The ICAS Lectures


Promoting Human Rights in the Pursuit of Peace:
Assessing 20 Years of U. S. Human Rights Policy.

Harold Hongju Koh

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Harold Hongju Koh

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution with written permission to ICAS of Harold Honju Koh. These remarks were given before the United States Institute of Peace Human Rights Implementation working group, March 17, 1999. sjk]

Promoting Human Rights in the Pursuit of Peace:
Assessing 20 Years of U. S. Human Rights Policy.

Harold Hongju Koh
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

"I am reminded of Joke Number 76 from the Washington Beltway Play Book, which, is a story about the man who drowned in the Johnstown Flood and ends up in heaven and is asked to give a presentation only to appear and to be told, 'Noah is in the audience.'

"Here there are many Noahs. Many of you are folks with whom I have worked and collaborated. I just wanted to mention two of special significance to me: the first, Louis Sohn from George Washington University Law School, who was my father's dissertation adviser at Harvard Law School and was indeed the father of international human rights as an academic discipline. Along with Tom Buergenthal, he wrote the first book on international human rights law, which I saw as a small child. So, quite literally, his work has been mother's milk to me, not to mix metaphors.

"The second is Bette Bao Lord, who was one of the illustrious honorees at our ceremony at the White House for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a winner of the Roosevelt Medal. I am just delighted to see her here.

"Here also I should mention, to keep me honest are a number of my colleagues: Sue Keogh, who is our Office Director for Bilateral Affairs and has been acting as our Deputy Assistant Secretary; Charlie Brown and Alex Arriaga and then also Steve Naplan from the National Security Council, with whom I have been working regularly.

"I have to say, most of all, how delighted I am to see Congressman and Mrs. Lantos and Congressman and Mrs. Porter, who have literally devoted their lives and their careers to promoting human rights. And we look very much forward to working with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus into the next century.

"I also wanted to thank Dick Solomon and the U.S. Institute of Peace for organizing this important discussion, which looks back at the past with an eye toward generating insights for the future of human rights policy.

"And in that regard, we appreciate the support and advice that we have gotten from the Institute of Peace, particularly from David Little, who has served on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom, and to Jeremy Gunn, who is here, an executive fellow. We have gotten a lien on his time, as we say in the law, to give his tremendous expertise to our newly established Office of International Religious Freedom. And we are looking forward to continuing the partnership between our bureau and the Institute of Peace in the years ahead.

"As it has been explained several times, I am relatively new to my post, having taken leave from Yale and been sworn into this job only in November. Until that time, I thought about Turkey and China principally in the context of Thanksgiving. And the transition from the ivory tower to Foggy Bottom has been exciting, rewarding, and challenging. I have learned a new language or, more precisely, a code of acronyms as I found the main challenge that we have at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, or DRL, as we call it, is how to move from OOB to COB without being OBE.

"More important, I have had an extraordinary opportunity to work with the President and Secretary in developing and implementing human rights policy for the last period of the Clinton administration.

"In the few months that I have served, I have now traveled to 18 countries. I have met with scores of victims of human rights abuse and human rights advocates. I have now met with foreign officials from some three dozen countries and had bilateral negotiations with delegations from countries as diverse as China, Serbia, Montenegro, Colombia, Indonesia. You name it.

"What these experiences have reaffirmed for me is the basic conviction that I have always had that human rights and democracies remain the fundamental principles around which our world is now organized. And although much has changed since 50 years ago, when the Universal Declaration was announced, the fact remains that the world is more free now than at any time in our history.

"Ten years after the Cold War, we have seen not the end of history, as some have predicted, but, instead, the beginning of a whole new set of challenges for human rights. And from Bosnia to Burma, from Kosovo to Kigali, we are now witnessing the need for human rights policy, both national, intergovernmental, and transnational, to adapt to changing developments and to try to stay one step ahead of the horror.

