to Assistant Secretary Barclay, who’s going to make some remarks. And then her and Ambassador Van Schaack are on hand to address some other questions you all might have.

Assistant Secretary, please.

MS BARCLAY: Thank you all. Good almost one minute to the afternoon. As Vedant said, my name is Erin Barclay, and it is really an honor for me to be here with all of you for the release of the 47th Annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices, which we submitted to the United States Congress today.

As Vedant noted, I’ve had the great privilege of leading the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor team since September of 2022, and I am extremely proud of DRL for being at the forefront of preparing these important reports with colleagues across the department and U.S. missions abroad.

Since 1976, as required by Congress, the United States has issued the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, affectionately called the Human Rights Report, addressing the status of internationally recognized human rights in all countries that are members of the United Nations. These reports support the U.S. goal of advancing individual liberty and democratic freedoms around the world and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Adopted on December 10th, 1948 in the wake of the Second World War, the Universal Declaration is the founding document of our international order. Under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the first chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights, the adoption of the Universal Declaration marked the first time in history that we had a shared global vision to promote a peaceful future of all nations by advancing the human rights, as the Secretary said, of everyone everywhere.

In recognizing this milestone of its 75th anniversary, we have reaffirmed the legacy, relevance, and the fundamental truth the Universal Declaration enshrines; that is, that is that all individuals are born equal in dignity and rights, that all governments have a responsibility and a role to play in protecting those universal human rights. Today, this truth beats in the hearts of people around the world, who in the face of injustice and oppression courageously call upon governments to respect the exercise of human rights and the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief.

The United States stands in solidarity with these human rights defenders as well as with members of marginalized groups, who are often denied equal protection under the law and targeted for violence, including women and girls; those belonging to racial, religious, or ethnic minority groups; LGBTIQ+ persons, and persons with disabilities. As we support pro-democracy activists, we have seen people and – people in governments in every region of the world unite in condemning human rights abuses. As Secretary Blinken discussed in his remarks, the Kremlin’s brutal continued war against Ukraine underscores the need to hold to account those who commit unconscionable abuses, including against children.

The egregious and repeated abuses Russia’s forces continue to commit in Ukraine are far from the only abuses perpetrated in 2022 by governments and other malign actors across the globe, though, as the Human Rights Report lays out. We must continue to shine a spotlight on abuses wherever and however they are committed, mobilize global urgency in stopping and preventing them, and hold perpetrators to account.

Disinformation and misinformation around the globe further threaten democracy and human rights, and one contribution the Human Rights Report makes is to bring facts to the table. The report’s annual publication also makes clear the priority the United States places year-round on advancing human dignity and freedom, and reiterates our commitment to these issues in all countries, no matter, as the Secretary said, whether they are partners or adversaries.

The Biden administration has put human rights and democracy at the center of our foreign policy, and one signature way the administration is promoting worldwide respect for human rights and democratic principles is by hosting the Summit for Democracy. Next week, March 29th and 30th, the United States will host the second Summit for Democracy with the governments of Costa Rica, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Zambia. We are thrilled to have these four partners join us in co-hosting the summit this year. President Biden, joined by leaders from the co-host nations, will assemble world leaders in a virtual plenary, leader-level plenary, followed by a series of hybrid gatherings with representatives from governments, civil society, and the private sector in each of the co-hosted locations. Stay tuned next week for more about the summit.

At the conclusion of this press briefing, the 2022 Human Rights Report will be available to the public on the State Department’s website. Thank you for being here today, and I’m happy to take a few questions.

MR PATEL: Daphne.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Human rights advocates have raised concerns about treatment of dissidents and minorities in India. Human Rights Watch in 2019 said the Indian Government’s policies targeted minorities. The Indian Government recently banned a BBC documentary and then raided the BBC’s offices, and India is ranked 150th in the press freedom index. Blinken has raised concerns about the rise of rights abuses in India last year without going into specific incidents. Are you concerned by India’s treatment of minorities and dissidents and by the state of press freedom in the country? And have you raised these concerns directly with Indian counterparts?

