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Good morning. And thank you, Ambassador Craft.

The United States is lucky to have a UN Ambassador who is such a stalwart champion of human rights – the cause that brings us together today.

The horrors of the Second World War made clear the duty of every sovereign nation to protect the dignity of all human beings. And so, in 1948, the UN General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first line of the UDHR reads, “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

Those words echo America’s Declaration of Independence, which states that the purpose of our government is to secure unalienable rights – the rights inherent in all persons.

The UDHR also drew on the wisdom of the Abrahamic faiths, Confucianism, Hinduism, and other religious, philosophical, and political traditions.

We must defend unalienable rights today, because the international human rights project is in crisis.

  • Authoritarian governments — from China, to Iran, to Venezuela — are depriving our fellow human beings of their basic rights.
  • Meanwhile, many multinational organizations have lost their way, focusing on partisan policy preferences while failing to defend fundamental rights.
  • And even many well-intentioned people assert new and novels rights that often conflict.

To uphold universal human rights, we should look to the framers of the UDHR, who identified a clear set of principles that apply to all people, everywhere, at all times. They stood unwaveringly in defense of the dignity of every human being.

So, too, should we.

To help us do that, I convened the U.S. State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. The Commission found in the American constitutional tradition wide and deep support for unalienable rights.

We hope the Commission’s recently published Report will serve as an inspiration to other nations and peoples.

They should turn to their traditions and rededicate themselves to their moral, philosophical, and religious resources to affirm the rights inherent in all persons – the rights at the core of the UDHR.

This work is vital. We must rediscover the nature of human rights and the courage to defend them.

Your presence here today gives me confidence that we are up to the task.

Thank you, again, Ambassador Craft for convening us.

God bless you all.

U.S. Department of State

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