"To understand the challenges that are now facing us because that is my assigned task, the new challenges for the next century, let me speak in two parts: first, about how the human rights paradigm has evolved in the last 50 years and then in talking about the evolution of this human rights paradigm, I will switch temporarily from bureaucrat to pedant. And, then, second, I will indicate how our government ought to respond to the current paradigm as I see it now, the turn of the century -- how we address what you could call the human rights Y2K problem.

"Well, during the last 50 years, I think we can think of the human rights paradigm as having evolved through 4 identifiable phases. They overlap in many significant respects. And some of the issues are related. But we can see the change.

Phase 1

"In the first part of the half century in the wake of World War II, the paradigmatic human rights violation was genocide. And, therefore, the focus was on preventing future genocides. Therefore, global human rights policy focused on three key themes: first, accountability, which was accomplished in some measure through the pioneering work of the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals; second, standard-setting through the development of norms and legal texts, such as the Universal Declaration and the two Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and institution-building with the development of a network of intergovernmental organizations to deal with the human rights issues, not just the European system, the inter-American system, but, of course, the U.N. human rights system, which has since grown and proliferated.

Phase 2

"In the second phase, the paradigm shifted, and the focal point of concern became prisoners of conscience and political dissidents. We can think about this as the 'Amnesty/Sharansky' period, where response mechanisms I think began to focus more insistently on mechanisms of monitoring and advocacy and, therefore, how to build coalitions to achieve effective advocacy on behalf of prisoners of conscience, with institution-building focusing on the growth of nongovernmental organizations.

"My colleague and friend Jack Donnelly is here, who has written of the human rights regime. I think the question during this period was capacity-building for the human rights regime with the focus of the response not just in building up intergovernmental organizations and expanding them with new organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and adding new institutional mechanisms to the U.N. system, such as special rapporteurs, the human rights committees, but also expanding the network of global human rights NGOs, many of whom are represented here today, as well as national institutions that could deal with human rights problems, not just courts and the Executive Branch, but obviously national legislatures. And here the Congress of the United States has been a leader with both the legislation that began during this period as well as with the focus of the human rights policy of the Carter administration.

Phase 3

"In the third phase, which roughly began with the end of the Cold War, I think the focal point shifted again to issues of group conflict and group dilemmas, ethnic struggles, massive refugee outflows, and, of course, the horrific renewal of genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. The search for solutions shifted now toward questions of preventive diplomacy, diplomacy backed by force, issues of humanitarian intervention, and how to develop the regime into a set of transnational networks that could be focused on particular issues, transnational networks of national governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental actors, and what I have called in my academic work 'transnational norm entrepreneurs,' who include such prominent individuals as Vaclav Havel, Jimmy Carter, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Tom Lantos, John Porter, Mary Robinson, who have used their governmental positions, their international stature, to bring the message of human rights into the exercising of capacity-building with the goal of creating a human rights response.

Phase 4

"Now, in the current phase of modern human rights policy, what I would call the fourth phase, we have a very complex picture in which all of the elements that I have described are now present. We live in a world where, unfortunately, the threat of genocide has not been dispelled, in which prisoners of conscience remain imprisoned around the world, in which ethnic and group conflict continues to rage and expand, but in which we now have a complex and somewhat unwieldy response mechanism, which involves transnational networks but also new tools of accountability, standard-setting, monitoring, advocacy, and preventive diplomacy. They work with differing degrees of effectiveness. Witness, for example, the struggle that we face now to deal with the preventive issues in Kosovo.

What are our challenges?


"Well, if this is where the human rights paradigm stands at the end of this century, what are our challenges? Let me suggest three new challenges that have increasingly commanded my attention since I have assumed this position, what I will call just for shorthand purposes the challenge of globalization, the challenge of non-state actors, and the challenge of self-governance and democracy.

"It's commonplace to say that we stand in an era of globalization with states engaging each other in a growing range of activities transcending national borders with national economies increasingly intertwined, with trade, the environment, security, and population issues becoming powerful forces for integration, and, of course, new information technologies bringing people of different cultures increasingly close together, breaking down traditional vertical power structures and creating a non-hierarchical, multidirectional network model, again, to use the academic lingo.