MS BARCLAY: Thank you very much for the question. As the Secretary said, we raise the difficult issues in all of our conversations with our partners. The U.S. and India regularly consult at the highest levels on democracy and human rights issues. We have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments.

Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the U.S. and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well.

On the BBC issue, we’re of course aware of the BBC issues and we will continue to support free press around the world and have communicated the same.

MR PATEL: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. On the West Bank, the occupied West Bank, a very quick question. Does this administration consider a – the demolition of a Palestinian perpetrator’s home or the arrest of his siblings or his parents to be collective punishment? And if so, does that fall under the – does that qualify as a war crime?

And second, do you expect that the Palestinian organizations, human rights organizations that were shut down on October 26th, 2021, to be reopened anytime soon? Thank you.

MS BARCLAY: Thanks very much for your question. The U.S. is committed to advancing human rights is Israel and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As the President and Secretary Blinken have said, Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and integrity.

Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms is critical to their own right, and it also helps to preserve space for a two-state negotiated solution.

QUESTION: Does the demolition of homes and arresting of relatives and parents and siblings and so on qualify as collective punishment, in your view?

MS BARCLAY: I’m not going to comment on that at this point, but I’m happy to talk to you —

QUESTION: Can I just get in? This is something that just happened yesterday, right? But Israel’s finance minister made some comments in Paris about Palestinians not being a people. Is that something that falls under your purview, something you can comment on? I’m sorry, it’s a DRL question, right? I mean, if you want to answer it, Vedant, that’s fine. But, I mean, this is something that happened last night. This is a guy who has not been without controversy before, and these latest comments are just – seem to add fuel to the fire. So what do you think about that? What do you think about the – an Israeli cabinet minister saying that the Palestinian people don’t exist?

MR PATEL: Matt, I think we’ll let the assistant secretary speak to any questions about the report. But on the comment about the finance minister broadly, look, I think what I would say is I’ve not seen those comments specifically, but certainly it’s something that we would —

QUESTION: I’m sorry. That’s just —

MR PATEL: I’ve not —

QUESTION: What do you mean you haven’t —

MR PATEL: I’ve not seen those comments specifically. But we of course would take issue with that kind of a – that kind of description or that kind of language being used. But we’re going to get back to questions about the report.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thanks so much for coming down here. I have two questions, first about housekeeping. The fact that —

MS BARCLAY: I’m sorry? Say that —

QUESTION: The first part of my question is about housekeeping, the fact that we still have acting assistant secretary on this role. How much of this takes away from the – from, let’s say, the success stories that you might actually put out there?

The second part of the question. More broadly, the question was asked to the Secretary about the tools in your toolkit. I cover South Caucasus. All the cases I raised throughout the year and last year in this room are in the report, but those folks are in jail: in Azerbaijan, Ali Aliyev, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev; in Georgia President Saakashvili; in Russia Kara-Murza, and others. Does that – is it a reflection of the fact that you are running out of your tools in that part of the world? Thanks so much.

MS BARCLAY: Thanks for your question, especially the first one, because it gives me an opportunity to brag about my bureau. So let me say this about the DRL Bureau. It is a bureau full of committed public servants who every day come into work and do the job for the American people. I’m extremely proud of them, and the administration is very fortunate to have all of the DRL team in place doing exactly what the administration’s policies are on democracy, human rights, and labor.

On your second question about the reports in terms of events that are reported year upon year, I think part of that is a reflection of how long the trajectory is in many cases to do better on human rights. And we see international reporting in that space, some of which shows sometimes it’s a generational change. That doesn’t mean we don’t continue to raise those issues. You mentioned issues of political prisoners. This is front and center in all of our diplomacy bilaterally and multilaterally. We regularly raise cases, individual cases of political prisoners with appropriate officials, and we will continue to do that going forward.

MR PATEL: You had your hand up? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Emel Akan from the Epoch Times. Thank you for taking our questions today. I saw that you mentioned forced organ harvesting in China in your report. So as you may know, there is mounting evidence that the Chinese Communist Party continues to harvest organs from living individuals, primarily Falun Gong practitioners. Congress has introduced bills targeting offenders. Where does the State Department stand on holding the CCP accountable for organ harvesting, and what steps are you planning to take to put an end to this atrocity?

