Human rights are global and the United States commands a global reach. Our stance on key human rights issues affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and our practice serves to enhance or degrade these crucial norms. The new Obama administration has a great opportunity to return the United States to its respected leadership role in support of important principles enshrined in international human rights law.
Recent threats to U.S. security have led us to restrict the application of treasured civil and political rights (habeas corpus) and transgress our signed international commitments to refrain from torture. These restrictions and transgressions must be explicitly renounced, and our affirmation of the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution as well as our obligations under the Convention against Torture must be fully restored.
The United States has avoided defining the nation’s support for domestic social safety nets in human rights terms. Yet this country faces the mounting negative consequences of failing to provide health care for all. The Obama administration must address this failure.
The rights of minorities are still at risk in this country. Efforts must be strengthened to remove entrenched pockets of exclusion, fear, and despair within our population. U.S. migration and detention policy, particularly as it relates to juveniles, must be rendered more humane and more just. The status of women in the United States has improved markedly but continued vigilance is needed to ensure equal rights of women in employment, education, health, and family law. On the international scene, the Obama administration must raise to highest priority the efforts needed to promote issues of women’s survival, reproductive choice, workplace safety, and education. We remain an outlier nation by refusing to enter several key treaties in international human rights and international humanitarian law. Progress in signing and/or ratifying these treaties would send a transcendent signal that the United States has agreed to become a full participant in the normative framework of the international community.