"The result of this, as Congressman Lantos suggested, is the erosion of the traditional power of governments over information, which has had tremendous implications for the relationship between individuals and authority. These trends I think have served only to benefit the movement toward greater freedom. And here I think we need to emphasize both human rights information and human rights standards, both of which I think have become much more widely promulgated as a result of globalization.

"It is a favorite expression of computer programmers that information wants to be free. Well, I think to see this, all we need to see is China, where the cultural revolution occurred behind closed doors, to Tiananmen Square only ten years ago, where people could fax for democracy, and now to the internet debates in China, where, even though the Chinese government has sought to suppress political dissent and place significant restrictions on internet access, these boundaries are breaking down.

"Human rights workers can no longer be prevented from bringing information out, even of repressive countries, because they do not have to send their information out by carrying it across the border.

"I am told the story of an NGO worker stopped at the border of an African country who had had all of his papers confiscated. They were only official documents. The reason, of course, was that he had already sent out all of his reports by e-mail from his hotel before he went to the airport.

"Well, at the same time that information has been expanding, this increasing global contact has created a renewed emphasis on universal standards, particularly how the norms of the Universal Declaration and the International Bill of Rights can operate as a standard to guide conduct.

"It is surprising how we have gone so far in conquering the debate over 'Asian values.' As Aung San Suu Kyi, of Burma, has written, it is precisely because countries are coming into increasing contact that we can adhere to a common set of basic standards and are dealing with one another.

"In the same way as the global internet standards have allowed us to communicate in the same computer codes, the promulgation of universal human rights standards through global contacts has allowed us to communicate with one another in the language of rights.

"One of the most striking things I have seen in my extensive and now frustrating dealings with the Chinese is the extent to which there has been progress in the sense that they now speak the language of universal human rights. Of course, we differ dramatically on its application. But in the sense of saying that they do not believe in these universal values, they now profess belief in these values. And, moreover, they make reference to these linguistic terms. The question then becomes how to bring the terms and the standards to bear on conduct.

"I think we might well ask in this environment, in this globalized environment, what will change in the twenty-first century. Well, as someone who has now visited some 18 countries in the last couple of months, one question I have is: How long will the kind of face-to-face shuttle diplomacy of human rights that we conduct continue?

"I think we can all foresee a day not very far from now when news of gross human rights violations will be posted daily on centralized intergovernmental bulletin boards and in which the foreign ministers of leading powers, leading governmental actors, and NGO leaders will caucus daily by video internet to formulate coordinated responses. And, indeed, I believe that this is a way that we ought to try to move.

"It really no longer makes sense for people to be flying 20 hours to meet for an hour when this can be done on a more systematic, continuous basis.

"Now, these developments have dramatic implications for our efforts at early warning and preventive diplomacy. And we have seen this at the State Department in regard to our efforts with regard to Kosovo.

"It is for this reason that we at the State Department are working with NGOs, intergovernmental entities, and national governments to hold a large conference of both public and private actors to begin developing a coordinated network on atrocities prevention and response, which will have the goal not just of collecting and sharing information, which is something that we sought to do through an announcement by the President on December 10th of the genocide early warning network, but also to develop coordinated mechanisms whereby this network can prevent and more effectively respond to crises as they evolve.

Challenge of non-state actors

"If challenge one is globalization, the second is the role of non-state actors, for even as nation states proliferate, we are seeing more dramatically the increasing importance of nongovernmental actors as both human rights defenders and human rights violators.

"Multinational corporations and financial institutions, NGOs, labor unions, indigenous and ethnic groups, and transnational moral organizations, such as organized religious groups, are all now representing critical nodes on the network on influence in human rights that rivals and at times dwarfs the power of individual states.

"Take, for example, the recent efforts at global de-mining, which illustrate dramatically how the state and the non-state actors can come together to produce change. But at the same time, the challenge that we face is how to hold these non-state actors accountable in the human rights struggle as well as how to enlist them in the struggle.