MS BARCLAY: So I’m not going to count – comment on the legislation specifically. We are tracking it. I’m aware of it. Organ harvesting has been a part of the Human Rights Report, has been reported on there, and we will continue to focus on that as an issue across – on the broad spectrum of human rights and trafficking issues going forward where it comes up.

QUESTION: Thank you. So I read the reports on Georgia, 57 pages covering the issues on Georgia, and there is a really, really grim picture that the report suggests. You met the foreign minister in Geneva I think three weeks ago. Have you raised those issues with him? You mention that you talk about the political prisoners to Alex question. Have you raised the issue about the Saakashvili with him?

MS BARCLAY: Thanks very much for your question, and I did have the opportunity to meet with the Georgian foreign minister when I was in Geneva for Human Rights Council high-level week a couple weeks ago. And I’m not going to comment on the specifics of my conversations with the foreign minister, but we raised the spectrum of issues, many of which the report articulates, and I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to follow up, so there is a growing concern that Georgia is moving towards Moscow. There is a growing authoritarianism, Russian oligarchy, total disrespect to rule of law and freedom of media, freedom of speech, et cetera. So what is the general sense about Georgia in the State Department? Because if you look at the dynamic of those reports, if you look at the past years, they also suggest really grim picture of Georgia. So are those issues, concerns stay on paper, or do you actually do something about it?

MS BARCLAY: Yeah, no, thanks very much for the question. It’s important. It doesn’t just stay on paper. These are issues that we talk to the Georgian Government about and, as you know, we have a 30-plus-year partnership with the Government of Georgia, and that —

QUESTION: People of Georgia.

MS BARCLAY: The people of Georgia. Thank you very much. I appreciate that correction. And we want to continue to work together with the people of Georgia to move towards their Euro-Atlantic ambitions.

MR PATEL: You had your hand up in the back. And then Kylie, we’ll come to you after that. Yeah, you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I want to follow up – I just want to follow up on China real quick. Can you share more details on when was the last communication with China counterparts on human rights cases?

And also, I know that Secretary Blinken has, like – has made his remark in the opening about China and Russia, but is there any concern from the State Department that, given those countries are – they don’t have good human rights record according to the report, is there any concerns that the two leaders get closer and there will be more human right abuse cases coming from those two countries?

And the third one is China’s ministry of foreign affairs just published a report basically pointing fingers at the United States. It’s called The State of Democracy in the U.S., like accusing U.S. of doing that. And any comments or, like, response to that?

MS BARCLAY: Sure. Let me pick up your last question first. So we always welcome critique of the human rights situation in our country, as long as it is credible and fact-based and objective. We regularly submit ourselves to various processes in the UN, for example, the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council. We recently reported to the committee – the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other treaty bodies. So as the Secretary said, we don’t sweep our problems under the rug. We are ready to shine a light on them and work to improve them in our own country.

On your question about China specifically, the human rights situation in China is something that we are regularly raising with partner states bilaterally and in multilateral settings where China is present, and this includes looking to promote accountability for China’s genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang but also human rights abuses across China. They remain – human rights remains at the forefront of our discussions with the PRC and are continuously highlighted in high-level discussions.

MR PATEL: Final question, Kylie.

QUESTION: I think this is a better question for Ambassador Van Schaack, if that’s okay, but my question is: This report talks about a multitude of war crimes that have been committed by Russia in Ukraine, and so I’m wondering if you can bring us up to date on efforts to share U.S. evidence of war crimes committed in Ukraine by the Russians with the ICC just given – obviously we saw what they came out with last week regarding one war crime, but the U.S. clearly has evidence of multiple war crimes that have been committed. So can you just update us as to where those conversations and efforts stand?

AMBASSADOR VAN SCHAACK: Yeah. Indeed, last week, the – a pretrial chamber of the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin and his children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, charging both of them with deportation and forced transfer of civilians and specifically of children. So it’s a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, and we’ve discussed that here when we talked about the crimes against humanity determination that was made. This has now been charged as war crimes.

