Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard will travel to Burkina Faso and Geneva, July 29- August 4, 2012. During the visit, Assistant Secretary Richard will join UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres to review the situation of refugees from the crisis in Mali, which is taking place within the broader Sahel food insecurity emergency.
Since January of this year, conflict and insecurity in Mali have generated more than 260,000 Malian refugees; an additional 155,000 Malians are estimated to be internally displaced.
On July 12, 2012, President Obama authorized the use of up to $10 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to respond to the unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs resulting from the conflict in northern Mali. The emergency funds will be used to support the efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide life-saving protection and assistance to those fleeing the conflict. This brings U.S. support for the Malian refugee aspect of the Sahel crisis to more than $30 million, and brings total U.S. assistance being provided for the broader Sahel humanitarian emergency to nearly $350 million in FY 2012.
However, UNHCR’s appeals for the refugee crisis remain severely underfunded having received less than a third of the nearly $154 million required. This gravely low level of support threatens essential life-saving operations, such as the provision of shelter, clean water, proper sanitation, and basic health services. We urge the international community to increase support for the operations underway to relieve suffering and assist those affected by the crisis in the Sahel.
In Burkina Faso, Assistant Secretary Richard will visit Damba refugee camp with the High Commissioner and meet with UN and government officials. She will also visit programs for family planning and fistula care in Ouagadougou and meet with the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Mme. Chantal Campaoré, who is the Goodwill Ambassador of the Campaign for the Worldwide Ban of Female Genital Mutilation. In Geneva, Assistant Secretary Richard will address media jointly with the High Commissioner, and will also meet with other donors.
"We understand the Syrian government and OCHA have come to an agreement on the response plan and have made a series of commitments as we’ve heard this morning. We urge their immediate implementation. We remain deeply concerned about the existing humanitarian situation in the country and the potential for that situation to worsen."
The 13th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Session is occurring from May 21 – 31 and is the beginning of the second cycle of reviews.
The United States believes the UPR has the potential to effect real change in countries throughout the world. The UPR is not just something that occurs in Geneva every four and half years. It is an ongoing, daily tool to advance human rights. Our interventions to other countries are crafted with the goal of providing useful, targeted recommendations that, when implemented, will create positive change for society.
Please click here for the United States’ interventions to the 14 countries participating in Session 13.
Statement by the United States on the Panel on Discrimination and Violence based on Sexual Orientation
19thth Session of Human Rights Council
Delivered by Daniel B. Baer
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Geneva, March 7, 2012
The United States thanks the High Commissioner for her continued promotion of the human rights of LGBT persons, and for her office’s December report clarifying the numerous ways in which the human rights of LGBT persons are protected under international law. We thank the 85 countries who joined a joint statement calling for an end to criminalization or violence against LGBT people in March of 2011. And we express our appreciation for South Africa’s leadership on the resolution last June—the first-ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people—which called for the High Commissioner’s report and our discussion today.
In December, Secretary of State Clinton spoke here in Geneva about how protecting the human rights of all people, including LGBT people, remains part of the urgent unfinished work for those committed to making human rights a human reality. She came in a spirit of humility. She spoke about our own country’s ongoing work—including the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” which took effect last year and allows gay men and lesbians to serve openly in our armed forces. And she acknowledged that, for many, accepting that sexual orientation and gender identity do not affect a person’s human rights is hard. But she also explained why it is both necessary and right.
So while she noted that sometimes religious or cultural values are offered as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT people, she also observed that “our commitments to protect the freedom of religion and to defend the dignity of LGBT people emanate from a common source. For many of us, religious belief and practice is a vital source of meaning and identity, and fundamental to who we are as people. And likewise, for most of us, the bonds of love and family that we forge are also vital sources of meaning and identity…Human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures… While we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.”
And so, she said, “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights. … No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.” And that’s why a commitment to the universality of human rights remains a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy.
There is much work to be done. Today, 76 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex relationships or conduct, five under penalty of death, and in far more countries, LGBT people face hatred, discrimination, violence or even death because of who they are or who they love.
The United States would welcome the panel’s comments on how protection of the human rights of LGBT persons is fully compatible with and in fact enhances protection of human rights—including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly—for all individuals.