"And here I would suggest to all of you we ought to address the question of how the debates over codes of conduct, model business principles, developmental programs, recognition of best practices can be used to elevate corporate standards around the world.

"I think that in the human rights arena, there has been a loss of energy in this effort, but I think that we see promising models in other areas; for example, the OECD bribery convention, which after not long negotiation created public norms of non-state actor conduct, or the recent multilateral efforts to resolve issues around Holocaust assets under the impressive leadership of my colleague, Under Secretary Stu Eisenstadt.

"With regard to non-state actors, I believe the central challenge will be how to mobilize private incentives to create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, in the development of these human rights standards.

Self-governance & democracy

"And then the third and perhaps most critical challenge that we face at the millennium is a challenge of self-government and democracy.

"Around the world, we are witnessing popular movements for independence and democracy from Kosovo to East Timor, groups demanding a right to determine their future, but these developments not necessarily coming at the cost of integration. Witness Europe, where entities such as Scotland and Catalonia have peaceably sought both greater autonomy and full participation in European institutions.

"And here the challenge facing policy-makers is how to guide these movements away from the temptations of violence, separatism, and ethnic cleansing toward the promise of greater autonomy within a framework of democracy and human rights.

"To make this happen, I believe we need to work to develop what has been thus far an academic notion, the right of democratic governance. Although Article 21 of the Universal Declaration provides that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government expressed in periodic and genuine elections, too many governments continue to speak of democracy, even as they rig elections and suppress dissent.

"I think we need to recognize that the right of democracy is both a means and an end in the struggle for human rights with freedom of conscience, expression, religion, right to fair trial, and security all bolstered in genuine democracies.

"In saying so, I think we have to acknowledge that the government of the people cannot be imposed from the outside. As Secretary Albright recently said, democracy must emerge from the desire of individuals to participate in the decisions that shape their lives. Unlike dictatorship, democracy is never an imposition. It is always a choice. And, as we have learned through bitter experience, democracy also means or must mean more than simply holding elections.

"The slow development of democracy in some countries over the last few years has demonstrated that our purpose is not just developing and holding elections but respecting human rights in a robust civil society characterized by the rule of law, healthy political institutions, constitutionalism, an independent judiciary with open and competitive economic structures, an independent media capable of engaging in informed debate with freedom of religion and belief mechanisms to safeguard minorities in full respect for women's and worker's rights.

"These are the principles, which together with elections form the basis of a culture of democracy. And, as my predecessor John Shattuck said, 'This culture, building this culture, is never easy, but the rewards make this effort profoundly worthwhile.'

"It is to focus on this effort, building the culture of democracy, that Secretary Albright has made democracy-building a cornerstone of her human rights agenda for the balance of the administration.

"It is for that reason that she specifically appointed a global rule of law coordinator, Mr. Joseph Onek, and that she has made the focus of our bureau's work the task of building democracy and civil society around the world.

"It is for that reason that she and President Clinton have recently focused on the elections in Nigeria and Indonesia as two countries that represent the challenge of democracy-building after elections, even as we look to Kosovo and East Timor as raising pressing studies on how to deal with the challenge of self-government.

"Well, if these are all of our challenges, globalization, non-state actors, and democracies, what should be our response? And here let me just mention four principles that I think must guide our human rights policy into the next century.

Four Principles to Guide Human Rights Policy

"Those of you who have heard me speak since I have become Assistant Secretary have heard these principles before. I repeat them just to show that after four months, I still believe that they are the centerpieces of our policy.

1. Tell the truth

"The first and most important is to tell the truth about human rights conditions in our human rights reports, in our asylum profiles, in our investigations, in our monitoring.

"When I first said this at my swearing-in ceremony, I did not know that telling the truth is as difficult a task as it might seem. I think there is a lot of pressure to spin or shade the truth, but it is one that I think we have to resist.

