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Policy Briefs

More than a dozen of the nation’s leading human rights organizations and experts released a policy paper on 10 human rights priorities for the next administration. This paper serves as a roadmap to navigate increasingly complex foreign policy issues and strengthen the United States’ position as a global leader in human rights.

The U.S. Congress should fully fund the Administration’s request for $56 billion to support international affairs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, a 2% increase over FY 2012. This budget is one of the primary tools the United States uses to maintain leadership abroad, pursue its international priorities and promote American values.

Amid the political convulsions wracking the Middle East, few prolonged protests have been as ignored by the West, particularly the United States, as those in the tiny Gulf monarchy of Bahrain. Despite the regime’s brutality, which has targeted peaceful protesters, human rights activists and medical personnel, the United States recently signed a multimillion-dollar arms deal (currently on hold) with the country and has remained largely silent amid a crackdown that proportionally surpasses the magnitude of any other in the region. Despite the fact that Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and has received the coveted designation of ‘non-NATO ally’, the people of Bahrain have the same right to advocate for democratic change as their counterparts in the region.      

A little more than two years after the United States took its seat for the first time as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, debates persist over whether it should have continued the Bush administration’s policy of disengaging from the UN’s primary human rights body. This debate largely revolves around the issue of whether the council is a fundamentally flawed structure, and if so, whether the presence of the United States gives it undue legitimacy. 

Next week, government, business, and civil society representatives will gather at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss the future of the global digital space.  This gathering takes place against the backdrop of growing restrictions by repressive regimes on online freedoms.  The U.S. and European governments have undertaken significant initiatives to respond to these restrictions, but their initiatives are inadequate to stem, let alone reverse, the decline of freedom on the internet.  Stronger action is needed.

With nearly two months to go before constituent assembly elections, Tunisia confronts a long list of challenges to the creation of a democratic system. Expectations for swift and wide-ranging reforms are very high among a population hungry for change after decades of harsh authoritarian rule. Ordinary citizens are eager to enjoy the benefits of meaningful political freedom and economic prosperity, having endured unrelenting repression, mismanagement, and the plundering of resources by a small circle around the family of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The political uncertainty in the wake of the dictator’s departure has taken a toll on the Tunisian economy and its tourism sector in particular, on which some 500,000 people in this country of 10 million depend for employment. The ongoing conflict in neighboring Libya is another encumbrance, as it deprives Tunisia of much-needed trade revenue and generates regional instability.

The thousands that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, once again, on July 8 were not demanding the downfall of a regime. They were, instead, standing up for the promise of a revolution that they fear has gone badly wrong. They were there to demand that the country’s military rulers honor their vows to effect a transition to genuine democracy, with all that entails—not just free and fair elections, although those remain in doubt—but justice for those victimized and killed by the security forces during the revolution, legal accountability for figures of the Mubarak regime accused of serious crimes, and transparent governance by the military on the road to democracy. There is a sense in Egypt that the gains of the revolution may be slipping away, and the political process is in danger of failing.These concerns are far from unwarranted.

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