We have appreciated new authorities that Congress has given us when it comes to our ability to interact with the court and to potentially share information. We’re looking for ways to be helpful. We generally don’t talk about the specifics of what we do share because, in many respects, that might reveal prosecutorial trajectories, for example, or undermine the safety and security of witnesses. But we are looking for ways to support this, and we have been supporting accountability from the beginning when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war, in particular supporting the work of the prosecutor general in Ukraine, who has primary jurisdiction over all of the war crimes and other atrocities being committed there.

QUESTION: Okay. And without getting into specifics over what could be shared or what has been shared, can you just say if at this point any of the evidence that the U.S. has has been shared with the ICC?

AMBASSADOR VAN SCHAACK: This is still under consideration.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PATEL: Thanks, everybody. Thanks, everybody.

Remarks at the UNODC Launch of the 2022 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons

Nick Hill
Deputy Permanent Representative
New York, New York
March 21, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you very much. I want to congratulate UNODC and Executive Director Ghada Waly on the launch of its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

UNODC is an important partner to the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. We currently provide more than $19 million to support a variety of its initiatives in some 41 countries.

As we all know, UNODC is the guardian of the UN—otherwise known as Palermo—Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, with some 180 States Parties.

The protocol provides an important framework for all states parties, including the United States, to work together.

UNODC’s Trafficking in Persons Report helps us do exactly that – it provides the global community with a better understanding of current patterns and trends of human trafficking and, by doing so, enables us, as Member States, to deepen our collaboration to combat this crime.

To produce this report, governments collect data to identify gaps in our approaches, to detect trends, and to measure progress. UNODC’s Global Report goes one step further and brings this national data together to highlight critical issues and demonstrate trends across regions and globally — including the impact of conflicts on human trafficking.

I would be remiss, here, if I did not mention, as my Austrian and Romanian colleagues also have, one of those conflicts specifically – Russia’s unlawful, unprovoked, and premeditated war against Ukraine.

Russia’s actions have resulted in rampant opportunities for transnational organized crime to flourish.

We are already seeing an increase in indicators of human trafficking affecting refugees from Ukraine and internally displaced persons within Ukraine. This year’s UNODC report notes that the current conflict could generate an unprecedented number of victims if mitigation measures are not put in place.

We welcome UNODC’s recommendations for stronger national frameworks to identify and protect victims of trafficking, especially during states of emergency, as well as increased training, enhanced victim assistance, and capacity-building.

Amid the report’s sobering findings were glimmers of enduring courage and resilience. We continue to celebrate the adaptability and dedication of survivors and all those who combat human trafficking, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and in the face of a rapidly changing world.

Systemic solutions rely on broad, cross-border partnerships among governments, with the support of international and regional organizations. We encourage all states parties to continue prioritizing and enhancing anti-trafficking efforts. The United States is committed to supporting these efforts and to bringing traffickers to justice.

Thank you very much.

###

War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
March 20, 2023

Ethiopia is now emerging from two years of a brutal conflict in the north, during which all parties committed atrocities. With the November 2, 2022 cessation of hostilities agreement (COHA) in place, the fighting has stopped, human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia are significantly down, Eritrean forces are leaving, and the Ethiopian government is taking the first step towards transitional justice. However, the suffering that was wrought upon civilians in northern Ethiopia must be acknowledged.

After careful review of the law and the facts, I have determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, and Amhara forces committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

Members of the ENDF, EDF, and Amhara forces also committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution.

Members of the Amhara forces also committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing in western Tigray.

Formally recognizing the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace. Those most responsible for atrocities, including those in positions of command, must be held accountable.

We welcome the commitment that the parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement have made to acknowledge the atrocities committed and their devastating consequences. We urge all parties to follow through on their commitments to one another and implement a credible, inclusive, and comprehensive transitional justice process. We additionally call on the Government of Eritrea to ensure comprehensive justice and accountability for those responsible for abuses in Ethiopia.

These steps – acknowledgement, accountability, and reconciliation – are key to breaking the cycle of ethnic and political violence that has gripped Ethiopia and prevented it from reaching its unlimited potential for too long.

