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Recognizing the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of House Concurrent Resolution 332, recognizing the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As we reflect on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the gross violators such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, we cannot help but think about how these repressive governments manipulate international oil flows to keep us at their mercy.

We must reduce our reliance on these unstable foreign energy sources, and the way to do that, Mr. Speaker, is by finding alternatives to oil dependence. The U.S. should lead the way; yet we're stuck in the past as our global competitors are indeed pursuing 21st century technologies. We must commit ourselves to a comprehensive energy reform policy that will improve energy efficiency and encourage investment in ground-breaking research and advance alternative and renewable energy technologies.

Much like the situation we're facing on human rights at the United Nations, we shouldn't wait 60 years to address the increasing problem of our foreign dependence on oil.

Mr. Speaker, 60 years ago and without a dissenting voice in the United Nations General Assembly, we recognized the fundamental human rights to life, to liberty, to freedom of religion, to freedom of expression, to self-government through free elections, to freedom from slavery and torture and so many other basic rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the product of remarkable international consensus, and it captured the distilled conscience of the world in one of the United Nations' finest moments.

It was not an international law or covenant, and it did not claim to be creating the rights that it included. Rather, its purpose was to serve as a common standard of achievement for all peoples that is premised on faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person.

We are fortunate and, indeed, truly blessed to live in a country whose constitutional heritage has served to secure those aspirations for all of America's people. But for so many people in the world, the ideals of the universal Declaration are nothing more than an unkept promise.

In Burma, in Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe, and many other Nations, people suffer at the hands of self-seeking tyrants and brutal dictatorships. Millions of others endure the scourges of human trafficking, of religious persecution, and other offenses against human dignity.

For those reasons, the universal declaration remains a valuable touchstone, and the United States remains committed to promoting the values that it espouses.

For this anniversary, however, it is also a sad opportunity to reflect on how far the United Nations and its human rights bodies have fallen from the lofty aspirations of the original declaration.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, formed to replace the discredited United Nations Human Rights Commission, has devolved into an offensive farce even worse than its predecessor.

The Council embraces some of the world's most notorious human rights abusers as its members and has ignored genuine human rights advocacy in favor of a relentless, single-minded attack on the democratic, freedom-loving, multi-party State of Israel. In its session in March, the Council passed more resolutions against Israel than against Burma, North Korea, and Sudan combined, and it failed to comment at all on abuses by Iran, Cuba or Uzbekistan.

The Council recently elected Jean Ziegler, a man who has compared Israel to Nazis, and approved a notorious Israel basher as the new Special Rapporteur on Israel and the Palestinian territories, Mr. Speaker. The Council approved this mandate in the very same session that it discontinued its observation of the Congo where rape is used as a weapon against women and children.

In December 1948, Mr. Speaker, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1 year and 2 weeks after it adopted a resolution creating the Jewish State that became Israel. It is both tragic and offensive that extremists have been allowed to hijack the U.N. human rights apparatus and turn the United Nations' noblest intentions into a weapon against a democratic country.

It is my hope that the United Nations can somehow recover its moral foundation and credibly place the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back at the center of its operations.

Human dignity and American values demand no less.

I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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