"If you take, for example, the 1998 annual country reports, which we released last month, they show the enormity of the task of telling the truth. Having now seen this process from the inside, I can attest to the countless hours of hard work and negotiation that go into creating a comprehensive and permanent and accurate record of human rights conditions.

"The first report, issued in 1979, ran only 137 pages and covered only 82 countries, those countries that received foreign assistance. The report that we have just submitted covers 194 countries, totals 5,000 pages plus in typescript, and, due to the power of the internet, was available worldwide immediately. In the first few days after we placed the report on the Web site, over 130,000 hits were heard in the first few days. And this resource was distilled from a huge array of resources, many of which did not exist 20 years ago, indigenous human rights reports, governmental and nongovernmental statistics, eyewitness accounts, NGO inquiries and reports, international institutions. And it is this effort that we have engaged in to distill what we know about human rights in a particular country, to provide a factual basis on which all of the players in this human rights drama can make judgments and evaluate conditions worldwide.

2. Stand up for principles

"The second basic principle is that we ought to stand up for principles, particularly in taking consistent positions with regard to past, present, and future abuses.

"With regard to past abuses, we try persistently to promote the principles of accountability. To stop ongoing abuses, we try to use an 'inside/outside' approach that combines strategies of internal persuasion with tools of external sanction. And to prevent further abuses, we promote the principles of early warning and preventive diplomacy. And the atrocities prevention network I've just discussed is an example of how we try to achieve that goal.

3. Speak for fundamental freedoms

"But that brings me to my third basic principle: How do we continue to speak for fundamental freedoms? Let me just mention four, which are going to be a central focus of our work over the next few years: the first,freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration.

"Religious freedom is under attack around the world. We see it every day in the newspapers in Indonesia and China and Sudan against people of all faiths and beliefs. Yet, here in the United States I think too many people continue to view this as a partisan or ideological issue.

"I don't believe that this is something on which we should be selective in our advocacy. Having now met and talked to people of all faiths in many parts of the world who are experiencing violation of religious freedom, it is so core to the central notion of freedom of thought and consciousness that we must address these challenges, both with tools that we are given by the legislature and through other means and with the goal of combatting all abuses of this fundamental freedom.

"A second arena in which we hope aggressively to contend is the arena of worker rights. Our bureau's title is the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. And, of course, Article 23 of the Declaration says that everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, and under just and favorable conditions.

"Traditionally U.S. policy has sought to support this goal by supporting free trade unions, but I think what we now need to do is to focus on core labor standards, freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain, freedom from forced and compulsory labor, freedom from abuse of child labor, and nondiscrimination in employment.

"The President in his State of the Union Address and again in his speech in San Francisco identified ILO standards and the child labor struggle as one on which he intends to devote a high degree of personal energy in the balance of his term.

"We at DRL are committed to trying to develop new approaches to replace what has become an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between labor, business, and human rights groups and to try to move toward a more cooperative model. And there are many of you involved in the discussions over the Apparel Industry Partnership. We think this a step in the right direction and one that we hope to build on with the goal of developing even stronger partnerships, private partnerships of non-state actors around core labor standards.

"Third, we must continue to promote equal treatment and prevention of discrimination and violence against women. We have sought to do this through means ranging from domestic legislation to international campaigns against trafficking, female genital mutilation, and to recognize that the women's rights issue cannot be ghettoized as a women's issue that is not of concern to the general human rights community.

"And our need here is again to heal gender divisions. And we are going to press as hard as we can in the next few years of this administration to bring about the long, delayed, embarrassingly delayed, ratification of the U.N. convention on the elimination of discrimination against women.

"And, fourth and finally, another area in which I believe we must forward is in the area of economic and social and cultural rights and to recognize, as we said in Vienna, that these are rights that are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated.

"Martin Luther King understood this idea well when he said: 'What good is it to have a right to sit at a lunch counter when you don't have enough money to buy anything to eat?' He said: 'We must be cognizant of the interrelatedness of all things. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.'

"We need to take freedom from poverty, for example, and treat it not just as an economic right but as something connected deeply to political repression. We need to understand that the right to organize means little without the right to food.