The United States will partner with Ethiopia as it implements a credible transitional justice process for the benefit of all victims and affected communities. We will stand with Ethiopia as it honestly faces the abuses in its past, provides accountability for the harms committed against its citizens, and moves toward a future of lasting peace.

Assistant Secretary Sison’s Travel to Madagascar, South Africa, Mauritius, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
March 20, 2021

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Michele Sison will travel to Madagascar, South Africa, Mauritius, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos, March 22-April 7, for meetings with counterparts and UN officials to reinforce U.S. commitment to collaborative multilateral engagement in addressing collective global challenges.

Assistant Secretary Sison will travel to Antananarivo, Madagascar, March 22 before traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa, March 24 and Port Louis, Mauritius, March 27. The Assistant Secretary will then travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, March 29, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March 31, Hanoi, Vietnam, April 4, Bangkok, Thailand, April 5, and Vientiane, Laos, April 6-7.

While in Bangkok, the Assistant Secretary will meet with officials at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which serves as the UN’s regional hub promoting regional cooperation and providing technical assistance and capacity-building services in support of national development objectives and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Throughout her travel, the Assistant Secretary will discuss areas of current and potential multilateral cooperation, including in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling transnational challenges, including climate change, food insecurity, and global health security. Assistant Secretary Sison will also advocate for the U.S. candidate for Director General of the International Organization for Migration, Amy Pope.

For updates, follow @State_IO on Twitter.

Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Sudan and South Sudan

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
March 20, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, SRSG Perthes, for your very thoughtful briefing.

Reaching a final political agreement on a new civilian-led transitional government is essential to end Sudan’s political crisis and address its urgent political, economic, security, and humanitarian challenges.

We acknowledge the significant work done in Phase 2 of the Framework Agreement process and urge the parties to capitalize on it by swiftly finalizing agreement on a new civilian-led government and interim constitutional arrangements that allow Sudan to resume its democratic transition.

We acknowledge that military leaders have reiterated their willingness to withdraw the military from politics. We call on all parties to put Sudan’s national interest above narrow political ends and urgently and constructively engage with one another to reach a final political agreement that realizes the Sudanese people’s continued calls for freedom, peace, and justice. In support of this and recognizing the fragility of democratic transitions, the United States will promote accountability for spoilers – whether military or political actors – who attempt to undermine or delay Sudan’s democratic progress.

We continue our support for this Sudanese-led process in close coordination with the trilateral mechanism. We urge all parties to engage in good faith dialogue and ensure women, youth, displaced persons, and representatives from all over Sudan have the opportunity to participate in shaping their country’s future.

For this process to succeed, the parties must foster an environment conducive to the participation of all stakeholders so they may freely express their views without fear of retribution. Furthermore, all Sudanese must be protected from all forms of violence.

Full respect for the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly is vital. We have consistently condemned violence against – and unjust detentions of – peaceful protesters. We renew the call for those responsible to be held accountable.

Turning to Darfur, we note that the security situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous, and we note with concern increased tensions and violence in other regions. Chronic violence highlights the urgent need for Juba Peace Agreement implementation, including the full deployment of the Joint Security Keeping Forces in Darfur, inclusive security sector reform, and comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent transitional justice processes.

Thank you, Mr. President.

###

Release of U.S. Citizen Held Hostage in West Africa

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
March 20, 2023

We welcome the release of U.S. citizen Jeffery Woodke, who was held hostage in West Africa for more than six years. I spoke with Jeffery’s family today and am pleased they will be reunited soon. We are grateful for the extraordinary cooperation of the Government of Niger, as well as the sustained efforts of countless organizations and individuals worldwide that resulted in Mr. Woodke’s release. I have no higher priority than bringing home U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, and we will continue to work relentlessly to secure their freedom around the world.

Media Note: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to Lead U.S. Delegation to Costa Rica for the Second Summit for Democracy

United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy
For Immediate Release
March 20, 2023

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, will lead the U.S. delegation to Costa Rica for the 2023 Summit for Democracy.

On March 29-30, the United States will co-host the second Summit for Democracy with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and Republic of Zambia. Building on the first Summit for Democracy held in December 2021, this gathering will highlight how democracies deliver for their citizens and are best equipped to address the world’s most pressing challenges. The second Summit for Democracy will assemble world leaders in a virtual, plenary format, followed by hybrid gatherings in each of the co-host countries with representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector.

