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Human Rights Day

Fifty-seven years ago on December 10th, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a standard of human rights observance for all peoples and nations of the world.

Promoting human rights has long been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. Today, said President George W. Bush, "hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before. We must encourage their aspirations." In the last two years, for example, millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Ukraine, and Georgia.

The best way to guarantee the protection of human rights is a democracy built upon national and international institutions that sustain and protect freedom and human rights. Democracy may take different forms in different cultures, yet all free societies have certain things in common – broad respect for human rights, the treatment of women and minorities as full citizens, freedom of speech and religion, and the rule of law.

The new U.N. Democracy Fund created by the Secretary General at the request of President Bush provides one way for the U.N. to help nations nurture and expand democracy. The U.S. and India have taken a leading role, pledging ten-million dollars each to start the fund. Other countries have also pledged to finance the fund, bringing starting capital to forty-four million dollars.

The United Nations also provides a forum in which to confront those who suppress human rights and democracy. For that reason, the United States and other countries have endorsed the Secretary General's call to replace the existing Commission of Human Rights with a new and more effective council that will have fewer members, less politics, and more credibility. The U.N., says President Bush, has long played an important role in protecting human rights:

"This organization was convened to meet these challenges by harnessing the best instincts of humankind, the strength of the world united in common purpose. With courage and conscience, we will meet our responsibilities to protect the lives and rights of others."

"When we do," said Mr. Bush, "we will help fulfill the promise of the United Nations, and ensure that every human being enjoys the peace and the freedom and the dignity our Creator intended for all."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.