4. Community: We can't work alone

"And this brings me to my last and final principle, that no government working on human rights issues can work alone and that we need to think of ourselves as members of a human rights global community that now extends beyond private and public lines, that crosses national lines and includes judges, Executive Branch officials, legislatures, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs, and that this community, of which all of us here are a part, recognizes and embraces our common commitment to truth, justice, freedom, and democratic partnership.


"If it sounds a lot like truth, justice, and the American way, I plead guilty because I do believe that in the next century, the real divide among nations will not be ideological divides or between East and West or North and South but between the nations that do and do not respect fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.

"These are our challenges and these are the principles I think that ought to guide our response. These tasks are daunting, but I think that they are in slow, exacting measure attainable. I don't know how many of us thought that we could get as far as we can, even in the one lifetime that the human rights movement has lived.

"When I was in Belgrade in December, I gave an interview to B92, which, as many of you know, is a pirate radio station. They were somewhat demoralized, as they should be, by the repression of the media in Yugoslavia. And they said to me: 'What can you say to us on the eve of Christmas that can give us some hope?'

"There was a moment of silence, and then I said: Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia. And she was exiled. And now she is the Secretary of State. My family members were political exiles in Korea. And now I am the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. And now both of our countries are free. A lot can change in one lifetime.

"In 20 years of human rights policy, we have made progress. Although we have a long way to go, for myself, for my Secretary, for my family, I can think of no higher honor than to carry the banner of democracy, human rights, and labor into the next century.

"Thank you."

Questions and Answers

Question: "How can democracy be a center piece of policy when civil military relations, freedom of association, bureaucracies, and USAID have escaped attention?"

Response: "They haven't escaped attention, and in fact, are essentially the focus. I was just in Jakarta two weeks ago. All three issues were central to the subject of discussion. They have been the focus of U.S. policy and energy. The reduction of civil-military relations and the movement to dual function in the governmental process has been a central focus of human rights policy. Regarding freedom of association, supporting not just political parties and political associations but labor unions has been a major focus of external energy and examination. The reduction of bureaucracy and other questions related to bureaucracy are at the core of our discussion.

"I would say that having looked into the literally millions of dollars that are being poured into democratization programs in Indonesia and Nigeria, these are not issues that are in any way being underestimated or understated.

"Indonesia is an extremely good example of intergovernmental or interagency process, which has fought through exactly what we are trying to support and has targeted both energy and money to those relations. I really do think that anyone who goes to Indonesia and spends time there does not feel that those issues are being short-shrifted, but believes any number of issues in Indonesia could demand almost all of our attention.

"And so there are some priorities. And even the search for resources, which I think fundamentally comes back to Congress, is also an extremely difficult problem. Secretary Albright sometimes points out that the State Department gets less than one percent of the budget. Our bureau gets .2 of one percent of the budget. It is very hard to do what you need to do without your resources.

"All of that having been said, I think the U.S. government makes an impressive effort in these areas, and it is one that I am proud to be a part of."

Question: "We can all embrace very happily the language of human rights rhetoric. The real hard policies are when we have to choose sides in ways that there is a cost to us&emdash;it costs in jobs, it costs in political capital when we have to make choices that isolate a foreign government. There are a million ways that successful human rights policies can also not necessarily be easy or fun to promote in this country. Truth-telling alone, which is the first premise of human rights advocacy, is not enough. Policies that are aimed at stopping the killings are required."

Response: "From the perspective of someone who is now within the administration and actually trying to respond with my bureau and working with others who are trying to respond, I note two things: one, that sometimes it's better not to take sides too quickly if you are going to take the wrong side; two, that the exercise of truth-telling is a very admirable beginning.

"On that point, I thought there was a surprising lack of response to the President's statements on Guatemala a few weeks ago and a surprising lack of public focus on the effort that it took to create an executive order on human rights for December 10th.