On March 30, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will attend Summit events hosted by the President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves Robles, focused on encouraging youth participation in the democratic process. At the Summit, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will deliver a keynote address and engage with youth activists and leaders focused on building a safer and fairer world grounded in democratic values. Additional details on her upcoming travel are forthcoming.

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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
March 20, 2023

Today’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report is clear: our climate is warming at an unprecedented rate, and the window is closing just as quickly for the world to make dramatic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C within reach.

Throughout this sixth IPCC assessment process, which began in 2015, we have received stark reminders of the consequences of the exponential increase in greenhouse gas emissions. We have observed the devastation of extreme storms and drought, excessive heat, and raging wildfires. We see first-hand and through satellite observations that ice is melting, raising sea levels and changing the composition of our ocean. Climate change is impacting ecosystems, people, infrastructure, and economies faster than ever before in the United States and around the world.

The United States has heard the clear call to action from the IPCC and has reinvigorated our climate ambition. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which puts us on track to achieve President Biden’s ambitious target to cut U.S. emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 and demonstrates our commitments for years to come. Significant commitments and work continue to help the world adapt to climate change through the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) . Climate has been on the President’s agenda from day one of the Administration, and while there is more work to be done, we have and will continue to make progress.

We commend the outstanding work and dedication of the world’s scientists, including many U.S. scientists, who have volunteered their time and expertise in this multi-year, multi-volume assessment effort. The United States is committed to continue participating in IPCC activities and to the rigorous use of scientific information as a foundation for action in this decisive decade.

USAID Launches New Strategy To Prevent Child and Maternal Deaths

United States Agency for International Development
Press Release
March 21, 2023

Today, Administrator Samantha Power unveiled the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) new framework for preventing child and maternal deaths, Preventing Child and Maternal Deaths: A Framework for Action in a Changing World. The strategy chronicles the progress made across 25 countries since 2012, and lays out an action plan for country-led programs to measurably improve health outcomes for women and children through an intensified focus on coverage, quality, and equity. The Administrator made the announcement at an event with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the governments of India, Senegal, and the United Kingdom, and global health leaders, practitioners, technical experts, and advocates to commemorate a decade of progress and spur further collective action on maternal and child survival.

Ten years ago, the U.S. government committed to ending preventable deaths among mothers and children under the age of five by 2030. Today in USAID partner countries, 3,000 more children and 100 more women will survive every day than in 2012. These results demonstrate that meaningful progress is possible, yet significant challenges remain. There are still more than 13,800 children and 800 women dying every day from causes we know how to prevent.

USAID’s new framework calls on the international community to draw from lessons learned, renew momentum towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and work together to improve global maternal and child survival.

A mother’s chance of surviving childbirth or a child’s chance at celebrating their fifth birthday should not be determined by where they live or are born, or their race or ethnicity, or their family’s income status. Supporting country-led efforts to prevent these tragic and avoidable deaths among women and children is a promise the U.S. government intends to keep, working in close partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

For the latest updates on USAID’s maternal and child survival programs visit https://www.usaid.gov/global-health/health-areas/maternal-and-child-health.

Remarks by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield at a UN General Assembly Commemorative Meeting on the Intl Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 21, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President, for convening us to commemorate this important day. And I want to thank Secretary-General Guterres for his presence and for his statement. And to thank, in particular, Mayor Adams for joining us today and for his bold remarks.

Colleagues, in past years on this commemorative day I have shared my own personal experiences with racial discrimination. So today, I want to share another story, one that I had never heard before, until earlier this month, when a local Baton Rouge, Louisiana, news station – where I come from – reported on it.

It’s the story of how a relative of mine, my mother’s cousin, Vincent Smith, fought for the right to vote for his family and for others. Vincent lives in West Feliciana Parish in rural Louisiana. He lived there all of his life. But back in 1965, West Feliciana was 68 percent Black. But not a single Black person there was registered to vote. And that was not a coincidence.

Vincent worked with an ally, a 20-year-old white girl from New York, to galvanize Black people who understood that their lives would change and improve, if they exercised their right to vote. And so, they built a real grassroots effort – a real grassroots movement. They trained for how to answer what Vince called the “foolish questions” of the racist voting rights test, a test where Black people got much harder questions than their white neighbors.

And when they saw what was happening, the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses on their neighbor’s lawns and shot bullets into the night sky. They did everything they could to instill fear and terror into the Black voters of West Feliciana. But Vincent and his community stood up anyway. They believed they would overcome. And they did. They registered to vote, and they voted. And Vincent said, “you have to fight for what you believe in.”

Colleagues, today I want to shout out the many unsung heroes, who have fought and continue fighting to eliminate racial discrimination. And I want to particularly thank my own cousin for sharing his story with the world and highlighting how important it is that we not forget how hard he and others fought for our rights.

And I want to encourage all of us to follow in their example, to fight for what we all believe in. And I know what the United Nations believes in, because this year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All human beings,” reads the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This profound statement is not an opinion. It’s a fact. Our human rights are inalienable and indivisible. They are interdependent and interrelated. And they are universal. Today, we must commit to making these rights real for everyone everywhere, regardless of their race or their ethnicity.

And I will be the first to tell you that the United States has not always done right by this commitment. We have a long history of racial discrimination – no one denies that. And I have been discriminated against myself. But we still have real and on-going challenges, from the lingering legacy of chattel slavery, and Native American displacement, to the rise of anti-Asian hate and anti-Semitism, to many other racist roots that run deep throughout our history and throughout our culture.

And yet, I am proud – I am so proud – of my country and the progress we have made, and that we are still making today to address these issues.

The Biden Administration is committed to dismantling structural racism, ending discrimination, and fighting back against all forms of xenophobia. As President Biden has said, “Advancing equity is not a one-year project. It’s a generational commitment.” That’s why President Biden has made advancing racial equality and combating systemic racism a core priority of his entire Administration. He signed four – four related executive actions as soon as he took office.

And at the U.S. Department of State, we released an Equity Action Plan last year. Secretary Blinken made clear that advancing equity in our foreign policy is a top priority. And he announced the appointment of a Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice. Because racial discrimination is not a local problem. It is a global problem.

Sadly, every single country on this earth has some form of racism. And in some countries and contexts, that discrimination becomes deadly.

At the United Nations, we have an obligation to step up and stand up for human rights. To defend against racism and hatred in all of its forms. To champion platforms that spread ideas, elevate best practices, and bring us together to improve the safety and quality of life of all peoples.

That’s why we are proud to support the Permanent Forum on the Peoples of African Descent. In fact, we were the only country that made a voluntary contribution, and I encourage others to do the same. And it’s why at the UN we need to work with civil society more often and more broadly to tackle other forms of racism too.

The United Nations, as Ralph Bunche said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “exists not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change – even radical change – possible without violent upheaval.” The United Nations exists not merely to preserve the peace, but also to make change – even radical change – possible without violent upheaval. And I would take it one step further; I would say that if there is no justice, there can be no peace.

So let us make that radical change. Let us make this place, this United Nations, where our shared humanity is recognized. Where we remove the rot of racism from all of our foundations. And where we lift up the world’s many, many unsung heroes, like my cousin Vince, who are fighting to create a less hateful, more hopeful world.

Thank you very much.

###

Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on Integrating the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons into the Security Council’s Work

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 20, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome again to the second ever Arria meeting on LGBTQI issues held by the UN Security Council. We are proud to be co-hosting this Arria, building on the last one in 2015 that the U.S. co-convened on this topic with Chile, and to expand the scope of our discussion.

Today’s meeting is historic, representing the first time that the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has ever briefed the Council and only the second time in its history that there has been an LGBTI-specific Arria. And while this body has discussed the crisis since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, many times, this is the first time we are hearing about how LGBT people have been specifically targeted, impacted, and harmed.

Finally, this is the first time we are hearing about a precedential new model – Colombia’s pioneering work to ensure that its peace process includes LGBT persons so that justice truly leaves no one behind. The simple fact is, the threats LGBTQI+ people face around the world are threats to international peace and security. Let me repeat that: The threats that LGBTQI+ people face around the world are threats to international peace and security. That’s especially true for those at the intersection of multiple, underrepresented identities.