"We need support from members of the human rights community because these are efforts in which decisions are made and pushed by people of good will. Sometimes critics' voices end up being heard more than those who basically say, 'It's about time.'

"I think that we do need a human rights lobby. When I was with the NGO community, we often heard that human rights and NGOs have no constituency. And often those who are less excited about responding to human rights issues put forth the rubric: Whatever we do, we will be criticized.

"The response to that is that there are many, many people of good will in the U.S. government who are trying to respond. For example, when I participated in the China human rights dialogue, in which we spoke to the Chinese on these questions, I was impressed by the degree to which across the board, the administration officials said to Chinese officials: We protest these violations, not because we are being pressed to do so by others or because we think it is politically necessary for us to do so but because we find these practices repugnant to ourselves as Americans.

"So I consider these points. I think that they are part of the standard dialogue. But I do think that, looking at things a little bit from this side of the revolving door, there are also ways in which we could use some help, particularly those of us who do want stronger responses and more aggressive responses."

Question: "Could you speak about the link between promotion of human rights and demilitarization? In so many countries, the human rights situation is linked to not just militaries being very strong and being very well-armed but, as we have seen in Central America in the post-war situation, these countries are absolutely awash in arms. This creates a huge problem of human rights violations in some cases Promotion of human rights has to be linked to demilitarization, but this runs into a problem because, as someone said earlier, one of the mandates of the government is to promote arms sales. More work needs to be done linking promotion of human rights and demilitarization and civilian control of militaries as well."

Response: "Well, you have no disagreement from me. And I think that with regard to arms sales, in particular, the linkage in the Leahy amendment has been something with which we have been deeply concerned in our bureau.

"I also think that the question of the link in the Cold War period between breaking down military bureaucracies and the move toward independence, rule of law, vibrant political institutions is a central feature of democratization.

"As I learned through personal experience in being from South Korea, it is very often so that the military is the best organized, structured part of a society that engages in repression. And it takes a generation even to break down that culture.

"I do think, though, that there are two other features of the demilitarization picture. One is the terrorism and security picture, and the other is the nuclear picture, which are both still very prevalent, even in the post-Cold War period. And I think that poses a dilemma, an understandable dilemma.

"It was much easier for me to shrug off this aspect before I worked in a department in which large numbers of people were killed in two embassies by bombing. After an occurrence like that, the question is: How must we respond? How must we protect ourselves against these attacks? It obviously runs against the thrust of general demilitarization. And the question of 'How do you balance these issues?' comes into play.

"So I have no disagreement with the basic point, but I do think that a profoundly important aspect of the post-Cold War period is still the security issue.

"I would also say that the link between the arms control movement and the human rights movement, which is one that has been brought about only in fairly recent times through Physicians for Human Rights, the Arms Control Project of Human Rights Watch, and the links that have been created inside of governments, is one of those underdeveloped links that ought to be pursued in the same way as the link between the environment and human rights is something that ought to be pursued."

Question: "Have you made a decision on the UN Human Rights Commission on China? And when the administration imposes economic sanctions on any country, is the impact on the rights of children and other people in those countries taken into consideration?"

Response: "Well, the Commission starts Monday.

"On the other point, which is the link with sanctions, we do have a sanctions policy that has been substantially rethought in the administration, particularly through I think tremendous work by Stu Eisenstadt's shop. The link between sanctions and human rights is something that we have been discussing. One of the things that I have enjoyed very much in my brief time is a good chance to work together with the people from the Economic and Business Bureau and also with Stu Eisenstadt, who I think is a person of tremendous human rights responsibility.

"The issue of exactly how sanctions impact human rights conditions is something that we deal with very regularly."

Quesion: "You mentioned that on the agenda in the first phase of human rights was accountability, and you referred to the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, but that over a certain period accountability kind of dropped off the agenda. But it seems that accountability has come back as an important issue since the end of the Cold War with the ad hoc tribunals. Now they are talking about one for Cambodia, with the treaty to create a permanent International Criminal Court. As you know, the United States has played a positive role in some ways, certainly in supporting the ad hoc tribunals, and not so positive a role with the ICC. In the big picture, where do you see things going on accountability as part of the human rights agenda in the coming years?"