Everyone deserves to live free from fear, from violence, from persecution. But for too many people, their sexual orientation or gender identity puts them at risk – they are put at risk just for being themselves.

I’ve seen this firsthand in my diplomacy abroad. During my many years serving on the continent of Africa, I often encountered this issue. And I was told, by more than one person, more than one leader, that “this is not our culture.”

I always responded the same way. “Is it your culture to commit violence against people you disagree with? To persecute people just for the way they were born?” And I ask that question to any country around the world. No one ever said yes to that question.

And fortunately, much of Africa, just like much of the world, has made tremendous progress. And our hearts have grown, our policies have changed. That’s true around the world. But so much more needs to be done or we would not be here today.

In Colombia, LGBTQI+ people have been incorporated into the peacebuilding and democratic process. That is progress. Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, known by its Spanish acronym as the JEP, set a new precedent when it confirmed charges of gender persecution as a crime against humanity when committed against five LGBTQI+ persons in the armed conflict.

This represents the first time that any transitional justice has recognized the specific targeting of LGBTQI+ persons in armed conflict. This is a model of incorporating LGBTQI+ people into peacebuilding, and I hope it’s replicated in conflict and post-conflict settings around the world.

I am also proud of the progress we have made here in America. I think back to 1969, when being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender could get you arrested in America. It was then, right here in this city, in New York, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, and its patrons decided enough was enough. The success of that movement is now preserved as a memorial down in the West Village.

But we are far from finished. Right now, across my own country, we are seeing hateful, shameful attacks on the LGBTQI+ community, and especially the trans community. These attacks, to me, fly in the face of our universal basic human rights.

Around the world, we are continuing to see the same kinds of challenges. In some places, the situation is dire.

In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban has brought back its medieval policies – the same policies I saw in place when I was there decades ago, and what we just heard from Artemis. Individual Taliban members have made public statements confirming that their interpretation of Sharia allows for the death penalty for homosexuality.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community reported being physically and sexually assaulted, and many reported living in physically and economically precarious conditions in hiding. There are also reports from members of civil society that LGBTQI+ people were outed purposely by their families and subjected to violence to gain favor with the Taliban. There are reports of LGBTQI+ persons who had gone missing and were believed to have been killed, and again, we heard the story that Artemis shared with us today.

To put it bluntly, this is horrific. These actions foment hate, they support violence, and are an affront to the principles of freedom and human rights. They also destabilize whole societies. Which is why we need to do our part, as individual Member States and collectively as the United Nations Security Council.

For our part, on behalf of the United States, I am proud to announce four Commitments for Action. In recent decades, the Security Council has made great progress taking into account the needs and perspectives of women and children and youth in situations armed conflict and fragile societies.

Today we commit to specific steps to also better integrate LGBTQI concerns into the Security Council’s daily work.

First, we commit to regularly review the situation of LGBTQI+ individuals in conflicts on the Council’s agenda. That includes regularly soliciting information from LGBTQI+ human rights defenders.

Second, we commit to encouraging the UN Secretariat and other UN officials to integrate LGBTQI+ concerns and perspectives in their regular reports to the Council.

Third, we commit to raising abuses and violations of the human rights of LGBTQI people in our national statements in the Security Council.

And fourth, we commit to proposing, when appropriate, language in Security Council products responding to the situation of LGBTQI+ individuals. This includes language in the Council’s work on implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and 2475.

We are proud of these four commitments. They are just the beginning. And we call on every Security Council member to join us.

We also call on UN Special Political Missions and UN Peacekeeping Missions to increase engagement with members of the LGBTQI+ community, to stop attacks against individuals, and to continue to integrate gender identity and sexual orientation into all of their work, but particularly in protection.

And we call on the UN community as a whole to step up to defend the universal human rights of all LGBTQI+ people, to let love be love, to let us provide the moral and legal support to ensure all people are able to live their lives freely.

Let us fight prejudice wherever we see it. And let us build a world that is more peaceful for all.

Thank you very much.

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