Response: "Well, I think it will have to be a big piece of the picture, particularly as it connects to issues of truth and reconciliation. Also the issue of international versus domestic accountability and judicial accountability versus other forms of accountability is very much back in play.

"As an academic, I supported an International Criminal Court. That has not changed. I think the administration early on took the view that it wanted to support an International Criminal Court and then decided that it could not support the draft that was developed last year at Rome. And that discussion is still going on.

"I think the feeling that accountability has to be of value, at the same time being balanced against other values that has to be weighed and deliberated in a particular context, is still very strongly running through the administration's policy.

"I am very hopeful that there will be an International Criminal Court treaty that we can sign and ratify. I think signature may come well before ratification, but that is my hope."

Question: "An issue that seems to be becoming very important in deciding what democracy means is that of whether democracy simply means that you have a few extra votes in the parliament or not. In drafting the South African constitution, the issue of the majority not abusing its majority, and the minority not sabotaging the majority, arose. This is the kind of principle that very few observe, but I think should be observed."

Response: "The effort here is to try to understand how the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration and the rights guaranteed therein connect to the overall principle of democratic governance.

"The thing that I find more and more as I do this kind of work is how human rights abuse and particular violations, torture, violations of due process rights, the violations of freedom of association and expression, violation of freedom of the press and religion, arise out of a structural problem, which usually is the absence of democratic governance within a society. That is often reflected in discrimination against minorities and abusive treatment thereof.

"That is where I think about the preventive medicine side of what we do -- we often talk about how in the department we have a war crimes ambassador now who focuses on atrocities. Then there's our bureau, which happens to focus on 'slow motion' atrocities.

"If we want to have a positive agenda, it has to address some of the underlying problems. The way to do this is to try to engage in democracy-building at places in which there are moments of opportunity.

"Now, those moments of opportunity don't arise everywhere. They don't arise in some countries ever. But I think that is why we have been particularly focused this year and recently on Indonesia and Nigeria as two countries of tremendous opportunity, in which I don't think there is bipartisan dispute.

"Everyone who cares about these issues, both the security people and the human rights people, want there to be focus on the development of democratic governments in abusive societies, just because the alternative is really something with which none of us want to have to handle.


About the Human Rights Implementation Project

In March 1999, the U.S. Institute of Peace launched its new initiative on Human Rights Implementation by holding the first in a series of working group discussions on "Promoting Human Rights in the Pursuit of Peace: Assessing 20 Years of U.S. Human Rights Policy."

Human rights considerations have played a significant role in the United States' approach to international affairs over the last 20 years. Since this period, however, there has been little comprehensive evaluation of how U.S. human rights policies have affected human rights practices in the rest of the world. An assessment has not been given to past or existing policies to determine their efficacy.

It will be the goal of the Human Rights Implementation project to explore how the concept of human rights has inserted itself within the context of U.S. foreign policy over the past 20 to 30 years, and to examine the challenges to implementation. Have past or existing policies been effective? If so, why or why not? What tools were used in implementing these policies, and why? Were the policies that were implemented effective in achieving stated objectives? This study will assess the reasons for successes and failures in U.S. human rights policy in order to provide insight into improved future policies.

The Human Rights Implementation project will also explore such questions as:

1) What role do human rights issues play in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy? 2) How successful or unsuccessful has the U.S. government been in improving human rights practices abroad?

3) What roles have the Executive Branch, the Congress, other governmental agencies, and the non-governmental and business communities played in promoting human rights?

4) How can the U.S. improve its record of human rights protection and promotion?

The Institute will approach these broad questions from the vantage point of a nonpartisan, Congressionally -funded institution committed to expanding the understanding of conflict and the means to resolve it.

For more information about the Human Rights Implementation project, please contact Program Officer Debra Liang-Fenton.

This page last updated 2/2/2009 jdb

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